It’s a cry heard by many a yoga teacher, “Oh my goodness, I couldn’t possibly do yoga, I can’t even touch my toes!”
“Is that so? Who puts your shoes on for you then?”
“Well, I do of course!”
“Oh. So you can touch them then?”
“Well I have to bend my knees!”
I’m going to let you into a little secret… *looks around to check no one’s listening*
IT’S OK TO BEND YOUR KNEES IN YOGA!!!! Seriously, you can bend them so deep you’re practically squatting if that’s what it takes! The only things that matter in a yoga pose are that you’re there, you’re doing it safely, and that it feels good. No one cares how it looks. To be perfectly honest, no one’s even looking at you - they’re all much too busy stressing out about whether they’re doing it ‘right’ (whatever that is). Or, and this is the preferred option, they’re all so busy enjoying the nice stretch that they’re getting from whatever version of the posture that they’re doing that suits their body in that moment, that they wouldn’t notice if there was a goat at the back of the room joining in with all the yogaring (there might be. Goat yoga is an actual thing).
I have another secret for you… *glances round suspiciously*
If you can’t touch your toes then you are exactly the kind of person who should be thinking about yoga.
Do you think yogis came skipping out of the womb, contorting themselves into pretzels and that the practice is for them and only them?
No. They did not.
I mean, of course we were all much more flexible as babies, but the vast majority of us lose this as we age. Everyone is different, and some people’s anatomy means that they are double jointed, or able to to rotate a limb this way or that, but on the whole most of us lose it if we don’t use it. Sitting at desks all day, hunched over a computer compounds this further, and we end up with tight hips, tight shoulders and a droopy posture. Maybe even a sore back. Sound familiar? Thought it might…
Look, when you turned 17 did you say, “I can’t have driving lessons, I can’t drive!”?
“Of course I didn’t, Sacha. What a ridiculous question. I wouldn’t need driving lessons if I could already drive, would I?”
Well, dear reader, you make an excellent point. So why on earth would you need to go to a yoga class if your stretchability already resembles Dhalsim from Street Fighter (Millennials, look him up, he was by far one of the best)? No no, as you can see, I’m afraid that “I’m not stretchy” is a poor excuse indeed. In fact, these classes are designed just for people like you! And guess what. That newly strengthened core it’ll give you could even make that niggling back pain a distant memory.
Now, let’s just take a moment here while I make my other excellent point. You’re telling me, “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga,” but what I’m hearing is actually, “I’m not good enough to do yoga”.
Why do I say that? Well, straight away you’ve decided that you’re not able to do something that you haven’t even tried yet. We’re all guilty of it to some extent. We all have this irritating internal monologue that nags us, tells us we aren’t good enough, or that we didn’t do enough, that we aren’t achieving enough… Some of us are more practiced at ignoring this incessant chatter than others, sometimes it gets in the way of us doing things. But why should it?!
Yoga’s about more than just the physical exercise. It helps us to learn about ourselves, to recognise ourselves as our own worst critic and to refocus our energy on something more productive.
So, while you may not be flexible, you are good enough, you can do yoga and if you’re curious about it then you should definitely give it a go!