Yoga when you’re inflexible

Practicing yoga when you're inflexible: the yoga won't necessarily make you super bendy. Is that the point?

The picture above is the result of practicing yoga semi-regularly for over two years. I don’t have photographic evidence from the first time I tried pigeon, so you’ll just have to imagine. Practicing yoga when you’re inflexible is a lesson in patience and small victories. I wasn’t comfortable sitting cross-legged for most of my life; even as a little kid, I remember folding my legs to one side while all the other kids had theirs crossed. So the picture below – which I’ve heard some yoga teachers refer to as “easy sitting pose” – is a vast improvement over, oh, about the first 25 years of my life.

Yoga when you're inflexible - easy sitting pose

Yep, that’s the pose you often start yoga class in, the one where a lot of people have their knees flat on the ground. So, fellow inflexible people, say it with me: “what do you mean, ‘easy’ sitting pose?” Honestly, this was the main thing that held me back from starting yoga. Not the advanced, super bendy poses; I knew they were far out of reach, and didn’t (still don’t) aspire to them. But the poses that were supposed to be “basic” and “easy”, those didn’t feel so basic and easy to my tight hamstrings and stiff hips.

If you’re in the same place, I’m not going to promise that yoga will make you flexible almost instantly, or that you’ll be able to do the splits within a year, or anything like that. It obviously didn’t happen for me. Actually, I’m not here to give you a pep talk at all. Yoga is still hard for me. Some days it can be relaxing, but some days it just sucks.

So why do I keep doing yoga? I think it’s just because I started. I would have been equally bad at Pilates or dance or plain old stretching if I’d picked any of them to help with flexibility, but I started with yoga so that’s what I kept doing. I think it’s important to do some things because they’re hard – i.e., yoga will be hard because I’m inflexible, but I want to be less inflexible; therefore I should do yoga because it’s the right kind of hard to get me closer to what I want.

But also, there’s freedom in doing something you’re objectively awful at. I have no hope of competing with others (yeah, yoga isn’t a competition, but also I’m not very yogic), and no expectation of quick and/or drastic improvement. This leaves me free to focus on what I’m doing in the immediate moment and get “in the zone”. Usually I find the zone while working on something complex that I’m good at; this is the complete opposite, something simple that I’m bad at. It doesn’t seem like the zone belongs in yoga (and it often doesn’t happen), but it does. I think “the zone” is just the feeling of dedicated work, and that’s something I could always practice more.


This might make it sound like I practice yoga for mental benefits, and to some extent that’s true, but honestly there are other activities that give me the same mental benefits. I’m not going to tell you the reason to do yoga when you’re inflexible is mental rather than physical. I stay with yoga for the same reason I started: I decided my inflexibility was limiting me in some areas, and decided to work on it until that was no longer true. Yoga is the right kind of hard for me, for now, and if I ever decide that’s not true I’ll stop. So, inflexible people, I’m not here to tell you why you need to do yoga. I think you should find the right kind of hard for you.

Linking up with Fitness, Health, + Happiness,  Fit Fashionable Friday, and Thinking out Loud.

19 Comment

  1. Emily says:

    Hehe, I am really inflexible. You’re probably more flexible than me.
    Emily recently posted…Is Your Body Worthy of Worship?My Profile

    1. Hannah says:

      Well, I have been working on it for a while. 🙂 I destroyed all evidence of how inflexible I used to be…(not really, I just didn’t look very hard for it)

  2. Practice makes perfect, as they say! I used to be ridiculously inflexible and thought I’d never be able to overcome it – and then all of a sudden I could touch my toes and bend in ways I didn’t think my body could bend, haha!
    Kristy @ Southern In Law recently posted…Recent Things: Date Nights, Birthday Celebrations and Childhood DreamsMy Profile

    1. Hannah says:

      Yes – touching my toes was an accomplishment!

  3. This is wonderful! I am totally not flexible in any way shape or form, but way back when, when I had a regular yoga practice, I saw definite improvements. I really should get back to working on my mobility.

    1. Hannah says:

      Yeah, the regular part is key, isn’t it? I notice if I slack off even for a week.

  4. I am in the same boat!! The first time I did pigeon it was painful and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself because of my sheer lack of flexibility!! I’ve always been pigeon toed and, like you, I always sat with my legs flopped to the side! Pushing your limits and being able to wrap your fingers around your big toe during a stretch is all worth it!
    KJ | Omnomherbivore recently posted…Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal BarsMy Profile

    1. Hannah says:

      Pigeon was the worst…wait, I think pigeon still is the worst.

  5. People start yoga for so many reasons. I started for the benefits to running. I quickly learned that it’s so much more. I’m now going through yoga teacher training to teach. Who would have ever thought?

    Thanks for sharing with the fitness health & happiness community. Have a great weekend!
    jill conyers recently posted…Everything You Need To Know About Eating AvocadoMy Profile

    1. Hannah says:

      I started for the running benefits too…I can’t imagine doing teacher training, but who knows!

  6. Love this! It just shows that anyone can do yoga.

    1. Hannah says:


  7. AmberLynn says:

    I love this post! I just started writing a series called 12 years of yoga in which I am slowly telling my yoga journey. I started much like you, very inflexible….and no photographic evidence. Best wishes for enjoying your practice (however it is that your body allows) now and always!
    AmberLynn recently posted…12 Years of Yoga: That Time Before I Became a Yoga TeacherMy Profile

    1. Hannah says:

      Thank you!

  8. yoga in general is just such a different way of moving than i’m used to, so it gets super challenging in some of the poses! however it would be awesome to be a bit more flexible in the hips so i could do a better pigeon 😉

    1. Hannah says:

      Yes, the different way of moving takes some getting used to! But I find it helps with my “normal” ways of moving.

  9. […] you read my previous post on yoga, you know I’ve been inflexible pretty much all my life. While the root cause is probably […]

  10. i love this!!
    even though i was a gymnast, i was (am) inflexible (*very* much so, for a gymnast!) afterwards, i started yoga, and struggled but made so much progress! i don’t practice much when i’m in school, and will definitely be feeling it when i start back this summer. i’m working on it!!

    1. Hannah says:

      I find I practice less during the semester also…but I probably need it more then!

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