As I was scrolling through pictures, trying to find something for my yoga blog post on practicing with injuries, I got really upset. Pretty much every yoga photo I found was of skinny, young women, people doing handstands, or people turning themselves into pretzels. I’m not saying that that doesn’t happen or that it’s wrong. I’m just saying that to generalize a whole community to the people in those photos is NOT accurate. Yoga is for EVERYBODY. Here are the most common "oh, I can't do that because..." things I've heard from people when they find out I teach yoga, and what I say in reply.
Oh, I can't do that because...
I'm not a girl.
That's cool. You don't have to be. I’ve had men show up to class, enjoy it, and come back… over and over again. In fact, yoga was first practiced by men and was only taught to men until 1937 when Indra Devi became the first female student.
I’m not flexible.
Well, did you know that one of the best ways to become flexible is by practicing yoga? Poses held for a minute or longer can build strength OR increase flexibility. The thing to remember is that flexibility doesn't happen overnight. Like most things, change happens a little bit over time.
I’m not young.
No problem. I’ve had many people of all ages come to class: from five to senior citizens… just usually not in the same class. If getting into the shapes is the issue, different variations of poses can be used to get into a similar shape or have the same benefit as a pose that might be a little harder to get into. If going to an all levels class isn't your cup of tea, there are classes designed specifically for older populations that have a special focus on joint health, increasing proficiency at performing certain daily movements, and moving slower. Plus, private classes can be tailor made for whatever situation you’re in.
I’m not skinny.
Yoga isn’t just for skinny minis. Everyone can practice and benefit, regardless of size. Here are some really inspirational people who really embody the message, spread inclusivity for everyone, have their own practice, and even teach: Jessamyn Stanley, Dana Falsetti, and Michael Hayes to name a few.
I can't do all that crazy yoga stuff.
By "crazy yoga stuff" do you mean things like handstands and deep backbends? No worries. You don't have to do it. Just as there are many different types of people, there are many different types of yoga. You can choose to do a more active vinyasa class, a slower hatha class, or a less intense gentle or restorative class. You don’t have to be boxed into one style or one group. In fact, it's perfectly acceptable to go to a power vinyasa class one day and a restorative yoga class the next. Or if gentle is more your speed, you could go to a gentle class every time. The point is, you have the power to choose how to practice, and the freedom to change it up so that your practice works for you on that day.
Here's the deal
When it comes down to it, the biggest limitation to practicing yoga is what we think about practicing yoga. Our biggest limitation is not physical. It's mental. When we're able to change our story from how things should be to how things can be or what's possible, we're able to practice yoga in whatever physical state we're in.