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I've been attempting various beginner yoga sessions online during lockdown, including youtube videos and the Down Dog app. However, I find every single one of them involves "simple" positions that are either completely impossible for me to get into properly, or just very uncomfortable. For example, this includes child's pose, down dog and waterfall pose to name a few.

Is there any way to start getting into yoga if you are genuinely very inflexible? Or alternatively is there non-yoga flexibility training I could be doing instead?

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Yes, not only can you do yoga. I would say you should do yoga.

Sure, yoga has a reputation of being performed by people who are already very flexible, but yoga and other types of stretching is how you get there.

For any position that you can't do because you're too inflexible, or are suffering from tight muscles, there's always a more moderate position you can do instead. Take, for instance, the position where you just bend over with straight legs and touch the floor with your hands. Impossible, right? But the act of trying will stretch the muscles that need to stretch in order to get there. So if your hamstrings are on fire by the time your hands are down to your knees, then there you go. That's your current level for that particular position, and you're getting all the benefits of it.

One of the things I do, and recommend, is finding some "follow-along beginner yoga/stretching" videos on YouTube, putting them on your phone or TV, and get on the floor. If you're anything like me, then you're not going to look as elegant as the instructor, but do it 3-5 times a week for 5-15 minutes each time, and you'll soon see progress.

Try switching it up too. Maybe don't do the same video every time for a whole month, but keep a rotation going. Of course come back to the ones you like.

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  • This is certainly good advice for many poses, but the issue is that some positions I can't even get into a muscle stretch, and these are positions that are in beginner videos. For example, sit on the floor with your legs out wide in front of you and fold forward, using gravity to stretch. I can't even sit upright, let alone lean forward. It's extremely demoralising trying to follow a video where you simply can't do it at all.
    – xorsyst
    Sep 15 at 8:34
  • @xorsyst - I wouldn't worry about that. Do the positions that you can do, and the others will come naturally as you get more flexible. As a rookie, you're not supposed to be able to do all the positions. That's completely normal.
    – Alec
    Sep 15 at 12:09
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You should first determine where that “tightness” is coming from and whether it is due to soft tissues or your bones? Muscle tightness, yes, you can work around that by stretching. But if it’s a structural issue, you may need to get that resolved first. If possible, you can try those positions but at a reduced range. Ease your body into it.

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It's not a matter if you're already flexible, it's about gaining flexibility and preventing injury in your day to day activities. This reminds me, I should practice yoga more often. Sounds like you should too. :) Best of luck in your yoga journey.

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  • Well, yes I should ... but there's not much point trying to do poses that don't provide any stretch because you can't even get sufficiently into them to stretch any muscles! That's the problem.
    – xorsyst
    Sep 14 at 15:28
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    @xorsyst I'm not sure I understand--it's the act of attempting poses that provides the stretching necessary to get deeper into the poses. It's fine to do additional stretching in problem areas, and most poses can be modified until the body "catches up" :) Sep 14 at 19:26
  • @DaveNewton even in the beginner classes, there are poses that I simply can't even attempt. For example - sitting on the floor with legs in straight in front of me. I can't sit up in that position, so I can't even attempt a fold - there is no amount of attempting that which will make be more likely to be able to do it.
    – xorsyst
    Sep 15 at 13:19
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    @xorsyst It's the attempting that drives the adaptation, regardless of the level. But it sounds like you'd be better served physically with a monitored stretching routine. From what little I know if your situation I'd say down dog in particular is contraindicated. Stretching won't always be "comfortable", but it sounds like it'd be important. Sep 15 at 13:30
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Most beginner yoga poses require no flexibility, but only mobility. Lack of mobility is usually related to muscle weakness, injuries or deformities.

Check a doctor to figure which one is causing you problems.

Flexibility is another question and really debated.

Some believe you are either born flexible or have to basically train for decades to achieve minimal amounts of flexibility.

Some people believe flexibility is useless outside of a circuss/dancing/bed .

Some people believe being flexible actually makes you weaker and some say it makes you stronger.

Some people believe being flexible makes you less prone to inuries, some people say flexibility training causes way to many injuries and is not worth it.

As of now, they are all pretty much just beliefs, fitness's schrodinger cat.

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    "some people say flexibility training causes way to many injuries and is not worth it" - Any reputable sources on that?
    – Alec
    Sep 14 at 21:20

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