Alright, alright, I hear you. Time to talk about yoga.
Let’s start from the top and talk about the REQUIREMENTS. Whaddya need and whaddya need to do.
You need your body. Check.
And just enough space to swing your arms around you. Check.
That’s it! You’re golden. Good to go.
There are no true requirements or criteria. Anyone can do it. You, me, Dupree, anyone.
People who learn that I teach yoga will usually say one of two things.
One: “Can you teach me? I’ve always wanted to learn yoga.”
Two: “Oh… I have always wanted to learn yoga. But you know, I’m just not flexible enough,” sometimes with an added “and now it’s too late.”
Somewhere along the line, as yoga has become more known, this criteria of possessing existing flexibility has fluttered into existence. But is there such a requirement?
No, of course not!
You won’t be turned away at the doorsteps of a yoga class if you can’t bend over and touch your toes with your legs kept straight. There’s no secret handshake to gain entry. There is no audition to become a student of yoga. A teacher won’t ever say to you, “I’m sorry. There’s just nothing we can do here.”
Over time with practice, one will start to see improvement in flexibility. But one does not need to be anything in particular to begin with. One just has to want to.
I remember when I was in primary school and failing miserably at a fitness test. Alright, timeout for a bit so everyone can have a good laugh. But no, seriously, I was really terrible at this test.
One component was the flexibility measure, and you had to plant your feet flat against a wall, and reach your hands along the floor towards feet whilst keeping your legs straight. I was truly a sorry sight. I will never forget it. I could not get my fingertips beyond my knees. I had the P.E. teacher trying to help me along, just about climbing onto my back to sort of wedge me closer to my feet. No one had ever seen anyone so hopeless. I mystified the entire staff. So young. So stiff. How is this possible? What does this mean? She is CLEARLY not trying.
Thinking about it now has me laughing so hard. The look on the teachers faces.
Some of us are born naturally flexible. I was not one of those. I have a reasonably bendy back but I still have those days when I reach for my toes and I feel like I have a metre extra of leg length that I could really have used in my torso area. So if we’re talking about candidates for yoga, I would not be what the general populace would consider ‘yoga material’. Have heart, friend.
Have you ever seen that cartoon of Batman and Robin? It pops up from time to time on social media. The one where Robin starts to say, “But I’m not flexible enough…” and before he completes his sentence Batman has slapped Robin so hard across the face his head must be spinning, yelling, “That’s why you do yoga!” It’s obviously a joke and completely not appropriate for any of us to walk around town responding to people Batman-style. We’ll talk about yoga and the practice of non-violence another time. Baby steps, hey.
I think it is great to encourage people to find what is good for their bodies but one needs to walk the line and not transform into a vigilante in the process. Health vigilantes can be especially tiresome. Especially when they have just made the transition into health-lover. Probably because they have all that extra newfound energy. Quite often, a person who has just discovered how incredible they feel after modifying their lifestyle to include working out, eating well, yoga-ing and so on, will then start to hound everyone in their circle to do the same. No one is safe. NO ONE. Everyone will be forced to listen to the benefits of spinning and kale smoothies.
If I had a dollar for everytime a pal of mine would bemoan their partner constantly nagging them to do whatever life-changing activity they have discovered, I’d have a quite a bit of money.
“He loses 5 kg and now all day long he keeps telling me I should start running. UGH.”
“If she mentions the gym one more time…” (voice fades to ominous silence)
“He just isn’t listening to me! I don’t want to!”
That last one is especially telling. It’s about choice.
I learnt a long time ago that people will do what they will do when they want to and when they are ready to. And not a single microsecond before that. I’ve been blessed to have some incredible students, all of whom have heard some variation of the “You can’t make people do what they don’t want to do, no matter how good it is for them” speech. But it’s hard, I know, in the aftermath of a practice session, all those lovely endorphins and whatnot floating around. Sometimes one just can’t help wanting to share this little secret under the tip of their nose.
“If only they knew!” I can just about read the thought bubble over their head.
That’s usually when I find myself wedged in that awkward conversational space between two people, one of whom is a student of mine, feeling glorious after Savasana (it’s the one where you lie down and look like you’re asleep) and the other, a friend of theirs and not a student of mine. Student will pipe up, apropos of nothing, “You should learn yoga from Dom!”
By the way, my name is Dominique. Hi.
Non-student will look extremely apologetic and say,”Oh…. I would. I really would. But I’m not flexible enough.”
Before I can open my mouth to express understanding and try to turn the conversation to some other topic, Student will exclaim, “That’s why you should do yoga!” Student then turns to me for confirmation. “Am I right? Right?!”
I can just about see the Batman light glowing in the distant skyline. We just need a cape, and a poor disguise and we’re there.
(Who is Batman even kidding by the way? I’ll just cover my eyebrows, and wear this pointy eared thing and I will look totally different. Him and Superman with the glasses. We are not fooled. We are just being polite and going with it.)
Where was I? Awkwardland, yes. Gah.
What my student heard was, “I have been given to understand that one must be flexible to practice yoga. I am not flexible enough, therefore, I cannot do yoga. Such is my life.”
What I heard was, “I don’t want to. I’m trying to be polite and not offend anyone. Here is a reason so we can all move on. Away from yoga. Please. Let me live my life.”
That’s what I heard. Should I take what the person has said at face-value? Possibly. But what I have learnt is that a person who has been wanting to do yoga, but felt they were not flexible enough, would have immediately turned to me and asked for themselves, “Can you still teach me? I’m not flexible.”
If that question had been posed to me, then I would say this:
You do not need to be young, flexible or physically able. It is fine if you do not have a background in gymnastics or ballet. Perfectly ok.
It doesn’t even matter what shape or size you come in either. An acquaintance of B’s once turned to him, after meeting me, and exclaimed with relief, “I’m so glad she isn’t thin! I thought I was too fat to do yoga.”
So if you were thinking something similar, I hope that answers that.
You don’t even need to be fit. There is really only one requirement:
You must not, absolutely cannot, be lazy.
You just can’t.
” Every one can do yoga, young, old or sick people. Only lazy people cannot do yoga.”
R. Sharath Jois
And, as long as you aren’t lazy, you can do yoga.
We can even break the idea of laziness down to choice. A person who wants to and chooses to do yoga will never ever be too lazy to do something about it.
It is not so much can you or can’t you, or may you, but will you or won’t you. Do you want to?
If you read this, and thank you by the way, but if you read this, chances are very high that you want to do yoga. Chances are extremely high that you are not lazy. Therefore, you can do yoga. Please never let yourself worry about the need to be flexible enough anymore.
Are you still worried about the flexibility thing? Or the not fit thing?
Have no fear, I’m editing, hopefully in time for the weekend, a video of a short yoga practice you can do no matter how inflexible you are.
If I can get the spinning rainbow wheel to stop turning, that is. Talk about will it or won’t it.
For starters, here is what you can do. Hop up and walk to your mirror. Look into your reflection and say the following:
“I am clever and capable of doing anything I want to. I want to do yoga.”
By the way, the above works for anything. Not just yoga. You are never not enough for anything. You are just the right amount of you to do whatever it is you want to do.
Have an amazing weekend! We’ll chat soon! xx