In this post, a a newbie shares concerns about being too old, fat and out of shape to try yoga.
Q: Lynn, I got your name from a long-time student of yours. After doing my on line research and seeing the high regard with which you and your studio is are held, I want to try to overcome my reluctance to try yoga. And I need help….a recent long hike showed how much my balance has deteriorated and my “flexibility,” never great, makes touching my knees a challenge! But two things have held me back in the face of many recommendations to try yoga. One is the seeming eastern spiritual approach that appears inconsistent with my own belief systems. And when I snuck around the Yoga from the Heart studio one evening and saw a Budda statue outside, that fear increased. Second, I am sure I will look ridiculous…think pregnant hippo….among the sleek women and buff guys who I am sure make up your students. How can I possibly fit in? Lynn, I promise an open mind if you can help me deal with these questions.
A: Potential newbie, thanks for sharing your concerns and fears about yoga. I’ll start with your concern about yoga interfering with your beliefs. Deepak, Chopra, MD, Founder of The Chopra Foundation, author, public speaker, physician, clearly articulates concerns about yoga and religion this way:
“To answer this question, I look to the roots of yoga. Traditionally, yoga is the science of the Self. Yoga seeks to help us understand our inner world through various techniques that include meditation, asanas, breathing, focused awareness, and certain rules of behavior and conduct. If by religion we mean the religious experience of transcendence, the loss of fear of death, and the emergence of platonic qualities such as truth, beauty, goodness, harmony, and evolution, then yes, yoga can give us a religious experience. It is not religion in the form of ideology, dogma, belief systems, or compliance; it’s a spiritual experience that gives us access to a universal domain of reality.”
Now, for your other concern, being too out-of-shape to practice yoga. A friend of mine recently expressed an interest in getting started in yoga. She’d never tried it before, but she said she’d always wanted to.
“Great,” I told her. “You’ll love it!”
“I just need to lose some of this weight first,” she answered, telling me that she couldn’t possibly do yoga until she’d dropped thirty pounds.
Wait… what? Barring any medical restrictions (and even then, there are modifications for almost everything), being overweight is never a reason not to practice yoga.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that yoga is Movement Basics 101. It’s everything that you should be able to do with your body.
You can train your body to move correctly and overhaul your posture with yoga.
Another big reason why you want to start with yoga sooner rather than later is because of the emphasis on flexibility. If you’re out of shape, you might be lucky and still have your range of motion. Range of motion precedes strength. You will never come close to your maximum potential hiking, riding a bike, or golfing if you are doing it with limited range of motion. In fact, you’re probably just contributing to muscle imbalances if you continue to hammer away at your strength training and cardio workouts without taking the time to address flexibility, joint capsule space, and range of motion.
I could go on to write a few more examples, but I want to stop here and summarize what I’ve been trying to say. If you are out of shape, you need to take care of your body. Yoga will help restore the range of motion that you’ve lost, improve your posture, correct your imbalances, and re-teach you basic principles of movement so that you can stay injury-free, and perform even better than you did before.
Back to friend . . .“Okay,” she conceded. “But I feel like I’m so old…”
There’s no such thing as being “too old” for yoga. Here’s the thing: Yoga forgives all of that – age, flexibility, weight. It takes an overweight, out of shape, inflexible, too flexible, old, young, ailing body and meets it right where it’s at. It makes it stronger. It makes it healthier. It makes it more coordinated. It makes it more in tune with both mind and soul. It makes it beautiful, from the inside out.
So what are you waiting for?!