Flexibility in Yoga

Claria Yoga_Yoga and Flexibility

“I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough…”

When discussing yoga with friends and people I meet, I frequently hear the same comment, almost word for word, about why they are reluctant to consider starting a yoga practice.

Flexibility isn’t a pre-requisite when it comes to yoga. It is an aspect that develops with time and patience. For some parts of your body, flexibility may not even develop to the extent that you would expect, quite simply because of your individual body structure. If you were to observe a group of experienced yoga practitioners closely, all performing the same one posture, you would find that each has their own unique expression of the pose. Differences between them might range from the most obvious to the very subtle, as a result of individual attributes of each body’s structure and tissue. The pose is still being done correctly by each person. Most importantly though is the fact that the pose is serving each one according to how their body moves and settles.

There isn’t one pose for all. There is one pose for you.

There is one pose for you – for that time, for that moment. It may change and evolve the more you practise it, or it may stay just as is, because it is right for you, for your body. It will become your unique expression of the pose. As an example, after eight years, I am still unable to bend at the hips into a forward fold, with straight legs and my feet together. When I started yoga, I thought that it was due solely to my inflexibility. However, years later, after steady improvement in my flexibility, I realise that my body simply won’t accommodate that variation. Nevertheless, if I bring my feet slightly apart and bend my knees a little, I can move into the full expression of the pose.

I’m still unable to achieve the same depth as some of my colleagues but that isn’t the objective. I’m practising the pose safely, I’m listening to my body, and as a result, I’m experiencing the full benefit of the pose, which is the objective.

To understand more about the misconceptions associated with flexibility in yoga practice, click here to read an article written by Sandra Carson, one of my teachers at Ekhart Yoga. She goes into detail on how your body’s tissue (muscles, fascia, tendons etc.) influences your movement. She also demonstrates how the range of flexibility that we “think” is needed to practise yoga, can lead to possible injuries, and can be detrimental to experiencing the full benefits of the poses.

  1. Larry says:

    This article is so interesting, thanks Claire! I am one of those that have always been curious about yoga but have been put off by its ‘snobism’ around flexibility (like a friend of mine would call it 🙂 Your words reassures me… I might give yoga another chance!

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