guest article by Josh Browne
Yoga for inflexible people? But I’m too stiff to do yoga! There are many misconceptions about yoga, not the least of which is that it is not meant to be practiced by people who lack flexibility in their bodies. Not surprisingly, this particular misconception has led many to believe that men cannot benefit from the practice of yoga.
Yoga Stretches Your Body and Your Mind
The ancient art of yoga began in India. The word itself is Sanskrit for “union.” In the case of yoga, the word is meant to convey the union of the body, mind and spirit. This interpretation of yoga is still recognized and practiced the world over.
However, in Western culture, the term “yoga” has come to refer to just one of the eight aspects (or “limbs”) of yoga, the “asana” or physical aspect.
As yoga in the West has become synonymous with physical stretching or “poses” it has taken on a decidedly female persona. Most yoga classes today are taught by women mostly to female participants.
However, things are slowly changing and more and more guys are venturing onto the yoga mat. The curious thing, though, is that if you went to a yoga class in India, the birthplace of yoga, you would find that it would mostly be made up of men.
But the popularity of yoga with those who are feeling stiff through work, sports, age, or simple lack of use of their body is due to the fact that results can be achieved very quickly. Inflexibility can be overcome within a matter of weeks of regular yoga practice.
Which Comes First – Flexibility or Inflexibility?
Many people have fallen victim to the belief that because their bodies lack flexibility, they cannot do yoga poses.
The truth of the matter is yoga promotes flexibility; it does not depend on it. Yoga for inflexible people starts with regular and simple stretching. When our bodies experience new or forgotten movement, they protest.
We must recondition ourselves mentally and physically to accept this new motion as something beneficial and enjoyable. As we do that, we find that our bodies allow more freedom of movement. Our muscles protest less and we become more and more capable of executing yoga poses.
Yoga for Inflexible People, i.e. Men
The practice of yoga may seem quite foreign to men. Having grown up in a society that values hard, fast, sweat-producing exercise, they may find it difficult to slow down and let yoga do its job. Unlike other forms of conditioning where “no pain, no gain” is the mantra, yoga insists on “slow and steady.”
Yoga as practiced by men most often focuses on building and toning muscle. For many this means addressing the overall condition of the body and getting it “into shape.” For others, yoga teachers develop sessions that target specific areas like abs, shoulders and the back.
From the long term view, yoga for inflexible people is really no different from yoga for people who are flexible. It just takes a little different tact.