Can I Practice Yoga if I am not Flexible?

Often I hear students saying that they had previously asked their friend/family member/partner to attend a class but they’ve been met with ‘But I’m not flexible enough to do yoga’. As a teacher this is something I have heard so many times, it’s as common as us Brits complaining about the weather.

But I have good news. You do not need to be flexible or strong to practice yoga. Increased flexibility and strength are just by-products of a regular yoga practice, something that as with everything else, changes over time. Yoga works for your body with exactly how it is right now, not your body having to remould itself to fit yoga.

My favourite quote on this is something along the lines of saying that you are ‘too stiff’ to practice yoga is like saying you are ‘too dirty’ to have a bath! Yet most of us still shower daily! It’s the same idea. We don’t start yoga being bendy like a noodle, especially if we’ve never practised increasing our flexibility or paid attention to it before. As everyone’s body is different to the next persons, you may find that actually you have natural flexibility on your side or you may lean towards being more naturally strong. Or, you may feel that you have neither, but that’s absolutely OK. Yoga will meet you wherever you are in your life.

A lot of what is shared in advertising campaigns for yoga brands or what’s shared on social media often sparks confusion by showing models in extremely advanced postures. (Think of legs-behind-the-head and balancing on one finger, I’m joking but you get the point.) But that is not what you’ll be doing in your first, second or third yoga class – or maybe ever. These models or practitioners may again have natural flexibility on their side, past gymnastics training or, years and years of a dedicated yoga practice. But all of us are unique in our many muscles and bones and we need to show respect to our own bodies, even if we aren’t ready to fully love it all yet.

So if you feel stiff, you can’t yet touch your toes or you can’t yet cross your legs, yoga is something that is open to you regardless. Find a local yoga teacher in your area and discuss with them any concerns you may have. Yoga poses can be modified so that the posture suits you as you are, and that is what matters.

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