At least once a week I will hear someone say – “I would love to do yoga but I am so in flexible, I can’t even touch my toes”….
Yoga seems to have (yet another) pre-conception, that it is only for flexible people to strut their stuff and show off on the mat. There’s an illusion that to do yoga you need to be a zenned out ballerina on a mountain with her leg behind her head omming away in bliss…. This is not yoga, well at least not for 99.99% of the yogi’s I know! So this blog is for all you stiff people out there, to strip away the excuse of not being flexible enough to give Yoga a go and give you a reason to try it!
Anyone who looks at my background, sees I was a gymnast and now a yoga teacher makes the assumption that I am flexible and flexibility comes easily to me. Growing up as a gymnast you quickly learn that everybody is one of two body types – either strong or flexible. Even teaching adults, every student I see in class has one of these characteristics more dominant in their practice. As a gymnast I was always strong and I had to work to get flexible and continue to work even harder to keep it. When I started practicing Yoga 7 years after ending my gymnastics career, sitting on the floor cross legged was a real challenge for me and my knees would stick uncomfortably up into the air, and I really couldn’t stay there for very long.
Luckily, even though our bodies have a tendency towards either strength or flexibility they are always changing and can be trained to adapt depending on what we do and how we use them. But we need to loose the excuses and do the work to get there.
Why You Don’t Need to be Embarrassed:
One of the first things we learnt in my Yoga teacher training, was “don’t worry about the stiff rugby player at the back of the room injuring themselves, worry about the flexible dancer at the front of the room”. Yoga is a controlled discipline, and requires strength and control. A lot of injuries occur from hyper-extension and relaxing to far into a posture, repeating this over time without using correct muscle tone and control. Flexible people are often more prone to injury in Yoga, even those trained in other athletic disciplines, as they can be used to relaxing and letting their body go into full range in poses. This is a lot more risky than the stiff people who aren’t anywhere near their toes!
If you are stiff your teacher may try to adjust you to get you more comfortable and help get you into the right position to feel the stretch correctly. As teachers we see so many different bodies every day and no pose looks the same in two people are the same. Yoga is not a competition. The teacher is not judging you, they will however help you to use control and not force or push so you can find your version of the pose.
Not all Stiffness is Muscular:
Another common question from students who have been working for some time on flexibility, is why has progress stopped? Sometimes you just need more time and sometimes this can be due to bone structure which plays a big role in your body’s range of motion. Our bone structures are all unique, continuing to grow and adapt to give us a strong framework for movement. When you are working on a pose and you no longer feel the stretch but you cannot get further the most likely cause of this is compression of the bones. Compression and bone structure has particular impact on the ball and socket joints – hips, and shoulders and also on the vertebrae with the range of motion in your back bends. The moral of this information is, don’t get too fixed on an end result for your flexibility. All progress is progress and its all about exploring the body and finding your version of the poses, and creating space and comfort in your body.
Why You Should be Coming to Class:
Yoga builds strength, endurance, spacial awareness, stability, balance and flexibility. For every flexibility based pose in class there will be a balance or a strength pose. Yoga is more than just flexibility, it is a well rounded practice with benefits for every body and every level of fitness.
If you are stiff when you start practicing, you have the added advantage of being able to see real progress relatively quickly. With a regular practice you will quickly notice some poses becoming easier, getting a little deeper with each class. Whenever starting anything new seeing progress is a great motivator so don’t let yourself be put off by the very reason that will keep you coming back for more.
Using the excuse I am too stiff for Yoga, is therefore a little bit of a contradiction… Plus if you have ever watched your grandparents putting on their socks you will know, that extra inch you can reach towards those toes may mean a lot more to you in 30 years time than it does right now, so it may be good to get that work in early!
What Are you Waiting for…
If you are feeling ready to get on your mat and give it a go, check out my timetable here for classes. You can also claim your first class for FREE at the Curious Duke Gallery on Tuesday mornings, please message me for details.
If you have read all of the above and you still think this yoga thing is not for me, then no problem, but the next time someone asks you why, hopefully you’ll think of a better reason than because you can’t touch your toes!
GET YOUR FIRST CLASS FOR FREE – email me for details!