"Well I’m not flexible, so Yoga, for me, just isn’t possible.” I have heard that statement more than once during my yoga teacher training. I have also heard a few apologies, as if a person needs to be “perfect” or hit the postures “perfectly” before they can take a class. Yoga is a system that can make your more of who you already are, and that does not mean perfect.
Yoga provides a personal journey for everyone. My journey, which includes postures I still struggle with (Forward Bends, UGH). My struggle will not be the same for the students I teach. Some students will gently and effortlessly fold into a forward bend and I will smile and sigh. I recognize that fluidity and ease will be something that I will most likely never experience in my forward bends, but I will continue to work toward it.
When you attend one of my classes, you will see that I do not have the classic, yoga body. I am not tall, I am short at 5 feet, no inches. I am stocky and muscular, not willowy and slender. Some of you may be able to relate the elements I have. With my body type I have challenges. My skeletal structure is not like a willowy individual with full range of motion. I must make compensations and adjustments so I can reach my version of the classic postures. Every individual skeletal structure is different, and therefore some students can ease into some postures and other postures may prove slightly elusive. Take for example raising the arms to the ears. Some can glide up to the ears, but others may have their arms just ahead of the ears or even the face. This inability to go to the ears with the arms is not flexibility. It is just the skeleton stopping when bone meets bone, this is called compression. You can’t change it but can find ways to work through it and get everyone to their best possible expression of the posture.
The other anatomical issue is with tension. This is where flexibility plays a part. But flexibility is not the only point with tension. It can also mean the muscle is not yet warm, or the person has more muscle in that area or even too much flesh (The “girls” can get in our way sometimes.) With these other elements, we need to take our time to determine the best way to ease into the posture, stay in it then ease out. It takes practice.
Knowing that our skeletal structure and how much muscle or how much flesh we have is to understand that each person’s journey will be solely unto that individual. Comparisons with other students on the mats is a time waster. You can not compare apples to oranges to kiwis.
Time on the mat, addressing our own path is time well spent. It provides added strength, increased flexibility, improved balance and combating stress. Every Instagram “Perfect Posture” Yogi was once a beginner, and nothing is wrong with being a beginner.