Updated: Oct 30, 2022
I’ve heard it many times: “I can’t do yoga because ___________ (fill in the blank).”
I can’t touch my toes.
I can’t do a headstand.
I have bad knees.
I’m not flexible.
I can’t do the splits.
I’m not strong enough.
My shoulders don’t work.
I have back problems.
I’m out of shape.
There are many reasons why people think they can’t practice yoga. I’d like to take those ideas and turn them upside down, and explain why everyone CAN practice yoga and get amazing benefits from it like stress reduction, improved sleep, mental focus, flexibility, balance, strength, and increased self-esteem.
Yoga isn't about being flexible. It isn’t about looking a certain way, but instead it’s about tuning into our bodies and respecting that everyone is different. I tell my yoga students that yoga is not about fitting your body into a pose, it’s about adjusting a pose to what works best for your unique body. Let go of the idea of what you think a pose should look like, and instead focus on what a pose feels like in your body and mind -- And that’s different for every single one of us. We all have unique limitations and strengths, and yoga encompasses all of those.
The bone structure and different angles in joints is complex and diverse, which in turn makes some poses easier and some harder for different people. A downward facing dog will look and feel very different to everyone in a yoga class. The beauty of the physical part of yoga (asana) is that there are so many options for most poses. There are almost always ways to change, adapt, or adjust poses so that they work best in every person’s unique body.
For example, I can think of 6 different arm variations that can be used in most standing poses, depending on shoulder strength, anatomy, flexibility, and comfort. There are different ways to take pressure off wrists; just ask my daughter who can’t put weight on her wrist because of a fracture 13 years ago, yet she has adjusted so that she can get the benefits from hands-and-knees poses by putting her forearms on yoga blocks instead of pressure on her wrist. Cat/cow can be done many different ways, in tabletop pose, in a seated position, sitting on a chair, or standing. The list goes on and on…
I regularly participated in yoga classes with my arm in a sling after shoulder rotator cuff repair surgery. Of course, I had to carefully adapt many poses for a time and I did choose to sit out many poses, but I felt so much better spending consistent time on my mat. It was so important for my mindset during the rehab process to continue my daily yoga practice. I showed up for chair yoga classes on a knee scooter after foot surgery to shorten a bone. Getting out of the house and spending time with my yoga tribe a few times a week while I was non-weightbearing did more for my recovery, mentally and physically, than I can begin to express!
Give yoga a try. You might just be surprised at how many different ways there are to gain the benefits of yoga postures by keeping an open mind and respecting the incredible uniqueness of every single body.
You are enough.