Tag Archives: Melissa West

The Benefits of Yoga: Flexibility

I put this down a way on the list because flexibility is not the ultimate goal of yoga.  However if you practice yoga you will become more flexible — not only physically but mentally and spiritually as well.

When I began to practice again in my 50’s after a very long absence I was horrified by how stiff my body had become.  After a couple of attempts at starting a yoga practice again I gave up, feeling depressed, humiliated and like a total failure.

When we moved to the lake I decided I was going to try again, this time at home via the internet.  So I cleared out space in the middle of my living room and got out the laptop.  Finding classes and teachers I could work with were another matter.  I started out trying 1 hour “beginner” yoga classes and went what seemed like backward from there.  I just didn’t have the stamina or the flexibility for a full hour class.  Classes for “seniors” were generally chair yoga and I didn’t think I was ready for that yet.  One day I found a class labeled for the “sick and aged” that moved at a slower pace and included a few basic postures.  It lasted for 15 minutes.  It took me a few weeks to be able to get through the entire class, but I did.  Then I found a few other “complete beginner” classes.  I was able to make it through 30 minute classes and then an hour.

When I became bored I started looking for more difficult classes and found Dr. Melissa West who does not teach high pressure yoga at all.  She realizes that not all bodies will be able to do all postures.  Some of us just aren’t made that way, but we don’t have to stop yoga completely.  We can learn variations that will work for our own bodies and do what we can.  She also gives teachings to go with the theme she sets for each class.

I don’t think I will ever be able put my foot over my head and grab it with both hands.  But I don’t have to.  I can now do postures I never dreamed I would be able to do in the beginning.  I have also learned to “go with the flow” and not get so upset when things don’t always go my way.  I am learning to live with people who are much different than me.

Overall I am much more flexible than when I started.   If I had let the lack of flexibility continue to be a stumbling block for me I would have never learned that yoga is not about being a contortionist.  It is about being a student.