Yoga and Flexibility

I recently met a young lady who was new to one of my classes and fairly new to yoga.  After class I commented to her that she was quite flexible.  She responded with,”Oh, thank you.”  She did not realize I was not complimenting her.  I was merely pointing out the fact that she had challenges in yoga that were somewhat different from the challenges faced by those who, through genetics and /or life experiences, were generally tighter in their joints and muscles.  Babies are born quite flexible, but as we age our genes have a lot to do with our flexibility.  Flexibility also changes over our lifetime, depending on many factors. But the idea that you must be flexible to practice yoga, or that the more flexible you are the better yogi you will be is a misconception shared by many, especially those who do not practice. Yoga has very little to do with flexibility and very much to do with the mind.  In fact yoga is often referred to as the science of the mind.  The main guide or “bible” of how to practice yoga was written some 2000 to 5000 years ago and is called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali .  The second sutra of the almost 200 sutras in sanskrit is a simple definition of yoga: “Yoga citta vrtti nirodah.”  This means the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.  In other words, if you are practicing to calm your mind, you are practicing yoga.  You may become more flexible in your body and your mind if you practice regularly, but flexibility is certainly not a prerequisite to practicing yoga.

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