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Let's Get Bendy!

Standing Big Toe Pose or Padangusthasana

SOMETIMES people are afraid to come to yoga as they think they won’t be able to do it… This is something that’s only recently come to my attention despite the fact that I’ve been teaching for more than six years.

I had one lady who got frustrated and left before the end of her first session recently, with the parting words, ‘I can’t do it. I’m just not flexible enough!’ Really disappointing, for me as well as her, and she was gone before I could convince her that flexibility comes with practice. I attended a Pilates class recently too where a woman legged it after ten minutes. It was all I could do to restrain myself from running after her and saying, ‘Just give it a try!’

Saying you’re not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you’re too dirty to take a bath. Few people are completely bendy to start with but if you practise regularly and breathe as instructed there will come a magical point where you’ll suddenly be able to do a pose that you never considered possible for you.

Yoga isn’t competitive — you should leave your ego at the door when you attend a class. I don’t care if you can do what the bendy lady to your right who’s been coming for five years can. All I ask is that you show up and give it a try. There are advanced options for some poses but I don’t expect beginners to achieve them. Your yoga is your practice, so you should go as far as you feel suits on the day. It’s not about pushing yourself, more listening to your body and what it needs for that specific session. You decide.

If you want to be flexible, the breath is everything. Ocean Breath will give you the energy to hold a pose that was primarily difficult for you. That’s why I stress at class that you can come and do all the moves, but if you don’t do Ocean Breath (slow and deep in through the nose, violent and throaty out through the nose, making a noise like a strangulated gorilla, sounds a bit daft!) when you’re holding them, they won’t give you the same benefits.

Here’s a simple pose to help you get more bendy. Big Toe Pose will improve flexibility plus lengthen and strengthen tight hamstrings. Take a little jump and connect with the earth. Stand with feet about six inches apart, breathe in normally. As you breathe out, take your arms down. You might just grab your shins, which is fine; you might take a hold of your toes. Don’t force it — like I said, it’s your practice. Bend your elbows to flex further.

Hold the pose while doing Ocean Breath, 5 breaths minimum. Now breathe in normally and aim to take it slightly further on your exhalation, holding for another 5 Ocean Breaths. Guaranteed the breathing you did in the first phase will energise you to go further in the second. Do this every morning and within seven days your flexibility will have improved!

So, to sum up, do not be afraid to come to yoga if you fear you are a bit of a stiffy! The only way to get bendy is to turn up and give it a go. You’ll be amazed at the strong, fit, flexible body you’ll achieve.

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