I’ve actually lost count of the number of times someone has said to me, “I’m too inflexible for yoga“. The first time I heard it, I found it quite surprising. Not because I was shocked that this particular person was inflexible, but because it was the main reason I started practicing yoga. It seemed odd to hear it as a reason not to practice it.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Do I need to be flexible for yoga?” the answer is “No.” Yoga can help improve your flexibility and range of motion, but you don’t need to be flexible to begin with. This is often something just achieved over time and with practice.
I started practicing yoga over 10 years ago because I was terrible at stretching and yoga forced me to spend some time stretching out my body. It was very much a physical practice for me at the beginning. I couldn’t touch my toes and I often woke up in the middle of the night with a cramp in my calf or hamstring. I decided to start yoga as I hoped it would reduce the cramping and help increase my flexibility – which it did, with time and practice. But when I begin I definitely wouldn’t say I was flexible.
My first regular yoga class was a mixed class with students ranging in age from 23 to 75. We all had different flexibility levels, we all looked different in the pose, we used different props and sometimes even took different poses to accommodate our needs. Maybe I was fortunate as it was clear to me in this class – yoga wasn’t about the shape you were making, it was about moving in a way that felt good for you and your body. And this is bound to look different to the others around me. And that didn’t matter. Some days I could do all the poses on offer, sometimes I couldn’t. Even now I often can’t do all the yoga poses in a class – but that’s ok. I’m still getting the benefits my body needs.
“I’m too inflexible for yoga” – where did this idea come from?
The more and more I heard people say, “I’m too inflexible for yoga”, or ask, “Do I need to be flexible to do yoga?” the more I started to wonder, where has these ideas and questions come from?
For me, when I started, yoga was a gentle class, where I was given the opportunity to focus on my breath, unwind and stretch my tight muscles in a way that felt good to me.
Though it may have existed, at the time I wasn’t familiar with power yoga, and never really considered handstands or arm balances to be connected with yoga. There was no Instagram, there was no fancy yoga pants (tights) and there was no beautiful yoga studio. It was just, me, in my sweat pants (trousers for the English), slowly working my way towards touching my toes, in a big, old (non-fancy) sports hall.
I’m not sure when the yoga image changed. I almost feel like I missed the transition. One day I woke up and realised, yoga is everywhere. And though I think it’s great that there is now so much choice and variety within the yoga world. I find it sad that social media (amongst other things) has altered the perception of yoga to make it seem like only fit, flexible, healthy people can take part. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not true. You do not need to be flexible to do yoga. However, if you practice regularly, you will see an improvement in your flexibility over time.
Anyone can do yoga. What is important is finding the right class and teacher for you.
If you are worried about being inflexible, then maybe start with a gentle yoga class. If you don’t like getting on the floor, you could try chair yoga. Don’t like “Downwards Dog” pose, try ‘wrist-less’ yoga or ask your teacher how to modify poses to reduce wrist pain.
Just remember which ever class you choose, it doesn’t matter if you don’t look like the other students in the class – we’re all built differently, and even our bone structure can impact the poses we do.
Back when I started yoga, there was little choice and little demand. Now with so many different types of yoga classes, there is likely to be a class out there for you. The hard part is finding it. So if you don’t like the first class you attend, don’t let that put you off. Get back out there and try a different one.
Gentle Beginners Yoga Class
So inspired by this, for this Wednesday’s weekly yoga class I’ve put together a gentle beginners yoga class and also this beginners yoga guide to help prepare you for your first class.
This class is a beginners class, but there are still a few poses that you may find a little challenging, as I think it’s good to have a little bit of challenge. But I’ll be giving lots of options and modifications for different poses throughout the class. Take what option feels good for you.
Now everyone is different. So if this class still doesn’t meet your needs, don’t let that put you off. Maybe even drop me a line or comment below and we can talk through some options together.