Don’t I have to be flexible to do yoga?

I have lost count of how many times I have people ask me, if they have to be flexible to do yoga or tell me that they don’t do yoga because they’re not flexible! My father was one of those people who said this to me a few years ago as part of his excuse not to come to one of my classes. I said to him that is like me saying to you after going to the gym, “I’m too dirty and sweaty to bother having a shower!” I get that people are intimidated by being surrounded by people in a yoga class that bend like pretzels, but at some point we have to lose our ego and just think of the journey we are on, not the end result. The other thing is, flexibility is not the goal of yoga! It’s just one of the many physical benefits of yoga. Patanjali described yoga as Chitta Vritti Nirodaha (to calm the fluctuations of the mind or to steady the mind). The essential purpose of yoga is to reduce Avidya (misconception of true reality), so that we can see things with complete clarity and transparency. I went to a Bryan Kest workshop a few years ago at Power Yoga Canberra (at one of the studios I teach yin at) in which he talked about flexibility and yoga and I got a lot out of his words of wisdom in that, being able to touch your toes isn’t what yoga is about and even if you can do it, it’s not going to necessarily make you happy or solve all your problems! A good intention to bring to a yoga class is to lose your attachment to how deeply you go into a pose and to lose the attachment about worrying about what our neighbours are doing on their mat. It’s about your practice, not theirs!

'Yoga is not about touching your toes. It's about what you learn on the way down.'
- Judith Hanson Lasater