What if you really could do yoga?

Danielle GallaherI hear a great deal about people’s various ailments as a yoga instructor. The conversation goes something like I say  “I teach yoga” and then the other person will launch into a litany of reason why they would love to do yoga but “can’t”. Sometimes it’s physical. I have heard about every muscle, joint and ligament issue known to medical science. And it’s always that the body part is “bad”. I’ve got a “bad knee” and “I can’t do yoga”. If it’s not physical, then it’s situational. A sea of “I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy” or some other fantasy that people make up in order to justify why they can’t do yoga….. not that I asked.

What these folks are all actually saying is that they can’t do whatever idea of yoga they made up and carry around with them. Perhaps they saw some ridiculous pose on the cover of a magazine. Or they know somebody who knows somebody who studied at an ashram in India for 6 months. Whatever happened, they instantly made up some idea of what yoga is. And whatever that idea is, they can’t do that. And maybe it’s true that they can’t do whatever THAT is. But I promise you, whatever THAT is, it’s not yoga. Not by a long shot.

My favorite comeback to the “I can’t do yoga” statement is “well, can you breathe?” This is typically met with confusion, but I’m always completely serious. Yoga is connecting with your true self which begins with connecting with breath. I don’t even care if you can’t breathe without the assistance of medical equipment. If you are breathing, you can do yoga. Pictured here is Danielle Orner who lost her leg to cancer. And she does yoga. She says “Cancer took my leg, a rib, and months of treatment, but it could not take my life and will not take my dreams”.

What you may not be able to do is some specific pose sequence. Or you may not be able to bend your body into some of the contortions that you saw on the internet. Great. Neither can I. Over the course of my ten year career, I’ve come back from two pregnancies and three surgeries, the last of which had me on crutches for 6 weeks. I’ve done yoga with my right arm wrapped around my body immobilized for the entire class. I’ve done yoga with a chair on either side of my mat because I couldn’t put my full weight on my right leg. I’ve done yoga so heavily pregnant that I was no longer even able to see my feet let alone touch them. I get it. And I’ve done it.

When you say that you can’t do yoga, you dishonor the body that you have. It may not be perfect, it may have some lack of mobility, or function. It may be missing a piece or two. But it’s your body and it’s perfect for yoga. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do. Think about what you can do. Can you breathe? That’s a good start. Is mobility an issue? Then move your body in a way that feels good and don’t move it in a way that feels bad. Are you missing a part? Then use other parts of your body instead. Is balance an issue? Then do yoga sitting in a chair or on the floor or lying in your bed.

I’ve been there, trust me. There isn’t anything you can tell me about what you can’t do that is going to change my mind. Don’t do the things you can’t do, and don’t let that stop you from doing the things you can. Yoga is a rich and deep and wide practice. Embrace it. Explore it. Develop it. Do what you can. And have it be perfect.

Categories: Yoga for Everyone

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