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You Don't Need to Be Flexible to Do Yoga


Article by Hayley Hyer

Photography by Stock Images

One of the top reasons yoga teachers usually hear from people about why they don't do yoga is that they aren't flexible. Thanks to constant imagery of yogis with their feet over their heads, people think that if their body doesn't look like that, they aren't doing yoga right.

Here's the truth: Any body can do yoga! And it doesn't matter how flexible you are.

In fact, I learned in my yoga teacher training that being less flexible can be a safety bonus for beginners because your tight muscles naturally help you keep your joints in a safer alignment. If you're super bendy and can get into all kinds of crazy positions easily, it takes more focus to stay aligned and make sure you aren't compromising your spine or your knees.

10 Tips for Safe Alignment in Yoga

  1. When your knee is bent in a lunge, stack it directly over your ankle, facing the same direction as your toes.
  2. Use blocks under your hands or spider-tip your fingers when in a lunge so you don't arch your spine.
  3. Engage your latissimus dorsi and relax your shoulders down your back to avoid crunching in your neck.
  4. Lead with your chest anytime you fold forward.
  5. Point the crown of your head in the same direction the top of your spine is going for more length.
  6. In side stretches like extended side angle or triangle pose, squeeze your obliques on the side of your body that is closest to your mat to lift your upper body away from the ground and lengthen your spine.
  7. In chair pose, make sure your knees are back behind your toes. You don't have to squat super low if it means your knees come past your ankles. Every chair pose looks different on different bodies.
  8. In postures like chair pose, horse pose or eagle, tuck your tailbone down and straighten your back.
  9. In tabletop, high plank and side plank, stack your shoulder directly over your wrists.
  10. Take slow, steady breaths as your move and engage your core. Take your time getting into each posture.

Go Easy on Yourself

The whole point of practicing yoga is to feel good. The slow, steady movement helps lubricate our joints and make all of our other daily activities feel better. It helps with aging, and it is so, so important if you primarily do heavy lifting with weights for your exercise.

That being said, you shouldn't be hard on yourself if it doesn't feel good the very first time you do it. Yoga is hard, and if you aren't used to isometric holds in your workout routine, it can feel like you are in the postures for years! Give yourself grace and take breaks when you need to. Drop down to child's pose for a little bit. Take a drink of water. Focus on your breathing.

Go at your own pace and don't do anything that feels painful. There's a difference between discomfort and pain. Discomfort is what we have to push through to hold a stretch a little longer than we want to. Pain is your body telling you that something is wrong, and you should always listen to your body. Ask your instructor how to get in a better alignment or where you can place a yoga block for better support. That's what we are there for!

Lastly, and I know this one is hard, try not to compare yourself to the other people in the room. Everyone's body is different, and you don't need to look like the person in front of you to be doing it right. You are doing great.

Learn to laugh at yourself when you fall out of a pose and know that everyone in the room is feeling just as exhausted. We are all the same when holding a side plank! Namaste.

If you are in Kansas City, come take my beginner's vinyasa flow at Power Life Corinth Square on Tuesdays at 7:45 p.m. and on Sundays at 9:45 a.m. The class is called Power 1, and my name is Hayley H. If it's your first time at the studio, you can sign up for a free week. DM me on Instagram with any questions!

Follow Hayley Hyer @hayhyer

You Don't Need to Be Flexible to Do Yoga was originally published in HAYHYER