This guest post is written by Heather, who blogs at http://findingatman.com yet another blog you should be visiting! It's really very good.
I know you think you should try yoga.
You need to relax. Lower your blood pressure. Maybe your doctor told you so. Maybe to lose a few pounds.
I know you're not flexible. I understand you can't touch your toes.
I'll tell you what though - I like you a hell of a lot better than 20-year-old Missi Stretchy, the ex-high school cheerleader who is there to show me how flexible she is.
I love people who can't touch their toes. Want to know why?
I've been a yoga instructor for several years now. I started as a hardcore aerobics instructor, back when I was Missi. I kicked ass. I tried yoga. I hated it. A friend forced me to take another one. That one was better and soon after I started studying to teach yoga.
I was still young, I still kicked ass, but now I was kicking it through round after round of powerful sun salutations with extra push ups. I saw my arms tone up like never before while my students groaned. I ignored savasana - bah!
Then I got hurt. It wasn't an ankle twist or a rotator cuff suddenly and screamingly doing something it shouldn't. Studying a style that didn't focus on form and consistently pushing my flexibility led to overuse injuries that I still have today.
My sacroiliac joint was completely out of whack. My shoulders ached and I slouched. I had headaches that nothing could touch.
Then I discovered a different style of yoga, one that focused on basic alignment and letting your heart open to the practice. The theory being that if your body is optimally aligned, then every pose becomes endless. You can just enjoy it instead of struggling to hold it up. There's a life metaphor in there somewhere.
I learned a new way to align my body and use my muscles. My SI joint was out because I was so flexible and kept pushing splits and back bends. My shoulders ached because my shoulder joint was hyper-extended in down dog. By hyperextending my shoulders, I was clenching my trapezius muscles, turning them into iron bands that caused my headaches.
Yoga is a balance of strength and flexibility. Missi’s don't listen when I cue them to try something differently, because to do so would force them to back off for just half a second.
If you tell me you're not flexible, I'll tell you that learning yoga will be easier for you because you have built-in stability. You just need to coax your muscles into letting go a little.
Learning to draw back from flexibility and build the strength you need to safely practice even basic yoga poses requires not being the most flexible, bendy person in the class.
Getting over the competitive spirit of comparing yourself and coming out on top in the flexibility game is way harder.
If you tell me you don't have time, I’ll tell you that you probably need to be there more than anyone. I don't practice poses every day, but in my book even remembering to back away from your desk and stretch and breathe for 5 minutes counts as yoga.
If you don't know where to go, most places will let you try a free class. Look in the phone book or gasp! use the Internet.
If you don't enjoy the class, YOU'RE NOT IN THE RIGHT CLASS. There are hundreds of different styles from restorative to power. If your brain is resisting what you're doing for the entire duration of the class and you come out more exhausted or agitated than when you went in, something's wrong.
If you don't click with the teacher, FIND ANOTHER. Ask questions. Some use music, some don’t. Some have grating voices. But someone teaching at a studio where you pay $20 per class isn’t necessarily better than the teacher at your gym where classes are included as part of your membership. There are good and bad instructors everywhere.
I bet you're stressed because you've been meaning to try yoga for ages now, and it's just one more thing on your to do list.
Don’t worry about it. It will still be there.
If you’re a Missi, don’t take this personally - just be willing to listen next time you take a class.
And to answer that other burning question, yes I heard it and I knew it was you when you farted on your mat the other day.