My body is not good at sports. I have trouble catching things, and I don’t throw with accuracy or force. I am not skilled at hitting balls with sticks. I hate running, because my knees and lungs hate it, and I agree with them.
I love yoga. So do my knees and lungs and neck and feet. My back especially appreciates yoga. (My back, which I croon over with such care and attention, because if I stop consistently stretching and strengthening it, it hurts a lot.)
Part of what I’m saying here is that even if you don’t think of yourself as being someone who is good at sports, you can still really enjoy yoga. Sportiness is not required.
But I want to say more than this, because I feel like over the years I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’re not sure if yoga is for them, meaning they’re not sure if they’re allowed in the club. I’ve heard men worry that it’s not for them. I’ve listened to friends fret that they’re not flexible enough. I’ve seen people hesitate at the door to the studio, wondering if they’re too old, too young, not the right shape or color.
I have felt my own version of this fear of the unknown. You decide you’re going to try out a yoga class but then you have to pick a studio, and then there are all these different kinds of yoga and you’re not sure what they mean. What if you show up and everyone else is twisting their bodies into perfect knots and smiling serenely and you get all sweaty and fall over and they laugh?
Maybe this is just me.
But here is the rest of my point, and the secret about yoga. In yoga, it does not matter how you look. It matters how you think. The physical side of yoga is essential — part of yoga’s essence — but what you really have to bring is the mind.
Every pose can be modified for your body, or skipped if it simply doesn’t work for you. There was a time when my back was bad when I only did floorwork for around six months. My friend who suffers from vertigo doesn’t do inversions. Can’t touch your toes? No problem.
The poses, the flow of movement, the physical parts of yoga, will help you become stronger and more flexible in your body no matter where you start from, and you can start from anywhere. I was always a not very flexible person, as I learned in many gymnastics classes when I was a kid, and which my parents signed me up for because my pediatrician recommended that they would help me become more flexible. Now, in middle age, I am more flexible than I ever was when I was young, and my balance has improved greatly as well. It feels really good.
If you bring a mind willing to try out bending and stretching and holding, you will succeed at yoga. You will, because you will have bent and stretched and held, and your body will be more warm and awake. If you bring a mind willing to pay attention to your breath, that simple and constant revitalization that accompanies our every living moment, then you will succeed at yoga, because you will have slowed your pace and focussed your attention, and this experience is relaxing and centering. If you bring a mind willing to practice becoming still, then you will — with practice — learn to become more still, and you will find that this peace is a gift.
Yoga is for you.