Let’s just clear something up about yoga before you offer me an excuse about what you cannot do. You do NOT have to be able to touch your toes as a pre-requisite for attending a yoga class. I am not sure when or where the myth began that flexibility was a prerequisite for practicing yoga, but I assure you, it is not. Everything takes practice, yoga included. Yogis do not wake up and get out of bed every morning and jump right into headstands, one-legged standing twists, and dropping into backbends. In fact, it takes quite a bit of guided teaching and warm up to get into the poses we practice. But practice is what we do, to continue evolving and working towards the more complex poses and subtleties that yoga offers us.
Working in the field of physical health and wellness has given me the privilege of having a great deal of friends who run marathons, do CrossFit training, dance in professional companies, train martial arts, and every single one of them practices their discipline on a regular ongoing basis. Yoga is no different. Flexibility does not come naturally to most of us, and as we age it becomes all the more challenging. We don’t practice yoga because we already can touch our toes before stepping onto the mat. We practice yoga so that we can work towards touching our toes and continue deepening our practice in an authentic way.
Come as you are. That is all we ask of you. After a practice or two, you will begin to learn what poses are accessible for you, what feels amazing, as well as which poses aren’t so comfortable. Notice and learn from the cues your body and mind offer you. Don’t judge them or yourself, simply be the witness to your own experience on the mat.
Any given student in my class may have a previous injury, a minor limitation, a stiff back, a busted knee, a mental-health issue, a pregnant belly, or an autoimmune disease I have never heard of in my life. But all of these things offer us an opportunity to challenge ourselves and explore poses in a unique way that works for our specific physical body. Don’t let limitations make you feel bad or guilty about what you can’t do. Own the limitations, and work with them. You will overcome these challenges in the same way you have overcome other obstacles in your life.
The biggest challenge and obstacle in front of you, is simply to show up to practice yoga and arrive on the mat. The prerequisites are that you come to class, have a body to work with, turn off your cell phone and leave your shoes and socks outside the studio. Leave the rest up to the teacher. Allow yourself to be guided in and out of postures. If you don’t like the teacher, find another class and keep trying new classes until you find a teacher that resonates with you. Practice yoga without offering an excuse for what you can or cannot do. Open your mind to the possibility of practicing and allow yourself to be mentally present as you do so. In the back of your mind, just remember…. Savasana is on its way.