I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible
One of the most common things I hear when people find out I teach yoga is “I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible”. This makes me laugh for two reasons: 1) it is such a reflection of our culture that people think you have to be good at something on the first try. Of course for the vast majority of people, most of the time, it takes learning, doing and practicing a new skill to really be good at it. Sure some people are born more flexible than others, but it’s like the saying on the LuLuLemon bag “you know which people are flexible? People who do yoga”
The second reason this makes me laugh it that it shows the classic western misperception that yoga is synonymous with Asana which are the physical postures of yoga. Seeing a lithe 25 year old in dragonfly pose or watching an advanced yogi move through Ashtanga B Series is inspiring and impressive. These moves take strength, flexibility and lots of practice. But advanced poses that shape your body into a pretzel is a part of yoga, if you want it to be, but it is not the point of yoga.
So what is the point? The purpose of yoga is self exploration – purification, healing, transformation. The tools of yoga are vast and the physical postures are only one tool. I imagine you have heard, somewhere along the way that physical postures are to prepare the body for sitting meditation. That is true and makes sense. Think of the last time you took a five hour car ride without a break and then tried to sit for a meeting or test…. Didn’t you feel like you were going to go stir crazy if you didn’t move your body? That doesn’t mean you have to meditate daily to get benefits from yoga (although I will argue meditation is THE most important thing you can do for yourself). Anyone, of any flexibility or ability can reap the benefits of yoga.
Flexibility is not a pre-cursor to doing yoga. Of course, if you practice yoga you may become more physically flexible, but the real benefits are in the increased mental flexibility. The ability to dial back your brain, take a deep breath, let go of stress and feel more connected and joyful. Which, by the way, still takes learning, doing and practicing!