I often hear people say they’re not flexible enough to do yoga. That’s not surprising. The typical image of a yoga practitioner is young, thin, female, and flexible. That image can sometimes make the rest of us feel like we don’t belong in yoga class. To some extent yoga is self-selecting. Flexible people flock to yoga classes, because they think, “Well, I’ll be good at that.” Sometimes they’re surprised when they realize that some poses, especially the advanced ones take a lot of strength too.
Here are six reasons why you should practice yoga even (or maybe especially) if you’re not flexible.
1. It’s not how you look; it’s how you feel.
Check out yogis on Instagram and you’ll see lot of poses that seem way beyond possible (many of them on the edge of a cliff for some reason) and though I’m not hatin’ on Instagram yogis, a yoga picture is not a yoga practice. The practice of yoga is more about the how poses feel on our bodies, not how they look to others.
2. A regular yoga practice will probably increase your flexibility.
If you’re unable to touch your toes, there’s no guarantee that practicing yoga will enable you to touch them. There are too many physical and anatomical variables that can stop you from doing a particular pose. However, with a regular yoga practice, you’ll probably notice increased flexibility over time. Years ago, I took a fitness assessment when I joined a local gym. My “flexibility” score was pretty low. I have unquestionably become more flexible since I started practicing yoga, but it didn’t happen right away. Patience and persistence pay off.
3. It’s not a competition.
Sometimes it’s hard to see other people in class who can do things we cannot. If we’re not careful our egos get the better of us and we’re straining to get into a version of a pose that our bodies aren’t ready for. Yoga’s not a competition (except for some people it is). It doesn’t matter what others are doing. You do you.
4. Yoga isn’t all about flexibility.
No, you don’t have to be able to put your foot behind your head to practice yoga. Most poses can be modified to suit different ranges of motion.
5. You only need to be as flexible as you need to be in order to do the things you need/want to do.
So how flexible do you need to be anyway? I would say you only need to be as flexible as you need to be in order to do the things you need or want to do in your daily life. So let’s say you like to garden and a lack of flexibility makes it hard to bend over, then you might want to work on doing a table bend so that you could work in the garden with more ease.
6. Yoga belongs to everyone.
Yoga isn’t just for flexible people. In fact, some people are too flexible and need to work on stabilizing their joints. So, everyone has something to work on. No one is perfect at yoga. One of the best things about yoga is that there is always room to grow. Approach your practice with a sense of ease, wonder, kindness, and lots of breath.
Yoga can benefit you in so many ways—muscle strength, improved posture, better balance, improved focus, improved lung function, reduced pain, and a greater sense of well-being. Why would you just worry about flexibility?