If you search google for “how to get a yoga body,” you’ll likely come up with several articles listing specific poses to get you that “yoga body.” They’ll detail the poses for the toned stomach and the round, lifted booty, the sculpted arms and legs, etc.
This is not one of those articles.
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“On a given day, a given circumstance, you think you have a limit. And you then go for this limit, touch it, and you think ‘Okay, this is the limit.’ As soon as you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high.” – Ayrton Senna
Although he was not a yogi but a race car driver, Mr. Senna has the truth of it. The mind is a very powerful thing. Our mind sets the limit for ourselves.
So if you think you cannot do something, then of course, you cannot. If you think your body is not capable of yoga, your body will believe it is not a yoga body.
Perception of a “Yoga Body”
When you think of a “yoga body,” what image comes to mind?
Do you see a young, thin, white woman in full Bird of Paradise? Or someone on Instagram with 100 million, billion followers doing King Pigeon suspended in midair from a silk hanging in the middle of the Grand Canyon?
I know I did.
I always wanted to try yoga (like since I was in middle school), but was always afraid to because I didn’t think I had a yoga body. Sure, I had always been more flexible than average, but I didn’t think I was thin enough, strong enough, or coordinated enough.
The first time I went to a yoga class, I was 28 years old. I was going with a bunch of friends to a “bends and brews” type class at Switchback Brewery in Vermont as part of my friends’ 30th birthday celebration. Many of my friends had not done yoga before either, so I was bolstered by the fact that I wouldn’t be the only one making a fool of myself.
Guess what? Yes, there were those who had obviously been doing yoga for years. But, I was surprised to see that a good number of the people in that class were just as uncoordinated as me. And most people in that class didn’t have a “yoga body,” either.
What a Yoga Body Isn’t
The only images I had ever seen of yoga were “ideal” women, fully accomplished in every pose. I thought that I wouldn’t be doing “real yoga” if I couldn’t do that.
Sure, these images are meant to be inspirational. The problem with the modern image of a yoga body is that it limits who yoga is for.
Clearly, there are some culturally preconceived notions about what a “yoga body” is. Let me dispel those for you and help you think more positively about your body so you can finally get on your mat.
1. You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga.
So you’re not flexible? That’s fine. There are modifications, props, and variations specifically for you. Flexibility is a bi-product of yoga, not a requirement.
2. You don’t have to be thin to do yoga.
People of all shapes and sizes can practice together in the same class. There may be some poses that are more difficult for some bodies, but that has more to do with your range of motion than your BMI.
I remember going back to yoga after I had my son. I was at the heaviest weight I’d ever been (except when I was actually pregnant). Although I wasn’t exactly new to yoga (I’d started practicing a few months before I got pregnant and kept a personal, albeit pretty spotty, practice), I felt out of place. Like I didn’t fit yoga.
But my husband knew how much I had enjoyed it before. He reminded me that yoga made me feel good and urged me to go back. It took me a little while, but I realized that he was right. It did make me feel good, regardless of the fact that my BMI told me I was obese. Fast forward 3 years and now I am teaching yoga.
My point is that even if you aren’t skinny, you can do yoga -even if you are relatively (or even completely) new. If you are really uncomfortable, there are yoga instructors, like Michael Hayes dedicated to helping people with larger bodies learn how to do yoga.
3. You don’t have to be young to do yoga.
Practicing yoga helps keep your body and mind healthy, so no matter what your age, it is a good habit to start.
In fact, research suggests that those who practice yoga maintain their telomere length when exposed to great stress. (Telomeres are an essential part of human cells that effect how they- and therefore YOU- age). Not to mention, regular yoga practice changes the way the brain functions- for the better.
Better brain function = stay younger longer.
While there are yoga classes designed for older people, you will find people of all ages in a regular y’all-come-practice yoga class.
4. You do not have to be a woman to practice yoga.
In fact, yoga was invented by men in Ancient India. No matter how you identify, yoga is for you.
5. You don’t have to be a calm person to do yoga.
The practice of yoga was developed precisely to align the energies of the body and teach the mind how to control its thoughts in order to be calm. In other words, we do yoga precisely because we feel crazy.
6. You do not have to identify with a particular culture, race, or religion to practice yoga.
Like I said before, Yoga was invented in Ancient India. It has come a long way in the last 5000 years, traveling across the world and transforming along the way. Yoga is for everyone (and no, you do not have to chant “om” or say “namaste.”)
Yoga is a personal journey and nobody out there gets to define what that is for you.
What Yoga Can Do For You
When I don’t get to do yoga, even for 1 week, my body feels different. I feel:
- Off balance
- My blood feels heavy and sluggish
- Less Motivation
- Quicker to Anger
- Harder to Please, like nothing is ever right
- More Anxiety
- Don’t want to get out of bed
After a couple of sessions of yoga practice, I begin to feel better, mentally and physically. When my body feels more aligned, my mind feels more aligned, too.
Practicing yoga will help you to achieve better balance in your body and in your mind, no matter what your body looks like. That balance is the answer to finally loving your body!
How to Get a Yoga Body
1. Shift Your Mindset
Doing yoga is more than just exercise. The mind-body connection that it creates sets it apart from a regular workout. And you can get that experience from all kinds of yoga. One of my favorite types of yoga for that connection is Restorative.
Restorative Yoga isn’t physically demanding, in fact every pose is fully supported, so the only “work” you are doing is in your head.
In today’s fast-paced, rushing way of life, relaxing is hard to do. It’s okay if you cannot fully relax during your class, but give yourself permission to try to relax and you will feel much better at the end.
2. Find an In-Person Class
If you are just beginning your yoga journey, I highly recommend going to a yoga class where the instructor expects there to be participants brand new to yoga.
I suggest going to an actual in-person class (not online) because the instructor can give you individual feedback about how to make the poses more beneficial to you specifically.
You could go to a level 1 class at a studio, but I like the idea of an unconventional space because they are less intimidating. If you like beer, you can do what I did and go to a brews and bends type class.
If you’re an animal lover, try goat yoga, puppy yoga, or kitten yoga.
These classes are designed to suit all levels and expect beginners (plus it’s waaaay more about the animals than about the yoga, so you can really chill out).
Really immerse yourself in the class, be present in the moment. Don’t think about your to-do lists, they’ll be there for you when you leave.
3. Don’t Skip Savasana.
This is the integrative part of yoga where the mind/body connection is really made. In Savasana, Theta brain waves engage the unconscious mind and healing can occur. Sometimes, the brain can even enter Delta (dream state). Now that is a deep relaxation of the body and the brain.
4. Make a Promise to Yourself to Go Back to Class Again. Keep Your Promise to Yourself
Take it one class at a time. At the end of each class you take, make the decision to do it again. If you enjoyed the unconventional format, do that again. After a few of those, maybe try going to a studio or gym that offers yoga and take a beginner level class.
5. Consistency is Key
Keep in mind that nothing works in isolation. In order to reap the benefits of yoga, you have to do it regularly. Even once a week is enough to begin the process of aligning your body and mind.
6. Try Short Practices on Your Own.
Once you get the hang of it, you can start doing a short practice on your own. Ultimately, yoga is best when done daily, even if only for a few minutes.
Try doing a sun salutation or two in the morning when you wake up. It’ll take less than 5 minutes and will wake you up better than a cup of joe.
Still Nervous About Going to a Yoga Class?
Remember, you already have a yoga body.
Fear is the #1 reason that people don’t try yoga. Fear that you’ll make a fool of yourself. Fear that you can’t make your body do what (you think) yoga demands of it.
Yoga Can Be Made to Fit You; You Do Not Have to Fit Yoga.
Most yoga instructors offer variations and modifications for the poses they teach, so no matter your age, size, or level of flexibility, yoga can be made to fit you.
If the concept of going to a class and practicing yoga with other people makes you feel like you are doing in front of other people I have 2 helpful hints for you:
- Most people are more concerned about their own practice than what you look like in yours.
- If that isn’t as comforting as you need, try taking private yoga sessions.
Iyengar also said, “Nothing can be forced, receptivity is everything.”
This is to say that your body must be made ready for a pose, you cannot force yourself to get into it. That way lies injury and misery. Instead, it is in using blocks, straps, variations, and modifications that yoga can fit your body. In doing so, your body slowly gains range of motion, flexibility, and learns proper alignment.
Most of all, please realize that yoga is not a competition. It is a journey to self-awareness. It is connecting to how your body feels in this exact moment.
Yoga isn’t about nailing Lord of the Dance. Yoga is about treating your body with respect, and recognizing just how powerful it really is.
And that is worth practicing.