I'm here today to debunk this myth. You DO NOT have to be flexible to practice yoga. While yoga will absolutely increase your flexibility no matter your starting point, extreme flexibility has never been the ultimate goal of yoga.
Why the Myth Exists
If you look around the internet or browse social media, it is is no wonder why this myth exists. We live in a digital world, and every picture you see on Instagram or in a magazine of someone in a yoga pose shows incredible flexibility. They have their feet behind their heads or their bodies are bent over backwards.
While those poses are beautiful, they are not the norm for the average yogi.
Flexibility Can be Developed
While it is true that some people are naturally more flexible than others, the vast majority of flexible people have been working really hard for a long time to become flexible. They have trained their bodies through hours of stretching and practice.
These highly flexible people are not the majority in any typical yoga class.
Having said that, those who practice regular yoga will - without a doubt - increase their flexibility over time. In fact, yoga is prescribed to people (including famous athletes) who suffer from tight muscles.
If you have felt intimidated to give yoga a try because you aren't able to touch your toes or your back is tight, you aren't alone. But yoga is exactly what you may need to loosen those muscles up. The deep stretching found in yoga practice helps to lengthen and loosen muscle. It helps to develop balance. It helps keep your body healthy and injury free.
The Purpose of Yoga
You will increase your flexibility over time with consistent yoga practice. But you may never be able to bend over into a backbend or put your foot behind your head and look like the people from magazines.
And that is okay. In fact, that is highly common.
The purpose of yoga is not to be able to put your foot behind your head. There is no gold medal for being more flexible than the person on the mat next to you. The purpose of yoga is to improve your strength, calm your mind, reduce your stress and increase your flexibility over time. Yoga is a personal practice that is 100% adaptable to each and every individual. Your young child can practice yoga. Your grandfather can practice yoga. You can practice yoga.
Acceptance of yourself for who you are and who you want to become is a challenge for a lot of people. This is a lesson you can learn through yoga.
Get Started with Yoga
There are many different styles and levels of yoga. You can practice at home by yourself or in a gym full of yogis. There are props to help you get into the correct poses. There are people available to help you. There are thousands of beginners stepping into yoga for the first time.
You are not alone.
Do not let a lack of flexibility keep you from practicing one of the most beneficial forms of exercise available to you.
Give yoga a try. Not only will you start increasing your flexibility, you will also reap the numerous other benefits in both your mind and body that yoga has to offer.