“I can’t do Yoga… I’m not flexible”
I’ve had several people come up to me and tell they can’t do Yoga because they are not flexible! They are convinced Yoga is about being flexible and being able to accomplish difficult poses, therefore in their minds they can’t do Yoga.
While I understand how they have come to this conclusion, I realize they really don’t really understand what Yoga is or why we practice Yoga. Usually, if we see someone showing himself or herself in a pose on Facebook or Instagram, they are in some amazing, crazy pose. They are always super flexible and impressive! Well, for the rest of us, this display of superior yoga ability may be intimidating and actually be showing us what yoga is not!
Here in the west most physical activities or exercise involve some level of competition. We are told to do our best, we keep score, and and there are usually winners and losers. Competition is at every level of our lives, from our job to our exercise, and even recreation. We live in a very competitive world! And with all this competition come stress, anxiety, and depression for those of who may not measure up. The expectations and pressure to be amazing placed upon by us and others can be very oppressive.
Good News! Practicing Yoga is not about being a super athlete, being flexible, or even being in good shape. In the Yoga Sutras, Pantanjali defines the Asana (or pose) as that which give bliss and comfort. This is one reason why Yoga has gained so much popularity worldwide in our hectic stressful lives. Practicing yoga is a break from the competition and stress. We don’t have to do our best, be amazing or be in great shape. Yoga is about disconnecting from our own ego and letting go of our expectations. Just being on your mat, being present, whether you are in balasana (child’s pose) or shavasana (corpse pose) you are practicing yoga. It is your practice and no one else in the room matters. You should not judge the others in the room or yourself.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is encouraged by Krishna to act without attachment to the results or fruit of action and activity. Yoga is selfless. Another principal of Yoga is called Pratyahara, which is bringing one’s awareness and one’s thoughts to within. It is a process of withdrawing your thoughts from external objects, things, people or situations, and turning inward to your true self, your inner world. This principal empowers you to stop being controlled by the external world and find freedom innate in your inner world.
Yoga is all about you and only you. It is not about being flexible, and yoga is accessible to everyone.