When I tell people I practice (and teach) yoga, I often hear someone tell me that they tried yoga once but quit because “I’m just not flexible.” I truly believe that yoga is for everyone. Yoga meets you where you are. Many people think that yoga is off the table for them because they can’t bend into the same shapes they see the instructor or other students achieve. Others come to yoga class and tough it out….trying to make their body go beyond its limits to get to what they believe yoga should look like. I’ve even had clients who have injured themselves in yoga classes by exceeding their body’s limits. This belief that we need to achieve a certain look, or go further into a posture is, in my opinion, simply not yoga. Yoga is not about looks, or doing what everyone else is doing. There is no way to be the “cool kid” in a yoga class. We are all cool, because we are all doing yoga.
Yoga is a strictly personal endeavor. True, the instructor guides us through a postures and gives cues to help with alignment and prevent injury. However, how your body and mind interact with a yoga posture is entirely individual. The best gauge of how successful yoga class is lies in how it makes you feel. Even when a posture is challenging, you should be able to feel stable and supported in it. Sometimes this requires realigning the feet or other body parts. Engaging the core muscles also helps with stability. Whatever posture you’re in, you should be able to find ease in your pose and breathe consciously and comfortably.
If you’ve taken yoga in the past and felt inflexible or uncomfortable, I encourage you to try again with an open mind. Try a virtual class at home, or step into a yoga studio, gym or rec center. Remember to make the class truly your own and approach the yoga postures the way your body would want you to.
Whether you’re a new yoga student, or someone who’s been practicing for many years, ask yourself the following questions next time you take a yoga class.
“How does this make me feel?” and “Can I find ease in this posture?”
If you’re feeling discomfort or pain, The the next question should be, “What can be adjusted to alleviate the tension?” If you’re at an in person class, don’t be shy…ask the instructor for a variation. If you’re practicing with an online class or video, start by adjusting the feet (in a standing posture) and see what stance feels the best.
“What is my breath doing?” Breath tells us a lot. When we are stressed or anxious, our breath is rapid and our heartbeat is fast. When we are in pain, we may unconsciously hold our breath. Sometimes finding ease in a pose can be achieved by altering the breath. Breathing slowly lowers the heart rate and blood pressure. It helps the body release muscle tension that may be causing tension or interfering in relaxing into a yoga posture.
Listen to your body, but also listen to your heart and your mind. This can be the difference between an enjoyable experience (not just in yoga, but in general), and one of discomfort or pain.
If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join me for one of my classes. See my offerings on my schedule page.
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