“Oh, I’d love to do yoga, but I’m not bendy enough” is a phrase that’s all too commonly uttered. It’s easy to see why. Instagram would have us thinking that yoga is some kind of contortionist nightmare that only elite Cirque De Soleil performers can master. However, I’m going to let you in on a secret.
Yoga is for everyone. Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between; fit, unfit, or a professional couch potato. Everyone can enjoy yoga, but the key is choosing the correct yoga class for your level. In time and with practice, yoga will allow you to become flexible.
Interest piqued? Read on, and discover how yoga can benefit you.
No, Really, I Can’t Even Touch My Toes
Everyone has to start somewhere, right? And, if you can’t touch your toes, it’s a great first goal to aim for! The key lies in finding your people.
Stepping into a yoga class where everyone is happily balancing on their hands with their legs over their head is enough to intimidate a newbie sufficiently. If you find yourself in such an environment, it’s no wonder if you head straight for the exit. These are not your people, at least not yet.
Your tribe is waiting for you in the suitable class. Seek out yoga classes called:
- Beginners Yoga
- Gentle Yoga
- Hatha Yoga
- Restorative Yoga
If you’re unsure, chat with the instructor or school before you go. Many places offer a trial session, so you can try it before you make a decision.
Start Off Gently
A decent yoga teacher will guide you properly and offer variations on poses so that everyone in the class can manage to follow the class successfully.
By variations, we mean that there are always easy, medium, tough, and sometimes super-tough ways to perform each yoga pose. For example, there are many poses where it’s easier to rest on the forearms rather than the hands.
Always start with the most straightforward variation until you can do it with ease. When you feel ready, you can dial it up a notch.
Use Those Props
Classes will also have props such as blocks and yoga straps to help you achieve a pose. Please make use of these, as they’ll help you find your correct balance and posture without straining.
For example, a cushion under the bottom gives you extra support in the child’s pose, and using blocks helps you reach the floor for support without overstretching yourself.
Learn to Breathe
“But I already know how to breathe!” Yes, of course, you know how to breathe, but do you know how to breathe? Yogic breathwork is a thing, and believe it or not, it’s key to improving your flexibility.
When you learn pranayama (the fancy name for breathing during yoga), you will find that you can flow into and hold poses with much more ease. Focusing on your breath also allows your body to relax and sink into a pose, thus deepening that stretch.
The best part is that you can practice your breathwork without doing yoga. Then, you can start combining it with simple poses until you get the hang of it. Once you do, you’ll definitely notice the difference, and so will your yogi peers!
Be in It for the Long-Haul
Yoga is not a quick get-fit quick solution. It sounds cliche, but yoga is a journey. The most important thing is to show up on the mat regularly and consistently.
Whether you can do yoga once per week or every other day, find your ideal routine and stick to it. Eventually, you will start to see results. These could be minor improvements, such as no longer feeling uncomfortable sitting cross-legged or finally being able to reach your toes. All progress should be celebrated because you’re gaining that much-coveted flexibility.
One study showed that one 90-minute Hatha yoga session per week helped women over 50 gain better hamstring and spine flexibility.
Okay, I Can Touch My Toes, but I Still Can’t Do the Flying Crow
If you’ve gained some flexibility, you’ve probably been doing yoga for around 3-6 months. Those people you see defying gravity? Well, they’ve been at it for at least five years, most likely more. The most advanced yogis will have a lifetime of practice behind them.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Even setting foot in a class takes guts, and committing to a regular routine takes even more grit. Putting unnecessary pressure on yourself takes the enjoyment out of doing yoga and kinda defeats the purpose of doing it in the first place.
Set small but achievable goals for yourself so you can monitor your progress and go from there.
Taking it slowly is counterproductive in today’s “everything right now” society, but it’s actually vital for our well-being. As the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “it’s not the destination; it’s the journey.” There’s never been a more accurate saying for yoga.