Why You Don't Have to be Flexible to do Yoga

"I can't do yoga, I'm not flexible enough". Contrary to popular opinion, you don't have to be flexible to do yoga.

Say what?

It's true. Flexibility is not, and never has been, a pre-requisite to a yoga practice. Flexibility comes from a regular practice, as a result of commitment and discipline.

Thinking your not flexible enough to do yoga really means you think your not flexible enough to do yoga poses. With all the posts on poses it is easy to think that that is all there is too yoga, but traditionally yoga poses are only one branch of a very full yoga tree.

The Yoga Sutras, which you could think of as the first big compilation book on Yoga ever written, was penned by a sage named Patanjali around 400 CE. In it, he describes yoga as a eight limbed practice. Yoga asana (the poses), come in at number three.

Nowhere in the Yoga Sutras does Patanjali tell you to exit stage left if you cant touch your toes. And luckily for us, the third limb (asana) is designed to help prepare the body and mind for meditation, meaning you don't have to be flexible to begin. The poses are there to help improve flexibility and strength.

Fast forward to 2016, and the many different styles of yoga available lend a hand to the flexibility conundrum. Like our bodies, Yoga comes in many different shapes and sizes. Each style of Yoga is unique and while the poses used in each style are very similar, there will be variations as to how they are taught and the intention behind this. This is good news because it means that if one style of yoga doesn't suit you, you can try another one.

Asana in any yoga style can be modified to suit your body, you don't have to make your body fit the pose, you modify the pose so that it fits you. A good teacher will be able to help you with the modifications necessary for your body. With in just one style of yoga, there will be many teachers who lend their own spin to that style. If one teacher doesn't work for you, try another one. 

'Not flexible enough' is a good reason to begin a Yoga practice as there is so much that can be done to help you. With time, practice, patience, the breath and many a prop on your side, your flexibility will undoubtedly increase.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras describe Yoga as a eight limbed practice.   Yama (ones ethical standards), Niyama (self-discipline and spiritual observances), Asana (pose), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (Sense withdrawal), Dharana (Concentration), Dhyana (Meditation or contemplation) and Samadhi (enlightenment).

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras describe Yoga as a eight limbed practice.  Yama (ones ethical standards), Niyama (self-discipline and spiritual observances), Asana (pose), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (Sense withdrawal), Dharana (Concentration), Dhyana (Meditation or contemplation) and Samadhi (enlightenment).

Flexibility is relative. Sure, you may not be flexible enough (yet) to attempt some of the poses posted on the daily, but you are flexible enough to start a yoga practice. I know this because I have taught people of varying 'levels' of flexibility, and there is always a way to tailor a yoga practice to suit. Instead of comparing your flexibility to your favourite feed (and FYI the people in those pictures can do those poses because they practice - a lot), ditch the comparisons and step onto the mat.

If your still not convinced, and the thought of walking into your first yoga class causes you to break a few beads of sweat, consider a private class to assess your individual needs.  You will be surprised at just how much you can do, and as your flexibility increases, so will your ability to move towards those poses you once thought you were too inflexible for.  Along the way, you may just discover the many other benefits that yoga has to offer, and flexibility will be a pleasant result of a practice where physical prowess is only one piece of the pie. And that pie be dairy, gluten and ego free.