Yoga Myth Busters: 'I'm Not Flexible'

03/12/2015 04:51 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2015
Getty Images

I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard, "I can't do yoga. I'm not flexible." That makes about as much sense to me as, "I can't diet because I'm overweight." You do yoga to increase flexibility, even if you're already flexible.

Flexibility transcends the body in yoga. The more you show up to the mat, yes, your body will become more flexible, but so does your heart and mind. There are many reasons for this. One is because you start to feel again. Our culture is set up to not feel. We are intellectual creatures who are taught to not listen to the wisdom of our body. Additionally, trauma creates an enemy of our body. When something feels bad, we try to avoid it, numb it, run from it. If that "bad" feeling is being felt in the body, there's only so far you can run.

When you step onto the mat, you're automatically reconnecting to the body. For many people, being present in their body is a whole new experience. To walk away from the mat feeling peaceful, relaxed, and good is so extremely different for most people that they become hooked to yoga. It's not magic, nor is it a miracle. It's simple being present and open to feeling.

As you begin to feel more, flexibility begins to show up in your attitude. I have witnessed in my own life as well as many of my students, an acceptance of "what is,' meaning the expectations to outcomes and for other people soften. When that happens, tolerance increases, often observed as increased patience.

For students who are taking from teachers who incorporate the philosophy and spirituality of yoga, an exploration of the yam as and niyamas, the ethical guidelines for living, start to affect emotional and spiritual flexibility. The yamas:

  • ahimsa: non-violence in thought, word, and action
  • satya: truthfulness
  • asteya: non-stealing
  • brahmacharya: faithfulness, chastity
  • aparigraha: non-greed.
The niyamas:
  • sauca: purity of mind, speech, and body
  • santosa: contentment
  • tapas: commitment and dedication to spiritual relationship
  • svadhyaya: self-study, introspection
  • isvarapranidhana: contemplation of the Divine.
The simple willingness to explore these ancient guidelines took me into an exploration of my values and beliefs, especially why I held these beliefs and values. The exploration opened my mind to other points of view, allowing me to hear without judgement when something varied from my own beliefs.

The greatest flexibility, though, comes in acceptance of one's own self. All of the self-judgement transforms into a pure acceptance of showing up on the mat and exploring where you are in each and every unfolding moment. My teachers always told me that there is no room for ego or competition in yoga. While I have been to many classes and watched many students who struggle to adopt such a belief, I have learned over the years that 1. No two bodies are the same so expecting a "one size fits all" approach to the practice is unrealistic, and 2. Each time we step onto the mat, our body is different. Every moment of every day our body is evolving, unfortunately even deteriorating. The exact same practice done in the morning and evening will have different results because the experience of the day -- from stress to diet -- will impact the body. As students learn to be present with their body, listen to what it wants and needs on the mat, translates off the mat, too.

Inflexibility is far deeper than the body, but the body is the excuse. The funny thing is, the longer one avoids stretching, the worse the flexibility becomes -- in body, mind, and soul.

How is inflexibility showing up in your life? Leave a comment below.

Wendy Reese is a lifestyle strategist who specializes in whole being, author, host of The Whole Being Zone and yoga teacher with 13 years of teaching experience. If you are ready to cut through the limitations that hold you back from being whole, try Wendy's complimentary 7 day lifestyle detox course at www.wholebeinginc.com/detox. Get regular Wendy Wisdom (and inspiration) on Twitter and Instagram @wholebeinginc