Think you’re not Flexible enough for Yoga….?

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As a yoga teacher I am always seeking to identify the barriers to starting a yoga practice. Apart from the common misconception that yoga means lying on the floor and chanting there are two main things that I hear on a regular basis. The first one is “I would go to yoga but I’m just not flexible enough” and the second one is “I’ve been to a few classes but I’m not very good”.

Unfortunately we live in a society that is focussed on winning, being the best. From a young age we are driven to succeed, we are tested continuously throughout our childhood as if getting 100% is a marker of who we are, whether we are good enough. Social media bombards us every day with images of women and men in swimwear performing impossible looking yoga poses with impossibly perfect bodies as if getting 100 instagram likes is the main aim of practicing yoga. Really…is it? Well I can tell you that if it is then I have definitely failed!

This is the thing. A yoga practice isn’t about being good (theres a reason its called a practice). It’s not about what it looks like, its more about how it feels. Accomplishment in yoga can’t been seen from the outside, it is a very personal and internal journey. Now, I could go on lecturing about the philosophy and practice but my point might be better illustrated by telling you a couple of stories.

My Yoga Journey

Ive been a yoga teacher for around 15 years now. When I started going to a class it wasn’t so much for the health or spiritual benefits, more of an escape. At 24 I was an almost single mother of three young children. I was in a negative relationship and my self esteem was on the floor. I suffered from chronic illness, getting fevers and chest infections every few weeks. I struggled to cope. My chief motive for going to class we to escape the house for a few hours. Even though I was bendy I found the sessions physically challenging, I lacked strength and my muscles would ache for days afterwards. Sometimes the practice would bring emotions bubbling to the surface and I would find myself sobbing quietly during relaxation. As time went on I found the practice started to teach me things about myself. Yes my body became stronger and my chest infections disappeared but it was the mental resilience that I learnt on the mat that was of the greatest value to me in my life. I learned to stand tall.

Today my practice is about both mental equilibrium and creating balance in my body from all the cycling that I do. If I feel good in my body I generally feel good in my self. Some days I need a strong practice and other days I take a more restorative approach. Sometimes I fall over in Tree pose…other days I am as steady as a mountain. This doesn’t make me any better or worse than anyone else. I am just doing my practice.

A Students Journey

One student has really stuck in my mind over the years simply for the transformation I saw in him over just a few months. Lets call him Jim. Jim arrived in class one day, he was probably mid fifties, slightly unshaven, hair covering half his face, his skin was pale and I got the feeling that he wasn’t very comfortable in his own skin. His body was a wreck, stiff as a board with various aches, pains and limitations. He sweated and struggled through the first class. I did everything I could to make him feel comfortable with where he was and to make sure he didn’t push himself too far. I hoped he wouldn’t be put off, never to come back. He turned up again the following week and the next, and slowly things started to change. The first thing I noticed was that he had cut his hair and had a shave. He started to wear nicer clothes and his skin tone brightened. Colour appeared in his cheeks and there was a spring in his step. Along with this his body had started to respond to the yoga and began to give a little. He still had to work and sweat but there was a sense of freedom starting to show. One day after class I couldn’t help but comment on how different he seemed. He glowed and confirmed that he also couldn’t believe the change that had happened in him in such a short time all through coming to a yoga class.

Thats the magic of yoga. Its not in doing impressive poses. Its about the journey that it takes you on as a whole person. So if you find yourself in a class where the teacher is mocking you for not being able to do something, get out of there and find yourself a better teacher. And next time you hear someone say “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga” make sure you put them right!

 

Just keep practicing!

 

 

 

 

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One response to “Think you’re not Flexible enough for Yoga….?”

  1. Beth says:

    This is fantastic and exactly why I love yoga.. beautifully written Polly! x

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