Can You Do Yoga Even If You’re Not Flexible? The Answer is Yes!

Have you ever thought to yourself, I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible/strong enough, or I can’t go to a class yet, I’m not good enough?

If you’ve had similar thoughts to these, ask yourself this question: When will you be enough? Is it a concrete goal that you’ve made attainable, or is it a finish line that never comes?

As a yoga teacher, this type of patterned and conditioned thinking is one of my biggest pet peeves. 

I once saw on Facebook, “Saying you’re not flexible enough for yoga is like saying you’re too dirty for a shower.”

It doesn’t make sense.

How do students get flexible? How do they get strong? More mobile? They show up, and they do the work.

“It’s not about doing the poses, it’s about undoing what’s in the way of them.”

Leslie Kaminoff

Flexibility or Mobility?

Flexibility is the range of motion of a single joint.

Mobility is the range of motion of multiple joints through a movement involving multiple groups of connective tissues.

Flexibility is just one area of the components of fitness, but it is often the most overlooked.

Leave Your Ego Off Your Mat

One of the significant components of yoga is non-judgment. This includes not judging yourself. For how you were 10 years ago, how you were yesterday, or what or who you think you should be. It also includes not judging others.

Everyone comes from different backgrounds. It could be someone’s first class, or they could have been practicing for 30 years. Someone may have an injury or surgery. Some people are hypermobile, which presents its own challenges. People’s anatomy and how they’re built will affect their practice and their poses. Some people will never be able to get their heels to touch the mat in a down dog simply because of how their bones are in their ankles.

Everyone’s bodies and the shape they make will look different in the same pose. Whether you touch the floor in a forward fold or not, you will get the same benefit from the pose as the person beside you.

If you’re not sure which style of yoga is right for you, try them all. Explore and be curious. Check out this post about the most popular styles with links to some videos if you want to see them or try them online first.

Accessorize Your Yoga

One teacher used to tell her class that props are like earrings. You don’t need them, but it helps the outfit to be complete.

Some props may include a strap, blocks, blankets, bolsters, chairs, or a hammock (aerial yoga).

If you love your knees, place a blanket or a knee pad cushion under them. This is especially helpful in tabletop.

A block helps the earth come closer to you. It doesn’t matter how deep you go into a pose if you risk hurting yourself or losing the benefit.

Take triangle pose, Trikonasana, as an example. Each of the above images is the same pose, yet they look different. Each one of them is getting the benefit for their body of a chest opener, hip opener, spinal lengthening, and more. Most people want their hand to touch the floor before their body is ready and in most cases, this causes the shoulders to not be stacked and for the chest to collapse. Using a block, or placing your hand on your shin or thigh can prevent this. It will allow you to get the same stretching, strengthening, and energetic effects without the risk of injury.

100% Is Not Always the Best Option

We also have what’s called the stretch reflex. Suppose you force your body too far into a stretch, either forcefully or beyond your normal range of motion. In that case, this reflex activates as a protective measure to prevent injury. When activated, the muscles contract and prevents the stretch from happening. 

Only stretch until you feel a slight tension, not to the point of pain or severe discomfort.

I’ve noticed a pattern over the years of my teaching. This is of course a generalization and I was guilty of this too. A lot of new students who come to yoga think they have to go 100%. You either do it, or you don’t. There’s no in-between, no matter how many times I try to tell them. I will see them stretching beyond their comfort zone and they are clearly not feeling great in the pose, but their ego tells them they have to do it.

Then, the more they come, the more props they use, and the less they go into a full expression of the pose. I witness them learn how to listen to their body, let go of their ego, and honor where they’re at in that moment. The more “advanced” a yogi gets, the more they understand that some days can be done at 50%, and some poses might be better at 80%.

There’s More to It Than Being Limber

Flexibility training improves your range of motion which affects your function in life and performance in sports or exercise. 

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) decreases when stretching as a cool down. Stretching can reduce stress and tension, the incidence of muscle cramps, and the risk of injury.

Stretching can also provide relief of pain, improvements in posture, and improved quality of life.

Are You Ready to Finally Try Yoga?

I hope by now you are convinced that beginners, stiff jointed people, and one’s who are deconditioned/sedentary are all welcome in a yoga class and could all benefit from stretching!

Honor and listen to where your body is now. Use props, and remember not to force yourself farther than your range of motion allows. 

Improvements only happen when you’re working toward them. We all have to start somewhere. Now is the perfect time.

All content and information on this website are for informational and educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a medical professional or healthcare provider in the area of your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any health, medical, or other related lifestyle, changes, or decisions.

Affiliate Disclosure

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *