Can inflexible, old muscleheads be Yoga teachers?

Via Tom Grasso (Gyandeva)
on Aug 4, 2011
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To see me do a downward facing dog is to see the Hunchback of Notre Dame looking for a fallen quarter.  I’m not sure what to call my triangle pose, but the word “triangle” isn’t exactly an accurate description.  What some call a yoga workout, I would call a comedy routine with me as the headliner.

Surely I am being a bit hard on myself.  After all, it was only a year ago that I thought the ad on elephant journal for “hot yoga teachers” meant

What about "used to be hot" yoga teachers?

you had to be hot to be a yoga teacher.  It was about two months back when I decided it was time to be able to actually scratch my own back.  The time had come for me to bring my spiritual practice into my physical practice.

The interesting part to this is that I am actually pretty strong.  I have lifted weights my entire life, building up an impressive number on nearly all strength lifts.  In the nearly 30 years of most continual weight training, I never stretched and never put much importance on flexibility.  I wasn’t injured often, and frankly never had the nagging pulled muscles that others I knew (who did stretch) had.  “Stretching is for sissies” was my motto.

I used to box when I was in my early 20’s.  My trainers used to scream at us for lifting

Shavasana Anyone? (Source:

weights.  “Weights make you tight”, they would yell, as they tortured us for touching the iron.  They would follow that up with “and stretching is for sissies”, just to make sure we got the point that stretching would be unnecessary if we just didn’t touch the weights.  Still, I couldn’t stay away from the iron, I loved the way it made me feel and look.  Ah, the ego and its wacky ways of getting you to see the world!

Today, I find myself laying crumbled on the floor after an hour of yoga saying “weight lifting is for sissies”.  I mean I have done some strenuous workouts in my day, but nothing

Warrior Pose AGAIN?

like the types of postures Vinyasa Yoga has put me through.  It’s pure torture, particularly if you push yourself like you do with iron.  True, the “no pain, no gain” motto, that once defined my workouts, is completely obsolete today, but there is still an inner drive that pushes me beyond where I think I can go.  For some, that may seem appropriate, but for me, in my understanding, it is something I need to work on.

My question to whoever will answer is “can inflexible, old muscleheads be Yoga teachers?”  Maybe I can’t be a “hot” yoga teacher (it still makes me laugh), but can’t I provide others with some insight while they help me gain my body back?  Can’t I become flexible and flowing despite my obvious inflexibility and lack of grace?

Are there others out there who have come from the same place?

Ok, I get it.  I said “question” and have asked four.  It’s just that my yoga instructors are all so flexible and lithe and I am so rigid and “blobby” (my word, not theirs).  Is there

This is a dumb idea...(Source:

a place for guys like me in the yoga teacher world?  You can’t fault a guy for asking.  After all, I feel like a football player, leaving the field wondering if he can teach ballet.  The idea seems ludicrous but the idea is still there gnawing at me like a hamster on an acorn holding a barbell.

Anyway, I will continue to practice.  I do love what it does for my body and how I feel afterward.  I feel stronger as a result.  I can only see me continuing the practice because of what it does for me physically, mentally and spiritually.  My meditations are awesome after a sequence, they spring alive in the union yoga itself provides.  Of course I realize that asanas are just one-eighth of yogic practice, but it is the one-eighth I have been ignoring all my life.

I look forward to any responses out there.  Be well, find peace.


About Tom Grasso (Gyandeva)

Tom Grasso is a Colorado-based seeker, meditator, blogger (new site), and creative wordsmith. More importantly, he is a father of three (meaning he is also a lecturer, teacher, chef, order taker, taxi driver, coach, mentor and aspirin addict) and has found great joy in sharing his life experience to the benefit of others. Tom is an abuse survivor and a reformed (though unapologetic) bad ass warrior who bares the scars of his adventures and the power of transformation in every word he writes. As a former firefighter and rescue tech, Tom understands the fragility of life and the impermanence of each moment. You can follow Tom on Tumblr , and can find his books on Amazon. You will soon be able to purchase Tom's short stories (and erotica) at Don't forget to like his "blog page" at Tom Grasso, Writer on Facebook.  


30 Responses to “Can inflexible, old muscleheads be Yoga teachers?”

  1. NotSoSure says:

    Size or flexibility have nothing to do with yoga, IMO.

    The best teachers rarely come from dance or gymnastics backgrounds. The best teachers practice and teach mindfully within their own personal physical limitations. Experience, knowledge, enthusiasm and the desire to serve others are the top qualities of a good teacher.

    And if you do go teacher training route very careful about the training program you choose to attend. The market has become flooded with 3rd rate vinyasa flow teachers, the majority of whom have successfully completed 200/500 hour teacher certification programs.

  2. tanya lee markul says:

    Hi Tom! Thank you for this! In my opinion, to answer your question, "Can inflexible, old muscle heads be yoga teachers?” I'd say: YES. I believe that if you truly want to be a teacher you can and should. We can truly only teach what we know, right?! Perhaps that's not twisting into Marichyasana D, but perhaps it's a compassionate but strong trikonasana, or forward bend or even child's pose. :-) :-)

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
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  3. Yogini5 says:

    Sure, yoga has become more of a "sport" (and much more exhibition-oriented, for some reason) than it used to be. It needs the muscleheads from the weight room. I am plenty stiff, but also nowhere near as strong as I may look. And I can't hold those kick-butt asanas for very long, either.

    It's a different kind of strength from lifting (light) weights repetitively. My recovery time is so much longer from yoga than from weights. Real muscleheads, on the other hand, can thrive in a more competitive yoga environment, such as these days.

    With what I bring to the table, I am glad I am into the more old-school stuff, anyhow …

  4. YoginBomb says:

    Great Article! Yeah, yoga is so great for you physically, because it builds muscle, coordination, and refines the nervous system–all 3 simultaneously. Mentally, it heightens mind body awareness, and spiritually…well that is limit less!

  5. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  6. tomgrasso says:

    Tanya and Diane…this is your fault!!

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  11. Bob Jordan says:

    I'm 55, at age 52 I benched 400 lbs on the Olympic bar. Started hot yoga around the same time. I am as flexible as a concrete lamp post. Can't do any of the poses well, be it Bikram or Power or Yin, but I try! Like you I never streteched, never, and like you really never got any injuries either. A teacher? Not likely for me. A student? Yes, that's me!

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