Someone said to me a couple days ago "I have pain and my flexibility is 'not there' yet, so I cannot do yoga."
Um, well, hold on, doesn't Yoga help one with pain? Doesn't practicing Yoga help to improve your flexibility?
Also a few days ago someone asked me "What's the best type of Yoga to do?"
Hmm. Well I think the way Yoga is often practiced in North America has caused the essence of it to be lost.
Firstly, Yoga translates to "Union" in the most lamens terms. Of course, most Sanskrit words require several sentences to describe in English translation. And so, I go on to describe my interpretation of Yoga as union with your higher Self; the capital 'S' self.
So, in order to understand what type of Yoga (the physical practice) is best for you, YOU need to explore what is best for you - learning to understand yourself better. Many pundits out there are quick prescribe certain movements, practices etc, but in reality, what is best for you? Yes, there are scriptures and ancient texts prescribing methods and routines for Yoga, but one must also take into context your personal life as it is NOW. Time? Energy? Body limitations, etc.
But the issue that has been created with focus on only the physical practice of yoga, and thousands of yogis posting pictures of themselves in the most advanced stretched out poses on all the social media platforms, is that this has led some people to believe that in order to practice yoga, you must already be pain-free, and flexible.
So to the person who asked me "What is the best type of yoga to do?", I said "Well first, you have to practice becoming flexible up here (pointing to my head/brain) - when you learn to become flexible here, flexibility of the body will follow."
As I heard myself saying that to someone 30 years my senior, I suddenly had a weird moment where I felt like I was one of those sadhus or pundits preaching wise knowledge to others.
But I"m not that. I'm me. And I'm in the same phase as you - always learning, looking to improve.
When someone says I'm not strong enough, flexible enough, or I have too much pain to do yoga - please remember that Yoga is about you. It's not about getting into the most stretched out difficult poses. In fact, practicing yoga on a daily basis - starting with gentle movements, meditation and breathing can actually improve pain symptoms and increase flexibility - so in essence, when you say these things, you aren't honoring your true self, rather you are limiting yourself. Right off the bat. Case and point, no arguments.
I have read case study after study, story after story, of people with some of the most horrific pain symptoms, missing limbs, and even some paralysis who, after trying everything else, started to practice yoga; when they honored their bodies, they started to see results in their strength, lessening of pain, and increase in flexibility - not to mention dramatic improvements in their mental and emotional health, and their attitudes towards life!
If you are suffering from anything, including physical pain, yoga can only help - if you practice it while honoring of your body and mind (for example someone who has never done yoga should not enter an advanced class involving headstands). In yoga, connect with yourself - let go of competition, judgement and ego. It's about you. You are what you've got, so honor it.