I’m too old/fat/out-of-shape to do 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 do yoga.  In fact, it’s just pretty much just the opposite:  yoga will make you more in touch with your body, more comfortable with your body, and help you lose the weight that you need to lose.   And if this guy can do it, anyone can.

“Okay,” she conceded.  “But I feel like I’m so old…”

Tao Porchon-Lynch is still teaching yoga at 93 years old.  There’s no such thing as being “too old” for yoga.

“I’m not flexible either,” she persisted. “At all.”

Can I talk about flexibility for a minute?  A lot of people think that you need to be flexible to do yoga, and/or that people who are already flexible are going to naturally be better at it.  I used to think the same thing.  And while it’s true that yoga will help you become more flexible if that’s something you’re desiring, flexibility in and of itself means nothing.

I’m a naturally limber person.  I’m also a naturally clumsy person.  I have a hard time telling right from left.  I don’t always know where my body is in space.  Sometimes I find that being flexible actually hinders more than helps when I’m learning new poses… my arms and legs tend to lose the integrity of the pose and just start doing their own crazy wayward things.  I have to consciously focus more on awareness, remind my body to listen to my brain, and bring everything back to where it’s supposed to be.

When I was at my training retreat in July, I was somewhat of a mess.  I was injured, discouraged, hadn’t done any yoga (or really, any physical exercise at all) for an entire month, and I was ten pounds out of my personal comfort zone.  I was out-of-balance, out of touch with my own body, and just generally disconnected.  So I know that feeling of, “I can’t do this!”  I do.

But here’s the thing:  Yoga forgives all of that.  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.

Even for a naturally limber and naturally clumsy person like me.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to I’m too old/fat/out-of-shape to do yoga

  1. Joyce Jarrard

    I did a search looking for an article like this, and found yours. I have a friend who teaches yoga and she is pursuing some advanced certification. I took one class with her a while ago, and I may have tried too hard to sit in the lotus position, because later my pyriformis muscle seized up and tore. A few years ago, I took a yoga class and ended up with upper back pain for several weeks. Earlier today, I tried to touch my toes, (and only got to my mid shines), and then a while ago I have a muscle spasm between my shoulder blades. I can’t figure out how to start easy and increase my flexibility enough to be normal so that I can take a class without hurting myself. I took ballet as a child, so maybe what I think is a “good stretch” is really too much. What can I do? Any ideas for “pre-yoga?”

    • jen

      Hi Joyce, thanks for the comment. It may just be (especially with your dance background) that you’re trying to go too far too fast. Start SLOWLY :) For example, you said you tried to touch your toes, which is really hard for most people. Instead of trying to touch your toes, try just going into a gentle forward fold, wherever that is comfortable for you. It may be your hands are only on your thighs at first, and that is okay! You’ll be able to get deeper the more you practice… but if you have in your head, “Okay, I’m going to get down to my toes”, it’s really easy to go too far and hurt yourself. Baby steps :)

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