I always get so bummed out every time I hear someone tell me they would love to try yoga...BUT..."they're soooOOOooo not flexible."
If you've been using your inflexible body as an excuse to not do yoga, you may not want to read this. :P Because I am here to convince you:
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE FLEXIBLE TO PRACTICE YOGA. Flexibility may seem like it is a prerequisite to practicing yoga. I understand, I've seen the magazines too! It can be intimidating at first, when your association with the practice of yoga are these slender lithe beings who seem to easily contort themselves into pretzel like shapes. Well here's food for thought: The men & women you see on the covers of magazines are generally teachers who have spent YEARS i mean 10-15 years practicing and teaching. Just sayin'!!!!
It's actually quite simple: Whatever you lack in your body, a yoga practice will give to you. Not overnight, but with extended and dedicated practice, the parts of your body which are stiff and inflexible will become more supple and movable. You will soften where you need space, stabilize where you need balance, open where you need length and tone where you need strength. AND, as a little "icing on the cake" as they say...These qualities that you begin to cultivate in your physical body will then manifest themselves into your more subtle energies and you will notice that they will begin to have an affect on how you express yourself and live in the world. Yoga is a transformative, alchemical, creative process!
My personal journey has been about gaining strength in areas that were once weak. Flexible, but weak, and therefore at great risk for injury. Because yoga came naturally to me, I never even realized that I didn't have much muscular strength in my thigh muscles. I would just thrust myself into the posture, not even realizing that instead of using my muscles I was instead sinking into joints. It's been a long journey, but I now have stronger quadricep and hamstring muscles that I know how to use to protect my fragile flexible joints. As it so happens I have also started to feel a lot more grounded and rooted in my life.
B.K.S. Iyengar says; "...My own body was the laboratory, in which I saw the health benefits of yoga, but I could see that yoga would have as many benefits for my head and heart as it did for my body....The miracle is that after seventy years these gifts are still increasing for me. The benefits of practice cannot always be anticipated. When they come, it is so often as unexpected bounty in forms one had not expected. But if you think that learning to touch your toes or even stand on your head is the whole of yoga, you have missed most of it's bounty, most of its blessings and most of is beauty." (Light on Life)
So, now try and see for yourself! Who cares if you can't touch your toes???!!! A beginners Iyengar class is a great place to start if you're unsure because you're not flexible. The teachers are true guides who use a lot of props to help each individual yogi and yogini to get into the poses in a way that is aligned with what their body is capable of.
Next up: I will debunk the Myth that yoga is just an elaborate stretch session. Stay tuned!