I'm Not Flexible, Can I Do Ashtanga Yoga?

I'm not flexible – can I do it? is the most common misconception about Ashtanga Yoga. You avoid the practice because you're embarrassed about not being able to touch your toes. Forget it! You don't have to be flexible to do ashtanga.

Guruji K. Patthabi Jois used to say, “Ashtanga Yoga is for all people: old people, young people, fat people, skinny people - only not lazy people.” But if you decide to do it then prepare yourself for a hard work.

I know plenty of ashtangis who've been practicing for years who still have to bend their knees in downwarddog. Bring yourself to the practice, and the practice will come to you. That is, daily show up on the mat and do the practice. How will you ever touch your toes if you don't practice?

Many people are too ambitious with their yoga. But the yoga process does not happen instantly, it is a slow process. Today everyone wants everything right away, but yoga is not like that. Yoga takes practice to understand. It is like the ocean - you have to dive in to it to understand. Otherwise, it's just water. - R. Sharath Jois

I started ashtanga yoga practice when I was 40 years old and 17 years later I am still doing it. In the beginning, I was impatient, hot headed. I definitely wasn’t ready for many of the poses that primary series demands from the practitioners. Of course after year or so I teared MCL on the left knee and consequently, I slow down the practice. I've learned my lesson.

While I was going to yoga studios I saw how quickly some people get moved through the ashtanga primary series without having a basic grasp of the breath, vinyasa, and postures. What I’m referring to, are the people who come into the practice with a lot of flexibility, natural ability or from a dancing background. They are not the majority but in every yoga class they stand out.

First we must all attain internal peace. If everybody has that, external peace will follow. If you work with yourself first, fight your own ignorance, your own delusions, you can get other people to work with themselves. If we get rid of those inner obstacles we become successful in our spiritual practice. We must talk about yoga, spread the message of inner peace, and get more people to practice yoga. If more people understand this, there will be less fighting. - R. Sharath Jois

Don't compare your practice with anyone. Other people history of dance, gymnastics, or other physical disciplines make their performance of postures easy and nice to watch. Yes "performance" of postures, because, as Sharath pointed out, just because someone can do certain pose doesn't mean they’re doing Ashtanga Yoga.

I understand his words only after so many years of ashtanga yoga practice. Even if my 5:0 a.m. getting up is a total mystery to you, I can feel, my deep bad habits are burning up as I get on my mat every morning. I see the small but steady progress in my physical strength and flexibility. I'm not lazy. I’m just happy.