You Don’t Have To Be Flexible To Do Yoga
Saying you have to be flexible to do yoga is like saying you have to be in shape to go to the gym, or that you have to be clean to take a shower. There may be a relationship between yoga and flexibility, but being flexible isn’t a prerequisite for doing yoga.
“You don’t have to touch your toes to practice yoga.;If you want to touch your toes, bend your knees,” says Kelly DiNardo, a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher , owner of Past Tense Yoga Studio in Washington, DC, and the co-author of “Living the Sutras.”
“Whether or not you’re flexible should not dictate whether you practice. Over time, yoga can help you become more flexiblethat’s why we call it practicebut you don’t have to be Gumby-like to start. Flexibility is a result of yoga, not a prerequisite.”
How They Are The Same
Before we dive into how yoga is an extension of stretching, we felt it is important to cover where they are also similar. If you have ever attended a yoga class, you probably noticed that some of the postures are quite similar to athletic stretching.
Stretching is defined;as reaching, widening or pulling something, and putting your limbs into positions that make the muscles feel less tight.
We will cover a few of the similar stretches that you may recognize:
- Seated hamstring stretch-;Janu Sirsasana
- High Lunge stretch-;Virabhadrasana or Warrior one
- Low lunge hip stretch- Anjaneyasana
- Laying Glute stretch- Sucirandhrasana
- Tall lengthening stretch- Tadasana or Mountain pose
- Seated forward hamstring stretch with both legs Paschimottanasana
You can probably see the similarities here, but since stretching is just one of the eight core components of yoga, we will now cover why if you need the flexibility, you should just stick to stretching.
The Answer To The Flexibility Question
As we learned in the previous section about strength and flexibility, they truly go hand in hand for a strong and balanced yoga practice . The stronger you are, the more flexible you need to be, and vice versa. Yet the best part of all about yoga is that it truly is for every body. You can start where you are, and progress in your journey from that starting point.;To summarize, you do not need to be flexible to practice yoga. Just like strength, flexibility comes with time and practice. Read on for more insight on how to apply this knowledge.;
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Find Yoga Find Yourself
And when you come to your mat, its a time to calm your mind. To stop worrying about to-do lists, and to stop any judgment of yourself or others. So just coming to the mat means you can focus on improving yourself, and not on what or how everyone else is practicing.
So who cares if the girl next to you has her feet behind her head, or if the guy in front of you can do a split. Be on your own mat. Focus on your practice and on evolving your mind and your body. Because this whole yoga thing isnt about flexibility and looking cool, its about finding yourself.
Focusing On Breath And Meditation
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A Flexible Mind Is a Beautiful Thing
Another aspect of the self that becomes more flexible with yoga practice is that of the mind and emotions. You may find yourself becoming more empathetic toward your;own feelings and those of others. You might notice that youve become less rigid in your thinking, less attached to your own ideas and understanding.
Whether your torso rests on your legs in Forward Fold or not, consistent practice can strengthen your capacity for navigating experiences, whether positive and challenging. This is transformation. Off-the-mat flexibility can serve our lives in countless ways, and you dont need to be;physically flexible to enjoy them. ;
Cristie Newhart, former Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga, is a dynamic yoga teacher who imbues her classes with meditative inquiry, detailed alignment principles, and playful humor.
You Don’t Need Expensive Tools And Apparel To Do Yoga
Sure, you can head to lululemon and stock up on name-brand yoga apparel, gear, and accessories, spending hundreds of dollars, but there’s absolutely no reason to go broke to start a practice.
“You do not have to have the right look or clothes to go to yoga. That’s absurd,” says Val Minos, a 200-hour RYT and the creator of;Alt-Yoga Vibe. “Yoga isn’t about the look, it’s about moving the breath through the body and finding a deeper connection with self.”
To be clear, you can do that while wearing anything you want, whether it’s comfy pajamas or the athletic gear you already have on hand. Not to mention, most yoga studios have mats you can rent and props you can borrow, so there’s really nothing for you to spend money on before your first class.;
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I Cant Do Yogaim Not Flexible Enough
This is hands down the most common reason I get from people when they explain why they cant do yoga.
Its up there with, I cant shut my mind off, I cant balance on one leg, and, I cant touch my toes.
The truth is, those contemplating yoga for the first time are inundated with messages they receive from mainstream media sources that;showcase;the physical, flexible asana;aspects of a practice.
Isnt it completely reasonable that this misconception about the necessity of flexibility would exist in our modern society? Type yoga images;into any online search;engine, and youll;be bombarded with a multitude of stereotypical yoga images ;portraying incredibly flexible people. And thats without even taking into consideration the impact of the and the ideals surrounding it .
Yoga porn has now emerged as a legitimate reference to describing this heavily asana-aligned perspective on the meaning of yoga in the modern-day world. While many of us would agree that yoga is not a series of pretzel-like poses to get into,;there are of course a vast number of yoga devotees who see nothing wrong with sharing these glorified images.
The key aspect Im attempting to highlight here is the impact of the selfie-stick-yoga culture on beginners who has yet to build the courage to roll out a yoga mat and release into;their;first downward-facing dog pose.
Wise words indeed.
With an open mind, the body will follow. And the flexibility will come.
Flexible or notyoga is for all.
You Can Do Yoga Even If You’re Pregnant
While it can feel challenging at times, exercise is good for a healthy pregnancy, and yoga is considered a safe and low-impact option for parents-to-be, as long as you practice safely.
“Yes, you should do yoga during pregnancy, but with caution,” says Simone Tucker, MS, a 200-hour RYT and Exercise and Sport Science Instructor at UMHB. “During pregnancy, and to a lesser extent during menstruation, the body produces the hormone relaxin. Relaxin’s function is to prepare the body for the upcoming delivery by relaxing, or making your muscles, connective tissue, and joints more flexible. While this leads to a greater range of motion, it also makes it easier for expecting to overreach during yoga practice, possibly leading to injury.”;
Tucker emphasizes that more experienced yogis should listen closely to their bodies and stay within their pre-pregnancy limits during each practice. New yogis should take a more proactive approach to safety, as they may not know their limits. Tucker says they should work with a qualified yoga instructor and attend specific prenatal yoga classes.
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Do You Really Need To Be Flexible For Yoga
How many times Ive heard statements like these from friends:
I cant do yoga. I cant even reach my toes!;
Id like to try out yoga one day. But first I need to become stronger and more flexible. Give me some more time at the gym.
But really, people are just scared of the Unknown. Of something;they dont understand. Or simply;they dont want to look bad, ugly, stupid or all sorts of other silly adjectives.;
Have you ever asked yourself this question: what do I associate with the word yoga?
Youll see that the first image coming to your head is the next blond model in full standing split;with a beautiful sunset behind her. Or another pretty girl standing on her head on the beach. Whats the deal with beach yoga by the way??
Most of us wish to be like that, but really, yoga is something totally different.
Yoga is about the breath and how that relates to your body and movements. Its about how you feel before, during and after your practice. So, if you can only bend forward and reach your knees, but you can still focus on your breathing, thats probably better yoga than a headstand performed just to get more followers.
Age Or Gender Do Not Matter
Ask;your dad, or grandma, to stand on their feet, close their eyes, and take 5 deep breaths in and out with the nose: they are practicing yoga already.
Ask them to sit on a chair, and gently pull the head towards the right shoulder for a few breaths.
Then do the same with the left side, slowly.
Again, by breathing and stretching they are practicing yoga.
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You Have To Start Somewhere
Studies indicate yoga can improve flexibility, as well as posture, balance, and strength. To better your posture, you have to practice sitting up straight. To get stronger, you must do strength training. The same is true for flexibility in yoga. It requires effort, and progress comes over time.
After attending my first yoga class, I realized there were many individuals who werent as flexible as I thought they might be, said Aaptiv trainer Kelly Chase. As I continue my practice with yoga, I find myself becoming more flexible, and stronger in my body and mind.
The physical practice of yoga works to lengthen and tone muscles through basic poses and stretching, according to Yo Yoga! Founder Rebecca Weible. Basically, you dont become an expert on day one. Yoga uses repetition to create flexibility, Weible explains. As your body becomes more supple, the poses build on each other and become deeper and more complex so you can continue to increase flexibility.
Depending on your initial level of flexibility, use props, such as blocks, bolsters, or straps. These;function as tools to support your body. They help you find more length in each posture to stretch your muscles.
Let Go Of The Idea That Stretching Makes You Flexible
Most people assume that stretchingin a way that uses muscle to force other muscles to lengthenleads to flexibility. It doesnt! The old-fashioned approach of static stretching has been part of most athletic training regimes for decades.
What scientists and athletes now understand is that flexibility begins in your mind. If your mind thinks it needs to defend against injury it might do just that, bracing for impact and making you less flexible.
That said, if you push your muscles hard to get in a stretch, and probably won’t won’t see lasting gains. Instead, stay easy and calm, no force required. You might be thinking, I can’t touch my toes! But its actually great that you have these good strong muscles and ligaments that hold your body together and keep things working properly.
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Do You Need To Be Flexible To Try Yoga
What do you picture when you think of yoga? While some may have different ideas of what exactly yoga entails, most have a very familiar reaction to the concept of this ancient discipline. At the mere sound of the word, we picture a person wrapped in to some seemingly impossible pose. We see legs behind ears, backs twisted in to almost incomprehensible shapes and poses. It all looks positively terrifying, we consider; even if the human body can bend like that in some situations, following intense training, that doesnt necessarily mean it should!
These images often feature celebrities, particularly Madonna, who is a big fan of proving just how flexible she is even though shes in her sixth decade. While impressive , these pictures of impossible poses are not really a true reflection of what yoga is, or what its trying to achieve. Taken further, one could argue these poses are actually off-putting for people who want to try yoga but are quite sure their foot does not, and never will, belong behind their ears.
Its Called A Practice For Good Reason
Yes, yoga can help you become more flexiblebut you have to put in the time, says registered yoga teacher Amy Stephens. An occasional class may result in achy muscles and a good nights sleep, but you wont necessarily gain any long-term flexibility.
People assume they need to be flexible because they see the end result of years of practice when they watch the teacher moving easily through the class or look at social media yogis doing intricate, deeply advanced poses, notes Weible. They dont see the struggle and journey those yogis had from their first time on the mat to what they are seeing.
Of course, flexibility is different for everyone, but yoga will absolutely help over time. Katy Brandt of Lotus Blooming Yoga suggests practice and patience. This will lead to increased strength, balance, and flexibility for the student. One study found that even doing one class a week can lead to better spine mobility and hamstring flexibility. A steady practice might also help you ward off injury, too.
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Eye Of The Needle Pose
This pose offers a wonderful way to stretch the hip flexors gently at first and then more deeply as flexibility becomes more available. If you are looking for more intensity, you can substitute in Pigeon.
Instructions 1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. 2. Place your right ankle on the top of your left thigh, opening your right knee to the right. 3. Stay here or lift your left foot off the floor and start to bring your left thigh towards your chest. Reach your right hand through the gap between your legs to clasp your hands around the back of your left thigh . 4. Draw your left knee closer to your chest while making sure that your sacrum stays anchored to the floor. You can also use your right elbow to nudge your right knee further away from your chest. 5. Keep both feet active throughout. 6. After five to ten breaths, switch legs.
The Takeaway: Beyond Flexibility
If flexibility is not the end goal of yoga, then you may ask, what am I doing on the mat?! Yoga is a way to practice how you want to be when you step off the mat and into your life. What qualities do you want to embody? Do you want to be stronger? More balanced? Compassionate?;Instead of stretching more to reach yoga pose perfection, try to bring the characteristic of flexibility into your practice. Forget about the end shape and practice who you want to be. Desikachar once said, The goal of yoga is to encourage us to be a little better than we were before. Start where you are and practice being who you want to be.;
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Lets Start With What Yoga Is In The First Place
The word yoga means union or yoke. And in the second sutra of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines yoga as the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.
Yoga is a mental practice designed to focus the mind, and to align it, we move through poses, asanas, in yoga to challenge the mind and intensify the focus.
Here is how it works: imagine you are holding a plank pose. You could do it now, but then youd have to look away from the screen. So read this first, then do it.
Here is how to get into plank: Hold your shoulders over your wrists and stay on the balls of the back feet, with your heels pressing toward the back wall.
Hold this for a while.
You will notice sensation beginning to creep up in the body. It may happen in 2 seconds. It may take 90. But it will happen.
At that point, you practice focusing on your breath. You stay longer in the pose ignoring the minds desire to move, and you focus on breathing. You decide to stay another breath.
And in this way, you align your thoughts, your intentions, and your actions.
You are practicing yoga.