How many times have you heard, or used, these excuses?
- I’m not flexible enough for yoga.
- I am too fat for yoga.
- I have injuries that prevent me from yoga.
- I am too old for yoga.
- Yoga is for girls.
- I don’t have time for it.
- I don’t have yoga clothes.
- I can’t afford it.
- I don’t think I will fit in.
You know what's so great about yoga? We have yoga values that make yoga inclusive to all groups of people. No other physical activity, sport, or movement is set on a foundation that is inclusive for everyone.
Before you start listing all of the reasons why you can't possibly try yoga, let me warn you: I've heard every excuse in every book. And, I have a student that proves each and every one of those excuses are completely bogus.
I am an unconventional yoga teacher with unconventional students. My students range from ages 2-97. I have students in wheelchairs, students who are paralyzed, students recovering from strokes, students with knee and hip replacements, students that range from 80 pounds to 400 pounds, students who are deaf, students who are pregnant, and even students who are deaf and pregnant! You name it, I’ve taught it.
I am a firm believer that yoga is for every BODY. In fact, I believe my job as a teacher is not done until every person has tried some form of yoga. Bringing yoga to the masses, if you will! Why should everyone take yoga? Here are a few reasons.
Benefits of yoga
Yoga is hugely beneficial among mind, body, and soul activities. It combines physical poses, controlled breathing, and mediation to give an all around experience that isn’t exclusive to the physical body. Yoga is proven to work on the neurotransmitters in the brain to release stress and tension in the body. And, by helping us reduce stress, yoga can also help our digestive system.
When we keep stress in check, we can help alleviate symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other gut problems. Any type of physical activity, especially yoga, can increase the motility and mobility of the organs to perform their detoxifying functions. However, yoga is different from most forms of exercise because it is a non-impact exercise that does not harm the joints or body. On top of this, yoga also calls for mindfulness and deep breaths; with every deep exhale the lungs remove gases and volatile chemicals. This process of breathing and movement helps the body function and do its many jobs properly.
So, voila. There’s yoga for stress relief, yoga for the digestive health, yoga for stomach issues and yoga for removing toxins from the body. Do you need more reason to start your practice?
Making yoga accessible
Let me say it one more time for the people in back: YOGA IS FOR EVERY BODY! No excuses.
There are so many different styles, teachers, and movements in the yoga world to truly make this practice accessible for every BODY. If you have tried yoga and felt inferior or like you weren’t doing it “right,” then perhaps you weren’t in the appropriate class level or had the right teacher.
Let's briefly break down the different styles of yoga. If you’re looking for a strength training practice, then try Vinyasa, Power Vinyasa or Ashtanga. If you’re looking for deep holds and stretches, then try Yin. If you’re looking for a gentle practice to release stress with mostly seated or lying down positions, try Restorative Yoga. If injured, have a disability, or can’t get up and down as well as you used too, then there’s even chair yoga to try!
If a teacher or style makes you feel like you’re not enough or incapable of yoga, then change classes and change teachers. If you are struggling with poses, tell the teacher before or after class so they can give you a better modification that fits your body.
Focus on your own practice
A huge part of letting go of the ego is being able to solely focus on your own practice during class. That means closing your eyes to actually feel the pose when possible. That means not comparing yourself to your neighbor, or trying to show off your newly earned flexibility. Focusing on your practice and letting go of the ego also means knowing when to take a knee or drop down into child’s pose. It’s about being honest with yourself, your body and your limitations. If you’ve had enough, then lay down in savasana without thinking twice about it!
One of the biggest and most frequent mistakes a student can make it getting caught up in the ego. I see it when I've been working with a student one-on-one for modifications. We practice easier poses that work better with their body, then we get into class and they do what everyone else is doing instead of taking the modifications that we have practiced.
Drop the ego; it’s not healthy for your body to be like everyone else. You know how I can tell an advanced student from a beginner? Not by the crazy poses they can do, but by how they listen to their body and modify.
Yoga and creativity
Part of modifying and listening to your body, is being creative with poses! Especially in any kind of accessible yoga, like chair and bed yoga, we have to be creative. Can’t do full eagle? Try it lying down or in a chair. Want an arm balance practice? Try each arm balance lying down, or in a modified position.
We can do every standing pose while seated, on our knees, in bed, or in a chair. By being creative, we can literally make yoga for every BODY.
How can we make yoga more accessible for every BODY? By getting creative with props! Again, this requires letting go of the ego! If you can’t reach the floor, grab a block and bring the floor to you. Can’t reach your foot? No problem! Simply, use a strap. Do you have hurt knees or joints? Grab a blanket. Having trouble balancing? Use the wall or a chair for extra support.
We need to be gentle and kind with our bodies. The goal of yoga is not the pose, but to enjoy the process and to understand our body’s changes. So, drop your ego and grab a prop so you can get the most out of your practice.
Stop using social media to put yourself down
We keep saying that yoga is for every BODY, but it seems like we are not truly living that message when it comes to social media. If you’re following accounts on social media of only skinny yogis with “perfect” bodies, and it’s making you feel bad about yourself, then it's time to click the unfollow button.
I used to love these accounts, but I started hating myself. Why couldn’t my body look like that? Why don’t I have the strength to do that? I must not be a true yogi.
This mentality was not only unhealthy, but was directly affecting my own practice. So, one day, I decided things needed to change. I unfollowed all the accounts that made me feel terrible about myself and started following authentic yogis who fight for yoga for everyone. I strongly suggest you do the same.
Start following yoga for plus size accounts, accessible yoga accounts, and accounts of people who show their struggle. The pureness in the yoga community is growing if you look in the right places. There’s now even inclusive yoga apparel companies, including YogaClub that offer sizes up to 3X!
Yoga is no longer an exclusive experience reserved for the skinny, beautiful and perfect (even though, it never really was in the first place). It is a tool for every BODY’s journey. You’ll see the magic that is happening in the yoga community once you start following accounts that are relatable and ran by people who inspire you. That’s your tribe.
A note to teachers and studio owners
If you are a teacher or studio owner reading this, it is your job to truly live and make yoga accessible for everyone. Look around at your students. Notice what population is not present and why? How can we better serve that group of people and be more inclusive for their presence in class? Create a safe place where all are welcome. Be part of the change.
About the Author
Alexandra Padilla is a yoga instructor at various studios and gyms around Albuquerque, New Mexico. She owns her own yoga business, SavaYoga where she brings yoga to breweries, senior living facilities, offices and more. She truly believes that yoga is for everyone and, as a result, fights to make yoga affordable and available to everyone.