”I’m not flexibile enough for yoga.”
”Yoga is just stretching.”
Hmm….well, neither of these statements is true, as anyone who practices yoga regularly can attest, but these are common reasons why people avoid stepping into the yoga studio. Are you one of them? If either or both of these misconceptions are keeping you from class or have you feeling self-conscious in your yoga practice, keep reading!
Let’s start with “I’m not flexible enough for yoga.” Yes, you are. You are as flexible as you are today and will do the poses as you are able today. Yoga is a practice, a journey, not an accomplishment. You don’t stop practicing yoga when you get into the full expression of a pose. You progress as your body wants and needs. We all start somewhere and practice from there. We benefit from doing the stretch; the benefit is not dependent on how deep you are able to go.
There is no pre-requisite for starting yoga. You are not asked to demonstrate before entering the studio that you can touch your toes or touch your head to your legs in a standing forward fold. I find that most people who feel this way, who believe that they aren’t flexible enough to start, assume that only advanced yogis are in classes, that everyone in class is the instagram-perfect yogi. If you could just attend class and see the beautiful array of diversity in each person’s practice, you would see that there is a spot for you. Some touch their toes; others touch their knees; still others touch the top of the legs, but everyone is honoring their body by getting on the mat and “stretching” themselves. If you come to my classes you will quickly also see that I too am a work in progress and am on my own journey with yoga.
And, yes, there is stretching involved in yoga. That’s not a misconception, but there is SO MUCH MORE to yoga than just stretching. It is movement and breath and mindfulness and a chance to prioritize self care. Studio classes are often a physical practice of poses linked with breath that are more physically challenging than new students anticipate. You will probably sweat. Odds are you might even be a little sore the next morning. It’s not just passive stretching.
But let’s think about that idea of stretching. It doesn’t just mean the muscles. Most of us do want some flexibility in our muscles and, especially as we age, to be able to stay limber and agile. But think of other ways in which we should stretch ourselves in action and thought. Have we tried something new or read a book lately that challenged our thinking or picked up a skill/hobby or tried a different type of cuisine? We can also get stuck and stiff mentally and emotionally. Yoga might not only be something new to try, but the practice consistently stretches you mentally as well as physically. The practice includes mindfulness and the clearing of the mind, which for many of us is quite the stretch.
Maybe, in that sense, yoga is all stretching 🙂
It reminds me of that motivational quote about looking back a year from now and being glad you started.
Everyone has a Day One.
When will you start?