There’s a common misconception that all yoga teachers have to be fabulously flexible.
Not only that, they must have the strength of an elite athlete combined with the grace and balance of a ballerina. Furthermore, they must be able to levitate, and never be anything but pleasant – even to the grumpiest of all grumps.
If that’s the case, I’m out of a profession.
I was never an athletic or an outdoors-y type of child, and I was always perfectly content sitting in a corner reading a good book. My parents enrolled me in piano and recorder lessons rather than gymnastics or soccer. I failed one of my swimming tests something like four times before I eventually quit. When it was track and field day at school, I pretended I was sick so I could stay at home rather than have to face the embarrassment of receiving a mere “Participant” ribbon, delegated to the losers who were unable to demonstrate their talent at hopping, skipping, and jumping into a sand pit. All sports involving some sort of moving object were out of the question. Phys. Ed was my lowest mark on my report cards (a C+ on a page of all A’s!), and even the thought of doing a push up made my arms quake. Needless to say, I never considered myself a part of the athletic domain.
So how did I ever become a yoga teacher?
My yogic journey was entirely unintentional – I did not try yoga to become more flexible, or to attain enlightenment, or to scope out hot guys at the yoga studio. I must admit that the only reason I ever stepped foot inside of a yoga studio was because the class was free, and I needed an excuse to get out of the house. The universe certainly works in strange ways.
For the life of me, I can’t even begin to comprehend how I made it through that first class, or what it was that brought me back to the studio the next day. There was no way I could support myself in Chaturanga, my quadriceps were screaming with agony in lunges, and my arms quivered with exhaustion in Warrior II. Everything hurt (even my ego) – but in a good way. Now? Now I can do headstands and Hanumanasana with the best of them. The sun salutations I used to dread are now a routine I perform almost daily. The core sequences that would have made me cry now make me clap my hands in excitement. Did I ever think that my body would be able to do these things? Absolutely not.
I guess the point of what I’m trying to say is that there is hope for everybody. You do not have to be flexible to do yoga. You do not have to be in shape, good-looking, skinny, or dressed in designer clothes to do yoga. Even the most awkward, uncoordinated, non-athletic individual can eventually make peace with their body (and then teach the rest of you how to do it). I am living proof (trust me on this one). All you have to do is be there. So what are you waiting for?