When I asked my friends on Facebook what question they would want answered for Q & A April, one friend supplied this:
I’m a hefty girl with dodgy joints. I’ve seen many videos on
Facebook and You Tube and the positions people get into.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to do that.
Does it matter? Is it essential I learn to balance on my head?
This is a good question to ask.
Many people these days see images and videos of yogis who have a slender, powerful, flexible body and are deterred from giving yoga a go. I can only speculate why there is such a high amount of posts online that build a stereotype of what a yoga body looks like and what a yoga body can do. There are people out there of all shapes and sizes, various ages, genders, nationalities and abilities doing yoga.
The definition of who can do yoga is a lot broader than you may initially think.
Dodgy joints, arthritis, scoliosis. . . Can I really do yoga?
The first thing I have to say is: Ask your doctor or allied healthcare professional.
They have done the medical hard yards to understand bodies and the scope of their ability, and yoga teachers value their input. When I first started practicing yoga over five years ago, I asked my Osteopath and Physiotherapist what I should be careful of and what I could do with my arthritis. I then took that information along to my class and the teacher advised what pose modifications I could make, or which poses I should substitute.
The same goes for “dodgy joints”. In this case, I’ll use the example of joint hypermobility. One common thing that can happen for people with hypermobility in the knees is they can lock back, causing a bowing of the legs, knee discomfort and a risk of damage. With guidance from your health professional, a yoga teacher will be able to assist you with directions to protect your knees or other joints.
While I am on the topic of knees, I am reminded of Arthur Boorman’s story and transformation from being a disabled veteran in leg braces, to reclaiming mobility through the practice of yoga. You can access a short video here on Arthur’s yoga journey.
Yoga as therapy
Yoga is more than a flexible person sitting in an asana (pose) with their feet wrapped behind their head. It is more than being strong and able to balance on your head.
Yoga is a many-faceted practice that enables people to access it from different angles. Anna Pesce was in the headlines in late 2016 when her regular Yoga Therapy sessions made a notable difference for her scoliosis. You can see Anna’s video story here. Yoga Therapy is another limb, or approach, to yoga. Yoga can be a physical therapy as well as an option for psychological therapy and research is continually emerging about the benefits yoga may contribute to these fields.
We all have our individual experience with yoga
While I have supplied some uplifting transformational stories in this post, I need to remind you that we will all have a different experience with our yoga practice. Results you get out of practicing may be different to the friend that practices with you. In yoga, our journey does not belong to the person on the mat next to us. It is our own.
Part two of this Q & A April post will follow shortly, covering some essential starting points for practice and discussing whether headstands and other advanced poses matter.
Photo credit: ejmc via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA