You CAN Do Yoga

When you hear the word “yoga” what image comes to mind? 

Someone balanced in a way that seems impossible?   


Or wrapped into a pretzel shape? 
If so, you aren’t alone.  When I suggest yoga to someone their first response is often “Oh, I’m not flexible enough for that.”  Thing is, no one starts in these poses.  Okay, maybe a former gymnast or contortionist could.  But the vast majority of us will step onto the mat for the first time with a less than perfect body.  And that’s okay.

It doesn’t matter if you have tight hamstrings, poor balance, or a chronic illness.  It doesn’t matter if you are overweight, underweight, in your teens or in your seventies.  Yoga meets you where you.  Of course, you have to be willing to set aside your ego and practice the form of the pose that matches your current abilities.  This is possible through the use of yoga props such as blocks, blankets and straps.  Or maybe you won’t need a prop, but the version of the pose that works for you will differ from the one pictured in books or being done by the person on the mat next to you in class.  Can you be okay with that?  For some, being okay with a “less than perfect pose” will be the most challenging part of their practice.

Variations of Uttanasana (Forward Fold)

There is a saying “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.”  Inherent in this quote is the fact that yoga is more than poses.  It also involves breathing techniques, meditation, and guidelines to help practitioners live in healthy relationship with the world around them and the inner self. I’ll expand on this in a later post.  But, I wanted to mention it here to make you aware that yoga’s accessibility extends even to those with very limited movement.  Take, for example, Matthew Sanford, paralyzed from the chest down at age 13 when his spinal cord was severed in a car crash.  He began doing adaptive yoga at age 25 and later became a yoga teacher.  For more of his inspiring story, check out his website http://www.matthewsanford.com/.  

Finding the yoga class or teacher that’s right for you will require some effort on your part.  Most studios have descriptions of their classes on their website.  Some even include the qualifications of their teachers.  Take time to select a class that sounds like it will be appropriate.  Look for words like beginner, basic, gentle or slow.  If you have health problems such as back problems or a chronic illness, looks for class titles that include: therapeutic, adaptive, or specifically mention the back.  If you are still in doubt, call the studio and ask questions.  Get to the studio 10 to 15 minutes early so that you can complete any necessary paperwork and have time to introduce yourself to the instructor.  Let them know you are new to yoga and tell them about any health issues that will impact your practice (balance problems, back issues, the fact that your right knee hurts when you bend it, etc..).

Lastly, remember that only you know what a pose feels like in your body.  Never stay in a pose that causes pain.  Never let a teacher force you into a position that doesn’t “feel right.”  If you aren’t sure how to know if a pose is right for you, check out Sensations to Watch https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4ABTuaWRaD7R3dGMHQyTE5naTA/edit?pli=1

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2 thoughts on “You CAN Do Yoga

  1. Great way of showing that yoga is not just for the "already fit." I also think some people are put off because they believe they're too overweight to do it. I remember seeing some yoga classes in Pittsburgh listed as "Yoga for Plus Sizes" and even for those who are obese, etc. Increasingly there seems to be yoga classes tailored to fit everyone's special needs, and thank goodness!

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