Updated: Dec 1, 2021
Ask any yoga teacher what is the most frequent reason they are given for people not trying yoga and nearly everyone will reply with the phrase 'I can't do yoga because I'm not flexible enough'. It's a common myth that in order to be good at yoga you must have an incredibly flexible body. I admit that when I took up yoga I may have had some of these preconceptions myself and my primary aim was to improve my flexibility. While I am now more flexible I am still not overly bendy but that does not stop me practising or teaching yoga.
As I see it flexibility and strength are not the goal in yoga they are simply a happy byproduct of regular practise. The yoga postures we do in yoga classes are just one element or limb of the overall yoga philosophy, of which there are eight in total. If we navigate our way through all of these eight limbs we may achieve enlightenment. Along the way we'll certainly find a better connection with ourselves both mentally and physically. Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am neither spiritual nor religious. While I may not have the end goal of enlightenment in my sights, I know from experience that regularly practising yoga will not only help improve strength & flexibility, it will also calm the mind, resulting in reduced stress levels and improved concentration.
Yoga is a journey of getting to know yourself, accepting your limitations and increasing your body awareness. To succeed in yoga we must realise that every person and every body is unique, with their own abilities and limitations. Look around in day to day life and everyone you see looks different. Some have long legs and short bodies, others long bodies and short legs. Some have hyper mobility in their joints, are naturally very bendy but may lack the strength to support themselves safely in the extreme postures they seem to easily achieve. Others may be very stiff but have really good balance, remember we are all individuals and there is no right or wrong body type for yoga.
So if you're coming along to yoga class, don't worry about your flexibility. Instead try to leave your concerns behind, let go of how you look in a certain posture, let go of how others in the class look and instead take the time to look within and notice how the posture feels. Hope to see you on the mat soon!