Not flexible enough to do yoga? Many people feel this way.
You don’t need to be flexible before enjoying yoga. That’s like avoiding karaoke because you can’t perform Time To Say Goodbye like Andrea Bocelli or Sarah Brightman! You just need to be open to the idea of improved flexibility.
The fact is that flexibility can be cultivated in everyone. Yoga remains a safe, widely-recommended form of exercise that even injured persons or those with acute musculoskeletal issues can partake in.
Here are 9 tips for “the inflexible”:
- Try a yoga class in a heated room. The heat allows the muscles to relax more quickly and deeply, and safely. And don’t worry about looking like a sweaty mess – that’s hot yoga! Don’t forget your towel.
- Take a late afternoon or evening class rather than first thing in the morning. You will have had the entire day to move about and limber up. If you’re not afraid of a little cardio, then a “Flow” or “Vinyasa” class (Level 1) is also suggested, since it is less about working on poses for extended periods of time than it is about moving, breathing, and shoulder strengthening.
- Use props like straps and blocks. Blocks bring
the ground closer to you when you can’t reach it, and straps bring limbs that you can’t reach within reach. Blocks are also great to sit on for many of the seated poses, especially if you have tight hamstrings. I suggest props for any beginner or intermediate practitioner, and even advanced yogis, depending on the class.
- Don’t eat right before class, and be well hydrated. Make yourself as comfortable and lubricated as possible.
- Before class, tell the teacher you’re new. She or he can make sure that alternative poses or modifications are presented.
- Then, modify the poses to your ability. Each pose in yoga has modifications, or stepping-stone actions that help you advance eventually to the “full pose”. Your teacher will offer up some suggestions throughout the class. Sometimes, the alternative “prep” poses are just the better way to go. In all likelihood, the other students around you will be modifying some of their poses (so you won’t be the only one, if that is a concern). As an example, bend your knees a lot in standing-forward-fold pose (which looks just like bending over), and you will do just fine, even if you can’t touch your toes.
- Prepare yourself at the start of class while you wait; instead of lying down and chilling out, sit cross legged or lay on your back with your arms extended overhead, depending on whether you feel like your hips or shoulders are very tight. If cross-legged is uncomfortable, put a block under your butt to raise you up a bit and ease tension in the knees and low back.
- Try supplementation. If you have a decent diet filled with alkaline-forming foods like vegetables and fruit, and you are getting enough omega 3 oils, then supplementation is not necessary. But if you really want to cover all bases, try a joint formula containing msm, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates, and consider fish oil or an oil supplement containing omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Here are some sources of omega 3 EFAs (“essential” because we need these, but can’t make them in our bodies).
- Breathe! Don’t hold your breath if you are struggling in a pose or a transition. Instead, keep a steady breath flowing in and out (through the nose if possible), to keep grounded, to stay present, to stay balanced, and to meet all resistance you will encounter in the body.
It’s time to say goodbye to being stiff and inflexible.