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Think you can't do yoga? Think again

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Yoga's not all about super skinny, beautiful blonde women bending their legs behind their ears. That image is enough to put the rest of us mere mortals off altogether.

Don't let it, as yoga is for everyone. The British Wheel of Yoga estimates more than 2 million people in the UK do some form of yoga and they aren't all supple supermodels!

"The beauty about yoga is that it is available to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, or physical limitations," says yoga teacher Sue Hastings-Barnes. "It's a practice without judgement of any kind, and without competition."

You can be overweight, inflexible and have limited mobility and still do yoga.

If you are overweight

There's no need to feel awkward about not conforming to the perfect image of a yoga devotee, as there's no such thing.

"The focus is inward, it's not about gazing into gym mirrors and thinking about how amazing you look, it's about trying to feel from the inside out," says yoga teacher Eva Paoli.

Carrying extra weight isn't a reason for not doing yoga. People with larger bodies can still be strong and fit.

"Yoga is fantastic for building-up muscle tone. You'll notice the difference everywhere on your body," says Eva. "You become stronger and you stand better, which makes you look slimmer."

Inflexible or limited mobility

You don't have to be flexible to do yoga, in fact the stiffer you are the more you need it. Practising yoga regularly will help you gain strength, balance and flexibility.

Even if you have limited mobility, because of age or a medical condition for instance, it doesn't mean you can't do yoga. Though you should talk it over with your GP first.

Chair yoga classes are also available. Some nursing homes, hospitals and offices hold them, and you can strengthen and stretch while sitting down.

"It may be best to have one-to-one yoga teaching or to work in a small group if you need special attention while you get started," says Eva.

Aches and pains

There are some yoga classes specifically targeted at people who have limitations or aches and pains.

Julia Jackson runs a yoga for back pain group. She says: "There's copious research to support the efficacy of yoga for muscular-skeletal problems including rheumatoid arthritis and back pain."

Alvaro Faria gets a lot out of Julia's group and praises the class, including, "the importance of breathing to help relaxation, the group's energy in the class is beyond description."

"I have noticed a huge improvement in my core strength, releasing pressure on my back, and my flexibility," says class member Patricia Donaghy. "My stamina and mental calmness via breath work has also benefited."

Michele Pernetta runs the Fierce Grace chain of yoga studios in London.

She says: "It does not matter if you're old, fat, inflexible or injured you are [still] the type of person I want in my class." Michele even runs a specific yoga class called 'Stiff, Old and Broken'!

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