Often times, when I tell people I am a yoga instructor I hear something to the effect of, “Oh, I can’t do yoga, I am not flexible enough.” Right. My lighthearted response is usually, “Well, that’s exactly why you should come and take my class.” In fact, I teach a class called: Yoga for Flexibility. You see, nobody is flexible if they don’t actively make the choice to stretch and engage their muscles in a way that will create the desired effect. Sure, you were able to do the splits when you were 12, but now it takes work to fold forward and touch your toes. As our bodies mature, they adapt to the daily movements our lifestyle requires. If you have a long commute to work or sit at a desk the majority of your day, your hip flexors are naturally going to become tight and weak as they are in flexion all day long. Your glutes will become over stretched due to the lack of needing to engage to help hold you upright and your hamstrings will become tight and weak (hence the difficulty touching your toes). Your body is just doing what it is being told to do! Here is where yoga can make a huge difference in your body. When you move through the asanas (or poses), your muscles stretching and engaging in a way they are not used to can help bring the body back into balance. In fact, there are postures for each body type and your practice can be area specific to work exactly where your body needs it most. This means even people with injuries can do yoga! There are always modifications to ensure the safety of any injuries or you can avoid the injured area of the body all together. If you have endured an injury and your doctor has cleared you for exercise, alway discuss your injuries BEFORE your yoga class as your instructor should be educated on how to assist you and meet your specific needs. Most importantly, always listen to your body. If your body is telling you to stop and back off- pay attention to that. This is one of the most beautiful gifts yoga has given me: the ability to listen to my body and become friends with it. Your body wants to be friends with you. Yoga can help you find that connection. Regardless of your injuries, your age, your gender, your experience, your physical fitness, your background, your hair color, your weight, your relationship status, your income, your shoe size, your diet, your religion, your job, your story, yoga is for you.
Would you like to know the best news of all? The physical practice is only one of the eight limbs of traditional yoga. Even if you are someone who cannot physically practice for whatever reason, you can experience the benefits of the other seven limbs: Pranayama (breath work), Yamas and Niyamas (ethical practices), Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Samadhi (bliss). Sometimes those with religious backgrounds become concerned that these practices are contradictory to what they believe. Yoga is not a religion. No matter what your religion, you can practice these limbs in connection with your belief system. Yoga can be transformative in its ability to bring you into the present moment, connecting you to your breath and the world around you. If you have been bitten by the yoga bug and have found yourself coming back to class, I can bet it isn’t just because of the poses. Something magical happens on your mat when you are able to get out of your head and be present. This is available to you all the time and yoga is a practice that can guide you to experience this magic.
So, the next time you see an Instagram photo with a 20-something girl with her leg behind her head on the beach of Indonesia, remember that is just one expression of yoga. Yoga is not just for her. Yoga is also yours. Yoga is for everyone.