Or so you’d like to believe.
Yoga is in fact, for you. That’s the beauty of yoga, it really is for anyone and everyone.
When the topic of yoga is brought up amongst my friends and/or colleagues, I’m often greeted with statements along the lines of “I wish I could do yoga BUT…”, generally followed by, “I’m not flexible enough for it.” I used to be stumped with mild frustration upon hearing such statements as I see this as something made up, something untrue yet said with such a matter of fact tone as to not be questioned. As a teacher, I feel it is part of my job to help educate why yoga really is for everyone, breaking away from the misconception that you must be flexible to do yoga.
Yoga does not require a specific physical strength, nor does it require expensive equipment. Yoga does not discriminate; it welcomes anyone of all communities, ages, sizes, and past physical experiences. You do not have to be flexible or strong, skinny or ‘in shape’. You don’t even need to have money, really! Just an internet connection or a book instructing you on the proper alignment of the poses and you’ll likely learn more than you would in a class setting anyway. Yoga does not ask of you anything you don’t already have within. It asks that you be present and aware, have an open heart and a determined mind, practice patience and most importantly, it teaches you compassion towards yourself. To accept where you are in this present moment and dedicating yourself to honoring your individual needs, that of which is unique to anyone else’s’.
With yoga becoming more and more popular, it has begun to reach various groups and communities of people that may have once overlooked it. Whereas yoga once was viewed as a ‘spiritual, hippie thing’, the various health benefits are now well known across North America and yoga studios have begun popping up everywhere. Chances are, your favorite celebrity practices yoga. (I’m pretty sure it’s a requirement if you’re living in L.A. to be involved in either yoga or soul cycle).
With various groups recognizing the wide range of benefits that yoga offers, the yoga community has in turn begun to designate classes or flows specific to certain groups. There are various sequences or flows of yoga postures designated to help alleviate certain conditions such as anxiety or stress and chronic illness or injuries, as well as yoga classes geared towards certain communities, for example, pre or post-natal, yoga for toddlers or seniors, yoga for inmates – the list goes on and on. People around the world are beginning to realize that, no matter what stage of life they’re in or career they’re working, yoga is incredibly beneficial.
I had personally started yoga in hopes of becoming more physically toned. I, like many people, initially only saw yoga as a means of physical exercise and believed it centered mainly around flexibility. I knew it also took balance and strength, and although I had heard of the whole ‘meditation’ thing, I was just a girl looking to improve her physical shape. Given my minimal background in gymnastics and somewhat natural flexibility I thought I was set to be the next best yogini. While natural flexibility has helped me in some poses, it quickly became clear just how weak I really was. I could not hold any poses for long at all and my breath was always scattered if I even remembered to breathe at all. I didn’t expect yoga to be easy, but I didn’t expect it to be so hard.
There’s no doubting the physical benefits of yoga but it’s the mental benefits that have me returning to my mat each day. It’s about setting a goal for myself, for example being able to do the full splits, then dedicating the necessary time every day to work towards my goal exerting daily patience and dedication. It’s about acknowledging how far just a little bit of practice, patience and dedication can truly bring you. It’s about blocking everything else out and selfishly dedicating my time to me. It’s about learning more about myself, pushing myself and trusting myself. It’s about, for the first time in my life, truly loving my body inside and out. For all my life I have been cruel, mean, and harsh towards my body. I was too skinny, too big, too this and too that – I was never enough, but I am now. I can say with complete honesty and pride that I love my body and it’s not because of how it looks, but because of what it’s capable of doing. With my newfound pride also came a newfound level of care.
Mentally, I have become so much stronger and while it will always be a work in progress, much more accepting. I am learning to understand that not everything comes right when we want it, and how to better accept where I am in life while making the necessary steps to get where I want to be.
Physically, I have become much stronger, too. My balance has steadily improved and I can hold poses for much longer now than when I initially started. I now have a better understanding of weaknesses and strengths. I know what I need to work on while acknowledging with gratitude what I can already do.
Yoga is not about being flexible nor is it about being strong. Yoga does not ask that you be a certain age, shape and/or size. Yoga is about harmonizing your physical being with your mental. It is about deepening the most important relationship you will ever have, the one you have with yourself. To practice yoga is to better know yourself, to accept where you are in the present moment without the hostility of our past or the anxiety of our future. To practice yoga is to practice being the best version of yourself- inside and out.
So, the next time you begin to say, “yoga is not for me”, ask yourself why you think this is. Is it because you’re not flexible enough? Not strong enough? Can’t sit still during meditation? Now, if you’re aware of such shortcomings, of what you believe you cannot do – why not aim to improve? Why not challenge yourself with something new, something difficult, something out of your comfort zone? I can confirm you won’t learn much by only sticking to what you already know. If you’re someone who says yoga isn’t for you, remember that it is a choice you’re making with a story you’re selling.