When I first began a dedicated yoga practice, I was stiff, inflexible, and lacking in confidence. What I did have going for me was a love for the practice, and something inside me that was calling me to it.
Many people tell me they are intimidated to try yoga because they’re not flexible. They are envisioning practicing yoga as having to be able to twist yourself into a pretzel or shoot your leg up past your head. Trust me, this is not a requirement. Yoga is for everyone. Take it from me, a self-professed “inflexible” yogini.
When someone first suggested to me that I do a yoga teacher training, I said, “But I’m not flexible enough to be a yoga teacher…I’ll never be able to do all of those poses.” And what my teacher said to me was, “That’s not what yoga is about.” As I went through the training, I began to understand what she meant.
What “True” Yoga Is
True yoga is a union of the body, mind and spirit. The very word “yoga” derives from the Sanskrit root “yuj”, meaning, “to join”. This integration of body, mind and soul is an awakening, a discovery; a journey through the self, to the self. The asanas (poses) themselves are the conduit through which this journey takes place.
In the Western world, most of us practice yoga for exercise. We want that yoga booty, and tight abs. Well, those you will certainly achieve if you practice consistently. But if you look a little closer, you will see that the asanas are achieving something far greater.
The magic of yoga is what happens to you on the inside, through the practice of the asanas. It is a shedding of what no longer serves you: self-doubt, insecurity, sadness, anger, fear, perfectionism; and it is an unearthing of your true self.
As your body transforms, so will your mind. You may start practicing yoga with only the intention of getting exercise, but if you let it, yoga will transform you.
Why The Physical Postures Matter
You will find that the asanas allow you to shake loose old, stagnant emotions, thought patterns, and belief systems. Things will begin to awaken inside of you, and an inner transformation will start to take place. You will be amazed at the subtle changes that happen.
Soon you will find that you are more at ease, more peaceful, freer, happier, and certainly healthier. In addition to the emotional benefits it brings, yoga improves the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and hormonal systems. The health benefits are countless. Yoga offers you inner and outer balance.
“The impact of yoga is never purely physical. Asanas, if correctly practiced, bridge the divide between the physical and the mental spheres. Yoga stems the feelings of pain, fatigue, doubt, confusion, indifference, laziness, self-delusion, and despair that assail us from time to time…Yoga illuminates your life. If you practice sincerely, with seriousness and honesty, its light will spread to all aspects of your life.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
We may not all be flexible of body, but we can all be flexible of mind. The physical flexibility and strength will come with a consistent practice. And I know this because there are poses that I never thought my body was capable of doing, but are now accessible to me.
It is a progression, both physical and mental. And while it is always exciting to achieve a pose that you were once unable to do, the greater reward is seeing what happened for you on the inside, along the way.