One of the popular myths about yoga is that you have to be very flexible to do it. It’s one of the questions I get asked most. And I can see why. In popular media yoga practitioners are often photographed in very advanced poses that make them look like they are bent double with their limbs wrapped around their necks. I’ve seen videos of famous Ashtanga teachers who genuinely look like they can tie their legs in a knot behind their backs. These images scare people.
The truth is that there are many levels for each yoga pose. The aim is not to dangerously contort the body, over stretch it or overload it, but to go as far as feels challenging. For many people, especially beginners, that might not be very far at all.
So no, you do not have to be very flexible to do yoga, but you will become more flexible by doing it.
I remember before I started going to yoga classes, long before I became a teacher, I couldn’t perform a forward fold and touch my toes. Nowhere near touching them actually. Within weeks of practising yoga I could get closer, and now I can get all the way down. As a result I am much more flexible now than I was when I was much younger.
Improved flexibility is just one of the physical benefits of yoga. Others include:
Better cardiovascular efficiencyBetter respiratory efficiencyBetter musculoskeletal flexibility and joint range of motionIncrease in breath-holding timeBetter dexterity skillsBetter postureBetter strength and resiliencyHigher energy levels
Very few of us will ever achieve the rubber elastic bodies of Ashtanga yoga video stars, but neither should that be a necessary goal. All of us can benefit from the physical improvements yoga can bring. And if that means getting just one inch closer to touching your toes then that is an achievement to be proud of.
Over to you: I would love to hear your stories about how yoga has improved you physically. How much difference have you noticed? Please post a comment let me know.
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