Flexibility. That dreaded F-word that can sometimes make us feel shitty about our yoga practice. How many times have you heard: "Oh no I can't do yoga, I'm not flexible enough!" Or how many times have you said that yourself? The truth is, I am a yoga teacher, and I'm not flexible. I have a secret for you: You don't need to be flexible to do yoga!
When I first started my yoga practice five years ago, I could barely touch my knees when I was in a forward fold.Uttanasana (standing forward fold) was a nightmare.Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold) was hell.
It never crossed my mind that I wasn’t flexible enough to do yoga; I just thought I would never do some (hard) poses likeEka Pada Raja Kapotasana(king pigeon), or worse,Hanumanasana(splits). But when I started practicing more than three times a week, I began to notice all the progress I was making.
The good thing about not being flexible is that you don't have to go far into a pose to feel the benefits of it. Being too flexible can even be a problem; It’s easier to hurt yourself because you have to go very deep in a pose to feel it, or may start to (unsafely) play around in attempt toreally feel it. On the other hand, when you're not flexible, it's a bit frustrating to see people with their feet behind their heads and in full splits. I know yoga is not about ego, and you want to keep your eyes on your own mat during class because it'syour practice, but let's be honest: it took me a long time to absorb that part of yoga, and my first two years I kept looking at that girl who could twist her body into any shape she wanted, while I was struggling to reach my feet in forward fold.
When I decided to take my teacher training course, a little voice inside of me was telling me I was a fraud, and that everybody in the training would somehow come from "Cirque du Soleil", and that I would look ridiculous next to them. Those thoughts actually ended up motivating me to practice more. And the more I practiced, the more I enjoyed it.
That’s how my new appreciation for my lack of flexibility came first; I wasn’t paying attention to that super flexible person anymore, and if I did it was just to appreciate how beautiful she or he was moving through their practice. The next step involved me doing things I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing a few years ago (mostly because I was not trying enough).
When I was 12-years-old I was going to a gymnastics club for kids and teenagers, and I was trying very hard to do the splits. I never came close to it. I completely blocked out the idea of possibly trying to do the pose one day, so I never tried again. One day, a few decades later, after a nice practice, I was walking by the beach and I decided to give it a try. All of a sudden, there I was, doing the splits. It wasn’t a perfect-looking pose, but I was a lot closer than I've ever been before.
The moral of the story here, kids, is if you're not flexible, do yoga! You will improve, get rid of that stiffness, and feel so much better in your body. Nothing will beat the feeling you'll have when you–after some hard work–manage to do something you thought was impossible. It’s like discovering a new way to communicate with your body. So if you've ever found yourself avoiding yoga because you are not.
By Cheyenne Ravarino, Inner Fire Luminary