“I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible.” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this, well, I’d have a lot of nickels. It’s a common misconception of yoga that we, as teachers, hear all the time, but is it really a misconception or has it become an excuse as to why we don’t want to try something new and different?
When someone says this to me, my first reaction is to explain the reasons why yoga is great for the inflexible. How it is suitable for everybody, no matter age, size or mobility. And I even share the styles of yoga that I teach and how they have helped my students become flexible, lithe and strong. However, after three years of teaching, I am beginning to believe that it’s based on a fear of trying something new and has nothing to do with the physical ability. It’s entirely emotional.
Yoga has become so mainstream that it is impossible not to find a suitable class for your body type or ability. The term “yoga for the inflexible” generates 346,000 Google results. The truth is Yoga meets you where you are in the moment, physically and mentally. It is adaptable for everyBODY! This is the foundation of why I became a teacher and how I teach all of my classes.
So let’s get past the point of flexibility. Maybe it’s not the body that is rigid, maybe it’s the mind. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” Our mind has a way of placing limitations on us based on the fear response. In this case, the fear of trying something new that will challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone. Yes, yoga is physical and it will move our body in ways that are new and different from anything we’ve probably ever done. But it is so much more. It is connecting with the mind. It is bringing ourselves out of the reactive fear state and opening us up to the joy and peace that we so desperately need in these times.
Yoga allows us to start to peel away layers under which we’ve been hiding for so many years. It may start with the physical practice, but moves into moments of reconnecting with the truth that lives within us. So every time we return to our practice it brings more peace and more awakening. It can be transforming, but I’d rather say it’s uncovering. We already have everything we need inside of us; we’ve just covered it up for so many years to adjust to the roles that we play in life. To fit in the “box”.
Yoga is the ancient practice of letting go. We breathe, we move and we release!
Most everyone who comes to yoga is inflexible in more ways than just touching the toes. If you take the time to realize it’s not about touching your toes, much more opportunities will open up for you and before you know it, you’ll notice areas of strength, flexibility and mobility building. Make it less about touching your toes and more about what you learn on the way down! The journey to the self.
Flexibility Timeout: “Chair Downward Facing Dog” Place a sturdy chair with the back against a wall. Stand facing the chair with your feet hips distance apart and your toes approximately 6 inches from the edge of the chair. Begin to ground through the soles of your feet building a firm standing position. Inhale reach both arms up and as you exhale forward fold placing the hands to the seat of the chair. When stable, step the right foot back, then step the left foot back. Extending the arms into the seat of the chair creating an even diagonal line from your arms, to your torso, to your hips, pressing the weight of the body into the feet. Having a slight bend in the knees can reduce tightness in the back of the legs. Take three deep breaths in this pose before bending your knees and stepping forward towards the chair. Slowly come up to standing. Repeat three times.
Use this pose to release tension from the legs and hips during the day and to relieve stress.