One of the most common things I hear when I or someone else mentions yoga is ‘I would take yoga classes but I’m not very flexible’. I understand that feeling. I’ve never been a pretzel myself and I’ve spent many a class wondering how I could get to look like my neighbouring yogini. You know, the one that has their foot around their neck. How??!!??!
Whilst it is very nice for that person to have that range of motion it is also very nice for me to get my leg nowhere NEAR my head. As long as we are working with the correct alignment for our bodies we are getting the same amount of benefit. Realising this liberated my practise.
It can be daunting to start yoga especially when so many photos show people in contorted pretzel positions or balancing on one hand or doing a back bend whilst managing to read the newspaper (Ok, I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean). Whilst I agree that yoga can be an amazing place to challenge yourself and reach for new goals, more importantly, it is a place where we can start observing how things are and explore from there.
Yoga provides a place to acknowledge what is, to learn how we move in to and through various movements. It is not just about the end shape that we create. It is not a place to get hung up on the fact that we may not be able to reach our toes or that we may need the use of a block to be seated comfortably. Accepting our starting point is the only way to be able to continue to change in the practise in a healthy way. If we are not truthful about where that starting place is then we can end up contorting our bodies in to shapes that have no benefit and can potentially be harmful.
Yoga is about so much more than flexibility. Over time, with a consistent practise, it is likely that your body will become more supple. You will feel new space open up. But let this be a gentle, healthy journey. Be kind to yourself. Let curiosity, compassion and patience be your guide.
If you are thinking of starting yoga or perhaps you tried once and it was too hard, I would recommend getting out there and trying different teachers and styles. You’ll know when you’ve found the practise that is right for your body. Over time it will change. These days there are many beginners yoga courses which are usually specifically designed to guide you through various postures and stages of postures over many months. If you’re new to yoga perhaps one of those courses would be a good place to start.