When I’m out and about and meeting new people the question “What do you do?” almost always comes up. When I tell them I’m a Therapeutic Yoga Instructor, they quite often reply “I’ve thought about trying it out but I’m just not flexible enough, yoga isn’t for me.” I want to sit down with them and tell them about how that’s just not true! Of course I don’t do that, I only divulge if asked to do so. Anyhow, if they did ask me to explain why yoga is for them, this would be my reply.
Yoga is about balance between strength and flexibility. We want to be strong yet flexible and flexible yet strong. One of the goals of yoga is to create a balance of strength and flexibility in your body. Being strong or “stiff” doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do yoga; in fact it would be most beneficial for you! On the other end, being flexible doesn’t mean you are going to be amazing at yoga either, it simply means we need to build strength in your body.
So, how does a stiff person do downward dog? By using props and making minor adjustments that completely transform the pose. In Therapeutic Yoga I help you find YOUR downward dog. Depending on the level of tightness in your body we can either simply adjust the pose by bending the knees or by using a chair to “bring the floor up”. With these adjustments you get all the benefits of the pose without over exerting yourself and working at your level while, at the same time, significantly reducing the risk of injury.
Now how do we make the same pose challenging for someone with a lot of flexibility? Usually people who are over flexible tend to “sink” in certain parts of the body; in downward dog it tends to be in the upper back and pelvic region. This is a sign of lack of strength in these areas. To adjust this pose I would get the client to lift the sternum and push away from the floor, making the pose more challenging and creating strength in the upper back. I would also use a block between the thighs, getting the client to squeeze it, in order to maintain stability in the pelvis when coming up into downward dog.
In a quick note about the picture you see above the post: Wall ropes are used in many poses to make adjustments, in my private classes I create a similar effect by using a belt.
There are no limitations to yoga, it is all encompassing – mind, body and spirit. Assisting my mentor, Maggie Reagh, in her Yoga Adapted for Movement Disorders , such as MS, class has really proven that to me. As long as you can breathe, yoga is for you!
Image: Jim Jacobs