When you love yoga as much as we do, it’s only natural to want your friends to love it, too. But no matter how many times you tell them how great a yoga practice can make you feel, there is one excuse non-yogis always site for why they can’t do yoga: “I’m just not flexible enough!”
While it’s true that yoga can be intimidating for those of us who can’t touch our toes, inflexibility is not a barrier to a fulfilling yoga practice. Here’s why yoga is for everyone, even if you’ve never touched your toes in your life.
1. Yoga improves full-body strength.
When non-yogis picture a yoga class, they usually imagine practitioners twisted into pretzels. But the fact is, yoga is as much about building strength as it is about improving flexibility. You need every muscle in your body for most yoga poses, especially inversions and arm balances. You’ll see your strength and muscle tone improve quicker than you think when you start a steady practice.
2. It’s not just about striking a pose—it’s also about mindfulness.
Yoga is unique among physical pursuits because it focuses even more on the mind than it does on the body. Yoga is truly meditation through movement. The whole point is to stay in the present and focus on your inner experience, instead of letting your “monkey mind” take over.
3. Yoga helps your brain be more flexible, too.
Recent studies about yoga and chronic pain show that a regular yoga practice can actually increase gray matter in your brain, replacing gray matter that’s lost through depression or chronic illness.
Gray matter is essential for emotional regulation, pain tolerance, and decision making. The fact that yoga can potentially “regrow” gray matter means your brain will literally be more adaptable if you consistently practice yoga.
4. Emotional flexibility is more important than touching your toes.
Who cares about touching your toes? Flexibility is the ability to bend without breaking—and that applies to your mental state as well.
When life throws obstacles in your way, you can either “bend” by coping positively with your emotions, or you can “break,” letting negative thoughts and feelings overwhelm you. Yoga teaches us to focus on the present, and that discomfort is temporary. When this becomes part of your worldview, you’re better able to cope with whatever life has in store.
5. Plenty of styles don’t even focus on flexibility.
That image of the pretzel-yogi only applies to certain styles of yoga. What most non-yogis don’t know is that yoga is incredibly diverse. Instead of jumping right into a flexibility-focused class, start off with gentle restorative yoga. Other styles, like Kripalu yoga, focuses on breath work and meditation—so no extreme flexibility required.
If you want to build up to flexibility, there are plenty of styles for that, too. Iyengar yoga in particular encourages the use of props like straps and blocks, so you can gently move your body towards more flexibility.
6. Yoga is your “you” time, no matter which style you practice.
Most of us spend our days catering to other people’s needs—your partner’s, your children’s, or even your boss’s. With social and professional demands coming from all sides, it’s crucial to carve out some time for yourself to avoid getting burned out.
It’s not easy to find time to pamper yourself, but by stepping on the mat for a yoga session, you’re really making a commitment to spend time with yourself.
7. Yoga is about the process, not the end goal.
We won’t mince words. If you’re only practicing yoga to show off a cool pose on Instagram, you’re kind of doing it wrong.
Goals are great, and showing off to friends can be a fantastic motivator.
But when it comes to yoga, failure is every bit as important as success. Yoga is a process of self-improvement, and struggles are a natural and essential part of that process. If you can’t get into a backbend (yet!), don’t despair–the journey is much more important than striking the perfect pose.
8. Practicing yoga will make you more flexible—-so problem solved!
Maybe you can’t touch your toes today, but a few weeks of practicing Uttasana (Standing Forward Bend) will bring you closer and closer to that goal. Unless you’re coping with an injury, a regular practice will increase your flexibility much faster than you might think. Soon you’ll be touching your toes like you were born to it, and you’ll probably even wonder why you let inflexibility stand in your way to begin with!
Were you an “inflexible” yogi, or do you know someone who once was? Share why YOU think yoga is perfect for everyone, even if you’re not yet flexible!