Posted on April 26, 2022 by Emily Forbes

Have you ever muttered the words “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough”? As yoga teachers, we hear it a lot. Guess what? You don’t need to be flexible to do yoga. Flexibility is more of a side effect of yoga. Let me break some things down for you to give you a better understanding and how you can get started if you’ve been thinking about it.

  • Firstly, when people talk about yoga they are often talking about the asana (Sanskrit) or posture practice of yoga. Yoga is actually broken down into “8 limbs” with the asana making up just one of the limbs.
  • The first limb of yoga is the yamas (5 social ethics): Ahimsa – kindness, satya – truthfulness, asteya – nonstealing, brachmacharya – moderation, aparigraha – generosity.
  • Second limb is nimyamas (5 personal practices): Saucha – purity, santosha – contentment, tapas – self-discipline, swadyaya – self-study, iswara-pranidhana – surrender.
  • Third limb – asana.
  • Fourth limb – pranayama: mindful breathing.
  • Fifth limb – prathyahara: turning inward.
  • Sixth limb – dharana: intense concentration.
  • Seventh limb – dhyana: state of meditation.
  • Eighth limb – samadhi: state of oneness/pure bliss.

So, yoga is more of a whole system approach which can be incorporated into every moment of our lives. The asana is a very small part of yoga but can be used to benefit the rest of our practice. And there is never an end goal in yoga, just the practice.

This is why you don’t need to be flexible to do yoga. With the 8 limbs in mind, you can get so many more benefits from practicing your asana. Here is what you can learn and gain on the mat:

  • Awareness.
  • Acceptance.
  • Surrender.
  • Connection.
  • Kindness.
  • Breathing.
  • Non judgement.
  • Reduced stress/anxiety.
  • Discipline.
  • Relaxation.
  • Suppleness and flexibility.
  • Improved posture.
  • Improved balance.
  • And many more……

There are also many styles of yoga to support different needs, these are some on the main ones you’ll see:

  • Vinyasa – a more fast paced, flowing yoga which connects breath with movement.
  • Ashtanga – a style of vinyasa with a set sequence and poses which are held for 5 breaths.
  • Hatha – usually a slower paced yoga with greater awareness on breath and controlled movement.
  • Yin – more of a floor based practice, poses are held for much longer, often several minutes at a time to work into the fascia of the body.
  • Restorative – another floor based practice using props to completely support the body into letting go.
  • Yoga Nidra – yogic sleep. Through guided meditation to lead to a state between waking and sleeping.
  • Beginners – works to build the foundations of a yoga practice.

Slow doesn’t necessarily mean easy and fast mean hard. Sometimes, the slower practices can be the hardest because this is when the mind wonders and it’s difficult to stay in awareness. A class can be fast but if you listen to your body you can take it at your own pace and do what you can (I’ve been to vinyasa classes and just taken savasana, resting pose, because it was what my body needed). Not everyone does beginners yoga, some people start with vinyasa and just love it. With regular practice you can learn what you need.

If you went to one yoga class and didn’t enjoy it, maybe try again. Try lots of styles, try lots of teachers, and maybe you’ll find the one which works for you.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what yoga is now and maybe a bit of inspiration to get started.

Emily x