The answer is…yes, you can! Yoga is not just for the ‘flexible’. Yoga is often more beneficial for those who are stiff and tight. People who are naturally flexible can benefit from other parts of yoga, such as strengthening the muscles, supporting the joints, clearing the mind, and lowering stress levels. People who are not naturally flexible can enjoy all those benefits plus lengthening the muscles, increasing range of motion in the joints, and perhaps lessening pain caused by those tight muscles.
As a person who is not flexible, you might find some of the yoga poses tough or unachievable at first, but that is ok! The goal in yoga is not to do everything perfectly the first time, but rather to improve from where you are at the moment. A lot of people use ‘touching their toes’ as a gauge as to how flexible they are. This can sometimes be a good indicator, however, it is a one-dimensional view of flexibility since it does not consider the entire body. Some people have naturally flexible hamstrings and calves, and others do not. If you can not touch your toes, and you are using this as your gauge and would like to be able to - consider taking note of where you are during each practice, and just consider going a little further. Can you reach your knees? Try reaching your shins. Can you reach your shins? Try reaching your ankles. Progress is important, not just the end goal!
Where do you begin if you are an inflexible beginner? There are many options! A beginner class would be a good place to start since the poses would not be too challenging, and you would get an introduction to the basic alignments. A gentle class would also be a good option so that you could slowly get into some basic poses that are kind to your body, and would allow time for modifications and prop use. A chair class would be a great third option if you want to ease into yoga and know you have the support of a chair nearby.
The misconception that yoga is only for the flexible has been around for a long time. It is a fallacy that has continued on, and perhaps prevented some people from trying yoga, when in reality it would be the best course for them to take. If you are one of the many inflexible people in the world that is hesitant about yoga, get out there and give it a shot, and watch what happens to your body!