As a Yoga teacher one of the most common things I hear is – “I can’t do Yoga. I’m not flexible enough,” or people asking for forgiveness because they can’t touch their toes.
This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest myths about Yoga today. You do not have to touch your toes or put your feet behind your head to practice Yoga.
The postural, or asana, practice that we are exposed to in the gym or even the Yoga studio is only one small part of Yoga. There are eight limbs of yoga and assana is only one of them. Even when we come to practice these poses it is not important how deep you can go into the pose or how strong or steady you are.
In my opinion Yoga postures are used primarily to help us feel. To help us connect with our bodies. To help us become embodied.
We spend so much time in our day to day lives living in our heads. Making plans for the future, rehashing past events and just trying to remember what we have in the fridge while we’re at the grocery store. All this cerebral activity means we so seldom have the opportunity to feel – physically feel – our bodies.
The only difference between the most and least flexible person is that the most flexible one has to go deeper into a pose before they physically feel something in the area that the posture is focussing on.
It’s the flexibility of your mind that is for me the most important thing about a Yoga practice. Allowing your mind to be malleable enough to give the body an opportunity to feel. From here we get curious. We explore the sensations in the body and then we can begin to reflect on how we react or (hopefully) respond to these sensations. The conversations we have in our heads with ourselves while holding a posture or dipping down to chaturanga for the 20th time in an hour can reveal a whole world of self awareness.
We can begin to witness our egocentricities – “I’m the best/worst”. Our judgement on self and others is exposed. Even our resilience both physical and phycological can be seen.
This is the power of your postural practice. It is not in knowing how to do a handstand. The power in your practice is in feeling the fear / excitement of throwing yourself upside down and maintaining a calm steady breath and allowing yourself to physically feel the heart pumping, the sweaty palms, the rush of blood to the head. And maybe it is in learning to laugh at yourself when you fall over. To physically feel the shame associated with failure and recognise how you respond to that.
So the next time you find yourself on your Yoga mat remind yourself to feel. Let ALL the sensations in. The good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t sell yourself short and just have a work out. Turn the light of awareness on and discover your truth.