Yoga Roadblock: "I'm not flexible"
As a yoga instructor who works in public safety, Katie Carlson frequently chats with public safety professionals who are curious enough about yoga that they bring it up in conversation, quickly followed by the reason they have yet to give yoga a try.
Yoga Roadblocks is a blog series that dives into and dismantles some of the most common reasons that individuals might not try yoga or begin a yoga practice.
When you do a Google search for the word “yoga”, you don’t have to scroll far to see yogis in poses that look like human pretzels, doing back bends, and balancing on their heads.
Did you drive a fire truck, or begin detective work your first day on the job?
No. You begin in an Academy by running drills, and studying texts, followed by a few years on the street or in the firehouse to gain experience.
The men and women photographed doing those poses are advanced yoga practitioners.
you can access all of the benefits yoga has to offer, including processing stress, building mental and physical resilience and enhancing performance, without ever doing a headstand.
Here are a handful of things to consider when taking your first step into a yoga practice:
Flexibility is a benefit of yoga, not a requirement to start.
The American Osteopathic Association lists increased flexibility, cardio and circulatory health, and protection from injury among several other physical benefits of a yoga practice. Don’t cut yourself off from the benefits of a yoga practice by assuming you need to be flexible to begin!
Advanced poses make up a small part of yoga.
Many of the practices you will find through Yoga for First Responders focus on breath work. That breath work is yoga! While you may begin your yoga practice by wearing athletic clothes and sitting in a comfortable position, once you learn how to use those techniques, you can bring them with you into your high stress work environment. Standing, with your feet firmly planted into the ground, while focusing on your breath is yoga! You can practice yoga every day for the rest of your life and never stand on your head.
Every body is different.
The ability to touch your toes or twist your body into advanced poses can have just as much to do with the length of your arms, legs and torso as it does with your flexibility. Even if you are standing next to someone the same height, you aren’t able to compare joints, ligaments and tendons! Your body, exactly as it is, is set to begin a yoga practice.
Let go of comparison.
You wouldn’t tell a friend that their inability to touch their toes should prevent them from trying something new to relieve stress, so why say it to yourself?! Yoga is an opportunity to tune into your own body and your own breath. It doesn’t matter if it looks the same as another person’s yoga practice.
Listen to your body.
As you begin your practice, pay attention to your body. Trust your instincts on the difference between challenging your body and pain. If it hurts, don’t do it. Certain poses should be avoided based on medical or physical conditions. Yoga poses can be modified. Work with a yoga instructor to help find a modification that can work for you.
A common saying in yoga is:
“It’s not about touching your toes, but what you learn on the way down”.
Your body is built for yoga. Every body is built for yoga.
Start where you are. And be kind to yourself.
Reach out to Yoga for First Responders for information about YFFR-certified instructors in your area. Multiple variations of yoga postures and practices are also offered in the instructional videos included in the YogaShield® Yoga for First Responders® Cyber Academy (info below).
sign up for YogaShield® Yoga for First Responders® Cyber Academy to practice yoga through the YFFr protocol.
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by Katie Carlson