I often get into conversations with people who express how much they’ve always wanted to try yoga but feel they are not flexible enough to give it a go.
My reply to this is, “What makes you think you need to be flexible to breathe into postures, release impurities through exhaling and to find balance through connecting with your inner self? Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down.”
Most people have limited flexibility unless they carry out some form of exercise throughout their lives and manage to maintain the flexibility they had when they were younger. But who is to say that you cannot increase your level of flexibility once again?
Flexibility can be gained through practising yoga or similar exercise if this is something you wish for yourself. However, you DON’T need to be flexible to get the full benefits from your yoga practice.
The purpose of yoga is to strengthen our inner core, find our balance and make a connection between our mind, body and inner self. Ashtanga specifically is a mediation flow, creating a hissing sound (Ujjaj) or breathe at the back of our throat, using its rhythm as our personal meditation as we flow into each posture. Breathing in this manner does not only help us connect to ourselves but also cleanses our organs and nervous/respiratory system, preventing us from chronic diseases, and can also be used to treat any existing underlying or current chronic diseases, asthma and specific physical injuries.
The secret to yoga is our breathing, posture alignment comes second!
Every person has his or her own limitations and created perfectly, with natural compression telling us how far into a pose we can go. If you are touching your knees and the person practising next to you is touching his/her toes, you are getting the EXACT same benefits out of that posture, if you are both breathing correctly.
As you continue to exercise, your flexibility will increase and only then will touching your knees no longer feel right, you will naturally reach further to get the full benefit from that pose. But let your body decide when it is time!
Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change. As you build strength, you will start to believe in your own potential.