Many people swear by yoga, but there are just as many people who refuse to ever try it because they're scared off by the idea of having to contort their body into different positions. Enter yoga poses for people who aren't flexible. I've had many friends claim they would be terrible at yoga because they're inflexible, but even if you can't touch your toes, there are plenty of yoga classes, moves, and stretches that are perfect for even the most basic beginners. In fact, flexibility is only one component of yoga, and definitely not the most important. Yoga is just about clearing the mind and building strength in the body as it is creating lovely shapes, if not more.
If you're intimidated by the other students in class, consider the many factors that can influence flexibility, aside from past experience. For starters, flexibility can depend on time of day, how your joint structure is built, and temperature (which is why many people choose to do hot yoga). Just because you don't hit a pose one day doesn't mean it's not possible the next, and the more you practice, the quicker your body adapts.
Not all yoga poses require intense twisting and bending, so if you find yourself on the low-end of the flexibility spectrum, consider trying the following six yoga poses that are ideal for inflexible people.
1. Tree Pose
"This emblematic yoga pose requires focus and attention, but not necessarily flexibility," says Los Angeles-based yoga teacher Sarah Ezrin to Bustle over email."Tree strengthens the standing leg and confidence of the practitioner." Start standing with both feet together, and bend one knee, placing the sole of the foot on the opposite ankle, calf or inner thigh, being careful not to place the foot directly on the opposite knee. Add the arms and reach up to the ceiling once you are feeling stable.
2. Side Angle Pose
"Numerous times people say that they cannot do yoga, because they are not flexible enough, but yoga is as much about building strength," says Ezrin. "This pose is accessible, powerful, and helps to warm up the major muscles of the legs." Step your feet out three to four feet apart, and turn the right leg out from within the hip socket. Bend the right knee to 90 degrees, tracking the knee above the ankle, and reach your right arm forward, resting the elbow on the front thigh. Reach the top arm straight up toward the ceiling or for a deeper side stretch, take the arm overhead.
3. Chair Pose
"This pose strengthens the thighs, while also lubricating the hip joints," says Ezrin. "When well-aligned, it also works the core by teaching the practitioner how to support their lower back using their belly muscles." Bend the knees and reach your hips back imagining that you are literally sitting into a chair. Keep the shin bones drawing back, so that the weight is in the heels. Reach your arms overhead in line with your ears.
4. Wide-Legged Forward Bend
This pose stretches the whole back body, especially the pesky hamstring muscles at the back of the legs, which when tight, can lead to lower back issues," says Ezrin. Step your feet three to four feet wide and bring your hands on your hip. Have a block or stack of books nearby. Inhale and lift the chest to create length, and exhale hinging, forward placing your hands on a block or on the floor. If your spine is rounding, this is a good indication to bend the knees. Let the head hang, but keep the shoulders lifting up the back.
5. Crescent Pose
"Crescent has it all. It improves flexibility, cultivates balance, and strengthens the body," says Ezrin. "Especially living in a sitting culture, which most of us do in the West, you cannot practice this pose enough, as it stretches out the hip flexor muscles."Start in a table-top position on your hands and knees, and then step the right foot in between the hands, and with the left toes curled, lift your left knee off the floor. Bring your hands to your hips as you lift yourself upright, and once steady, add the arms up in line with the ears.
6. Cobra Pose
"This heart-opener helps to open the front body while strengthening the back," says Ezrin. Cobra targets the chest muscles and leaves practitioners feeling spacious and energized.Lay on your belly with the tops of the feet on the floor. Bend the elbows to 90 degrees, lining the wrists underneath the elbow. On an inhalation peel your chest away from the floor, keeping the lower ribs and legs on the floor. Strongly spin the inner thighs upwards toward the ceiling, while lengthening out of the lower back.
Yoga is for everyone, so why not give it a shot?
Images: Courtesy of Sarah Ezrin (5);