When it comes to not trying yoga, the king of excuses is “I’m just not flexible!” Oh, I’ve heard other excuses, of course, but I would have become a rich woman by now if I had gotten a dollar for every time I’ve heard that phrase over the years.
When people hear that you are a yoga teacher, it’s like they have to explain to you why they can’t do yoga. Now I know that yoga is a tough sell to a lot of people, and I long ago realized that encouraging people to at least try yoga is a delicate art. I am a soft-sell type of yoga teacher. I figure people will either eventually come around to yoga or they won’t. I don’t take it personally. I am not going to push them and I definitely will not think any less of them if they choose not to take my class. Or any yoga class, for that matter.
Lack of flexibility
The excuses people use say a lot more about them than they realize, though. This lack of “flexibility” excuse is one that reveals something about a person, and it has nothing to do with their tight hamstrings. After all, one of the main reasons people choose to do yoga in the first place is to improve their physical flexibility. Being flexible is not a prerequisite. You become more flexible after you begin practicing yoga. As a matter of fact, it’s the people with tight hamstrings and hips and shoulders that benefit from yoga the most!
I believe that when people play the “lack of flexibility” card they are really exposing a mental lack of flexibility, not a physical one. Not being open to new experiences. Allowing fears or phobias to block them from bettering their health and well-being. Perhaps they don’t want to look inexperienced among their peers. Or they think that others will judge them. And let’s face it, who wants to expose themselves to all of that?
What should the “inflexible” do?
What I wish I could tell these “inflexible” people is that when one attends a yoga class, everyone is there to take care of their own business. What you do or don’t do in class affects no one there but you. You can look at people in class all you want to but their effort does not change you. YOUR effort changes you. This realization comes about quickly for most people after they begin going to class because if they stay focused on others too long they risk falling out of their “tree!”
After years of practicing yoga, I have, indeed, become more flexible. I can touch my toes. I can do a backbend. I love the Pigeon pose. But the part of my body that has benefited the most from all this “stretching” is my mind. I have stretched myself out of my comfort zone many times and not only survived, but thrived. Yoga represents challenges, both real and imaginary. What you are really doing when you “stretch” yourself in class is providing yourself with viable mental tools to use in the real world. You become more pliable in thought and creativity. You stop assuming that you “can’t” do something just because you have never done it before. You become more willing and able to take care of your “own” business.
In truth, the real benefits of yoga are seen and experienced off the mat. In the real world. In YOUR real world. Can I guarantee that you will be able to touch your toes one day? No, I can’t. But I can guarantee that you will get closer than you ever have before. And that proves that life is not static. We all have the capacity to change and grow, but we have to be willing to cultivate our “flexibility” first.
K. Kris Loomis is the author of the humorous travel memoir, Thirty Days In Quito: Two Gringos and a Three-Legged Cat Move to Ecuador. She also writes adult parables and short stories as well as books about yoga and meditation. Kris is a determined chess player, an origami enthusiast, a classically trained pianist, and a playwright. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats.
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