Almost every day, I hear yoga beginners say they’re just too inflexible to practice yoga. Even some of the most basic yoga poses can be daunting to a beginner who has never gotten close to touching his toes or flexing her spine. But if your muscles are tight and your joints are inflexible, this is all the more reason to begin to practice yoga!
Sometimes we’re put off by fear. “I’m afraid I’ll look stupid” is a common excuse that I hear. The reality is that most yoga classes—particularly those for beginners—are filled with people who are similarly physically tight. However, once the class starts, you won’t even notice what other people are doing because the teacher will remind you time and time again to focus on your own yoga practice. And if you do take a moment to open your eyes and look around, you’ll see that few if any of your classmates look like the yoga models we see in magazines and in ads!
Yoga classes are a great place to let go of preconceived notions as to how your body should look in a certain posture. Do your best to safely get into the pose, or ask the teacher for a modification—a different version of the same posture, or a different posture that will have a similar effect on the body. If the teacher has no suggestions, then maybe it’s time to find a new teacher! Not every teacher is right for every student, and don’t be shy about experimenting with different teachers and styles of yoga. Many yoga studios offer introductory deals for this very reason.
It’s also a good idea to ask the teacher for help using props. If you have trouble sitting comfortably on the floor, sit on a meditation cushion or a folded blanket. If that still doesn’t offer enough support, ask for a chair. Blankets, blocks, straps, and other yoga props can be extremely useful in assisting students to get deeper into postures. If they aren’t available where you take classes, buy your own and bring them along.
As you begin to develop your yoga practice, you have an opportunity to stop comparing and competing, something many of us do way too frequently. So what if the person next to you is able hold downward facing dog for a full minute? As long as you stay safe, back off when you feel pain, and devote yourself fully to experiencing the practice, you will benefit equally. And a yoga pose that’s easy for one person can be a tremendous challenge for someone else—even for someone who is NOT a beginner.
With a regular practice, you will find that your body begins to change quickly. And even more exciting, your mind will begin to open as well. Once you commit to your yoga practice, you may even find that it wasn’t your body that was tight to start with—your inflexibility was all in your head!
Here are some suggested products for yoga beginners to jump start your practice.
First, invest in a yoga mat that works for you. A rubber or sticky mat can work for most types of yoga, but for Kundalini Yoga, you might prefer a wool yoga mat, like the one shown below from Sage Moon.
Meditation cushions are a nice way to stay comfortable in class, especially if you are seated for a long time. Our favorites are Padmani cushions pictured below.
There are some wonderful online yoga courses you can try to help you keep up with your practice at home, on days when you don’t attend group class. To learn the basics, try Michael Jaidev’s Kundalini Yoga for Beginners. This online workshop will help you build a strong foundation in the basics.