But I’m Not Flexible Enough For Yoga!


Photo©Kasper Ravlo/123rf

Often when I tell someone what I do for a living, I hear the same response: “I’m not flexible enough for yoga.” This response illustrates a widespread misconception about how our bodies work and what yoga actually is.

Yoga is not a religion. It’s not just an exercise system, either. Yoga is a many-layered path that provides the opportunity to look at ourselves and consciously work to become the best humans we can be in body, mind and spirit. Most of the time this means being a little kinder to ourselves, and maybe moving through life a little more slowly, and with more intention.

But what about all those body pretzel shapes? Yes, there are asanas or postures, which might seem a little intimidating to try. And so many postures with names that can be difficult to interpret. But a good yoga teacher can make even complex postures or names accessible to all.

Asana practice is less about the body shape and more about the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments associated with creating the shape. “Doing the pose correctly” does not mean making the most perfect shape or doing it the fastest or holding it the longest. Ideally, we move through our asana practice a little slower and a little softer each time.

Flexibility is not the key to yoga. Moving the body with focus, and only as much as is comfortable will allow the joints, muscles and nervous system to work together. This promotes circulation, can reduce inflammation, and over time, will allow for a wider range of movement and mobility, also known as flexibility. This mobility can be developed and enhanced greatly with yoga practice.

While there are a variety of ways to practice yoga, and some of those methods are more vigorous than others, asana is best practiced at a pace where a person feels most comfortable. As your comfort with the postures grow, so too can the level of practice. In this way, yoga compares to almost anything that takes practice.

Drummers don’t know how to use a drum before they pick up the sticks. Riding a bike takes serious practice. Knitters don’t just start making beautiful, elaborate creations on their first try. They decide to start something new, and they work at it until they become competent, each person in their own unique way.

One person might learn a stitch or pattern and not move onto anything new for a long time. They are content making the same pattern scarf for everyone they know, but perhaps with great thought and attention to colors and yarn textures. Another person might immediately dive in to learn new and challenging patterns. Would you say either knitter is right or wrong?

Strength, coordination, breathing, focus, stamina and mobility all come into play with asana practice. Each time you move through a series of postures you are building new connections between your brain and your body, in addition to increasing elasticity and flexibility. As you move and access your joints in various positions, you are also improving circulation and reducing inflammation in those places.

There was a time when you didn’t know how to walk. You didn’t let that stop you. You struggled and worked and wriggled until you managed to get your feet under you. Then you used your arms to haul yourself up and took your first unsteady steps forward. And you probably fell. But that didn’t stop you either. You got back up and tried again.

Every day we are faced with hurdles and obstacles. Taking your first shaky steps into something new and wonderful like asana practice might be the most amazing health exploration of your lifetime.

Jason Marcure is a full-time yoga teacher in Southern Massachusetts, who enjoys teaching asana practice and exploring the eight-limbed philosophy of yoga path. Contact Jason at Jason.Marcure@gmail.com.

Find holistic Yoga practitioners in the Spirit of Change online directory.