Raise your virtual hand if you have ever heard this, “I could never do yoga, I’m not flexible!”
You have, haven’t you? At parties…at work…on the street… we know you have, because we have too.
We hear it ALL the time when we talk to potential students, when we interact friends and discuss what we do for a living, when we talk over the dinner table at family functions and Uncle Gary chimes in that he could “never come to the studio because yoga is only for rubber-people!”
Ahem…BS! This could NOT be further from the truth.
Many people think a certain level of flexibility is required to do yoga, when in fact; yoga is the perfect activity for people living in inflexible bodies…and inflexible minds. Yoga increases the range of motion in our joints and lengthens our muscles and teaches us how to tackle and survive life’s ups and downs. Like any other exercise, it takes time and dedication to gain flexibility.
So many associate yoga with the pictures of yogis they see on Instagram making fantastical shapes with feet behind their heads and noses on toes. But, that’s not yoga. Sure, it is fun to share and cool to do! But that’s just one hyper-focused aspect of the community of yogis online. We also see a lot of smiling happy people in yoga advertisements. And it is true, yoga can bring joy and community to our lives. But yogis sweat, grunt and put in the work to be making shapes and smiling while they do it.
Yoga is the steady practice of working with our bodies to improve range of motion and health to each of our own varying degrees and levels of abilities in both body and mind.
The journey of the practice is to benefit our health and wellness, flexibility is a by-product of a steady yoga practice. It isn’t about the forward fold at all. It is what we learn about ourselves while we work to touch our toes in that forward fold. So often we think of being flexible with regards to our joints and muscles, but in reality it can also be an attitude that can transform your life in so many other ways.
In yoga, we encourage each yogi to play, explore and test the boundaries of their own bodies and minds. Ultimately the boundaries of ability in all ways will increase the more you practice.
Our brains can be trained to deal with life’s challenges as they arise just as our hamstrings can be taught how to engage in a bridge pose or how our core needs to contract to protect our spine as we twist in crescent lunge. We train our muscles inside the studio during class how to use our muscles during yoga so that we know how to engage them when we are chopping wood, mowing the lawn, picking up our toddler off the floor or unloading our heavy groceries after a Costco run. We train our bodies in yoga HOW TO interact with life outside the studio walls.
The same is true for our minds; learning to be flexible with our thoughts is a practice. Abdominal strength comes from plank pose or crunches, sure. Mental strength and flexibility can come from how we react to the play between mental and physical “push/pull” when the yoga instructor makes you hold Eagle pose for 3 minutes or makes you do a dozen chatarangas in the first 12 minutes of class AND HOW you talk to yourself while you do it! Being flexible to know that that challenging Eagle pose or Warrior 3 won’t last forever, just as prepping for a midterm test or interacting with a negative co-worker won’t last forever. Yoga can teach us the skills to breathe thru those challenges, the “forward folds” and the “plank poses” of life.
The key take-away here; flexibility is a learned skill and it is for EVERY-BODY and EVERYBODY. You don’t have to be perfect at being flexible. All you have to be is willing to try and willing to work to improve your physical and mental flexibility.
All of the other benefits will follow. We promise.