I do yoga at least once a week almost every week. I still can’t do a yoga headstand, my “camel pose” is a bit strained, and I can’t quite get my feet all the way down in “plow pose”. So why do I still do it, even if I’m not particularly good at it? Because THAT DOESN’T MATTER. I imagine a lot of people avoid doing yoga because they assume you have to be insanely flexible and super skinny to enjoy it. Neither of those things are true. Yoga can be good for every body (barring certain medical conditions). Here are several reasons why you should try yoga, even if you can’t touch your toes.
**Please consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine**
Increased flexibility…even a little bit!
Consistently practicing yoga can help you increase your flexibility. I don’t mean that you’ll suddenly be able to touch your head with your feet (though you might). But even a basic yoga practice can help stretch out your muscles and increase your mobility.
Better balance and posture
Yoga encourages focusing on your balance and posture in ways you may not think about. Most good instructors will give you frequent reminders to keep your weight evenly balanced during different poses. I’ve heard instructors say things like “push through all four corners of your feet”, which reminds me to use my entire foot, and not just one part. One tip from me – if a teacher says to “push your pelvis in line with the rest of your body” that could mean pushing it forward OR, in my case, pulling it back. Yoga will help you learn where you tend to hold certain parts of your body and how to align it optimally.
Connecting your mind and body
The science is in and there are great mind-body benefits to yoga! It goes along with the benefits to balance and posture we just talked about. The mind-body connection generally refers to exercise that encourages you to increase your mental awareness of what your body is experiencing. Yoga focuses not just on movements but on using your breath and mentally checking in with parts of your body. This increased awareness can be helpful with other forms of exercise, too.
Establishing the habit of exercise
I’ve talked before about how one of the hardest things about an exercise routine is making it routine! Yoga can help with that – beginning workouts are generally pleasant and relaxing. If you have an enjoyable exercise that you look forward to, that makes it easier to do it consistently. Yoga can help you set the stage to increase your activity overall if that’s a goal for you.
Most exercise professionals know how important “rest days” are. While it’s important to take some time to actually rest and not do exercise, there are days when “active rest” is also a good idea. This basically means doing light exercise that isn’t too strenuous but gets your circulation going, which can help with muscle soreness. Enter, yoga! While many yoga workouts are designed to work up a sweat, others can help you get a little activity without overexerting yourself.
I’m in! How do I do this?
If you want to try yoga but can’t get to a class for any reason, there are tons of tutorials on YouTube. I highly recommend Yoga With Adriene – she has tons of videos, categorized by workout length, body area focus, and different human needs like “texting neck” or prenatal yoga. She gives lots of suggestions for modifications and is really encouraging to those who may not be at a certain point of flexibility. Plus she’s silly and realistic – two things I really appreciate! (No, she did not pay me to say any of this!)
Wherever you start your yoga journey, be sure to be gentle with yourself. A good rule of thumb is that if something hurts, STOP! Don’t be afraid to start out slowly and build yourself up as you go. Yoga is not a race and doesn’t require you to be a gym rat. It can meet you where you are. I hope this convinces you why you should try yoga either as part of your regular exercise routine or as a way to start one. Namaste!