Yoga: I’m not flexible enough…
I’m not flexible enough…
If you have ever practiced yoga, then you have most likely heard someone utter these words. Maybe you have suggested to a friend that it is a great way to de-stress and they should join you at a class or you know someone who has set a health goal as their new years resolution and you’ve mentioned the benefits of yoga to them. Maybe, that someone was you, back before you gave into your fears and joined a yoga class… and realised that yoga is not all about bending yourself into a pretzel shape.
I’m not a physically flexible person. Not in the Instagram #yogainspiration or #yogajourney kind of way. My husband’s not flexible either, he can barely sit on the floor cross-legged now days. But, we can still do yoga. Because yoga is so much more than being able to twist yourself into intricate back bend with your knees wrapped around your ears or posing in an impressive looking scorpion arm balance on the edge of a rock ledge with waves crashing just behind you. Asanas, or yoga postures/proper exercise, are just one small component of what a yoga practice is all about.
The word “Yoga” comes from the sanskrit root “yuj” meaning “to join.” Yoga is all about joining together the mind, body and soul to live a life of balance and peace. The ultimate goal in yoga is not to see how physically flexible you can be. The ultimate goal of practicing yoga is one of self-development and self-realisation. And the way to reach self-realisation is through the practice of the five points of yoga: proper relaxation, proper breathing, proper exercise, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation.
Each of these five points is about bringing balance to the body, which is incredibly important in our modern way of life. We are a society that pushes and expects that everyone should be busy all of the time. We have “Smart” phones to help us manage/schedule more into our days. We have social media for instantly catching up on what is going on in the world. And “being busy” has become a form of competition. With all of this focus and value placed on “being busy” our bodies are working over time, in a constant state of fight or flight mode, adrenalin pumping, ready to push through and keep going. But, pushing the body this way leads to greater disconnect between our mind, body and soul, to the point that we no longer experience happiness or joy when we accomplish something. Instead, we are already searching for the next goal, the next thing to satisfy our quest to keep busy.
Our body needs time to relax. Relaxation aids in proper digestion, it provides time for the body to heal and repair itself, and it reduces anxiety and fatigue. Our body needs to breathe properly. Oxygen is vital to the running of a healthy body. A balanced breath (deep and even inhalation and exhalation) calms and clears the mind, relieves depression and anxiety, and creates energy in the body. Our body requires exercise to stimulate our circulation, strengthen our muscles, and gently stretch so that we don’t completely cease up. Our body requires a proper diet, one rich in nutrients to provide us with energy to function, and to aid in heal and repair from the inside out. And our body requires time and space for meditation, time to switch off from the constant noise and hive of activity of the world. Thinking positively improves more than just our frame of mind. Thinking positively can also positively impact on our health as we begin to shift the way we think, and therefore worry and stress less, meaning our body can relax and heal itself. Yoga is supposed to be relaxing, not add more stress and anxiety to your life.
Unfortunately, we compare ourselves so much to others now that a practice that is all about the self and self-realisation leaves people feeling inadequate in so many ways. When we attend a class we feel the need to keep up, even if our body is screaming at us to slow down, lie in Savasana and relax. We become anxious because we cannot breathe as deeply as the person next to us. Or we berate ourselves for thinking of all the things we still have to do and drawing up new lists in our mind during the end of class meditation. When we say, “I’m not flexible enough” we are talking about more than just our physical flexibility. We are closing off ourselves before we’ve even given our mind, body and soul a chance to try and relax, breathe, and reconnect. We are trying to protect ourselves from failure, before ever giving ourselves a chance to succeed, to be at peace. We are succumbing to the societal pressure to always be busy, by announcing to the world that we are not flexible enough to potentially change our mindset and try a different way of living our life.
So, the next time you hear yourself, or someone else, say “I’m not flexible enough” with regards to yoga, or any situation in life, remember that you are enough, you are more than enough, as long as you are practicing yoga/life in a way that honours your mind, body and soul. Stop comparing yourself to others, as the only person you are up against in this world… is you. So get out there and do what is best for you.