I quite often hear things along the lines of “I’d love to give yoga a go, but I’m not very bendy” – to which I can only say, “well if you don’t give it a try, you’re not going to get any bendier!”
Seriously though, there is a myth that you can only really start doing yoga if you’re skinny, physically fit and bendy, but I can tell you that there really is no weight, age, physical ability barrier to getting something amazing out of yoga.
The great thing about any yoga practice is that it can be adapted – if you use a wheelchair, we can do a great yoga session from a seated position; if you would like to work on your weight, yoga could be just the thing to provide a really intense, but low-impact, workout; if you’re heading towards your 50’s and above, yoga will be great for keeping your joints flexible, strengthen your core and provide great weight-bearing exercise to assist in keeping your bones healthy; if you’re pregnant, yoga can be just the thing to keep you fit and flexible and support the muscles you’ll need to pop out a baby 🙂
Yoga isn’t one-size-fits-all, but can be tailored to your body, your fitness levels, what you want to achieve.
It’s also non-competitive (and I speak as someone who HATES to lose at Monopoly….!) As long as you’re working towards getting into the poses (and it really doesn’t matter how long this takes), learning to control your breath, listening to your body so that you get the best out of sessions and concentrating on your own goals, then you’re practicing yoga successfully!
I often meet people at their first session who not only can’t touch their toes, they can’t actually touch their knees – and this is no problem at all: it gives us something great to work on! I’ve also done sessions with people who have severe mobility problems, and we’ve still had a great workout. One of my clients asked me to help her in her quest to lose some weight that she was having real difficulty in shifting, and we made excellent progress – people who think yoga is all sitting in the lotus position and chanting need to come and do some power yoga with me 🙂
The benefits of yoga aren’t just physical though!
The physical benefits of yoga have been well documented – strength, flexibility, fewer lower back problems, rehab from injury, guarding against osteoporosis, etc, etc, but the amazing thing about yoga, as opposed to Pilates, for example, is that you’ll learn to breathe, calm your mind, be mindful, and really get to grips with the connection between your mind, body and emotions.
I must admit that it was this aspect of yoga that actually put me off for a long time! I just didn’t want to sit about and say “om” (!) and the thought of meditating made me want to poke my eye out with a fork 🙂
However, I started from a point of misunderstanding – it’s perfectly possible to undertake the physical practice of yoga and have no truck with any of the meditation/mindfulness, etc. This is how I started. As you progress though, something quite amazing happens – you start to get proper control of your breath and this allows you to have greater control of your body – before you know it, you’re doing a “mindful” yoga practice, and doing a physical meditation without realising – and coming out of it feeling as though your brain has had a good rest 🙂
Life is very often hard, and we’re all busy – this kind of mindful practice of yoga can be like giving your brain a lovely cool shower and can give you the tools to go through your day feeling less stressed and better able to cope with whatever life chucks at you 🙂