A ROOT Awakening #6: The “Inflexible” Yogi!

By: Jasmine Rausch

True or false – physical flexibility is a prerequisite for yoga? False –  although I completely understand why the myth exists. Each time you do an online search of the term “yoga,” you are bombarded with pictures of people doing the splits, handstands, or some sort of twisting splits handstand combination. All of these images showcase flexible people performing physically challenging poses or “asanas”. While these images are stunning and impressive, they also have a negative impact on the budding yogis out there.

Next time you see those pictures and start to feel discouraged about yoga, don’t and here’s why:

  • No judgement on your journey: The intimidation we feel from those bendy-bodies means that we’ve likely entered a place of self-judgement. Before ever doing our first downward facing dog, we are already criticizing our abilities and shutting ourselves out from this beautiful and deeply healing practice.

REMEMBER: Every-body is individual. Yoga is not about touching your toes or folding your body in two. There are many life-long practitioners who never end up touching their toes because the shape of their skeleton (i.e.: long legs/short torso) simply won’t allow it. Try focusing on what you can do and not on what you can’t do. Yoga is not a quick fix or a means to an end.

  • Like the beloved Shrek, you have layers: In Western society, yoga is promoted as a physical exercise. But did you know that yoga has very little to do with the external? The essence of yoga is bridging that gap between mind and body. Yoga views that body as a 5-layer system (physical, emotional, mental, intellectual and spiritual) and the poses are just one Yoga is about self-study, connectedness, compassion, and awareness. As the great B.K.S. Iyengar said, “Yoga means union- the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”

REMEMBER: Veteran yogis know that our time on the mat is a safe place to explore and reflect on sensation, demonstrate the ways we can show up for ourselves and release stuck emotional and mental stress. Our practice exists far beyond or bodies.

  • Flexibility is in the mind: Now that you know that your inflexible body is just one layer of the practice, consider looking elsewhere for your flexibility. For example, having mental flexibility, otherwise known as an open mind, is a great place to start! As En Vogue once sang, “Free your mind and the rest will follow.” Yoga is a journey with no end point and should not be rushed.

REMEMBER: There are unlimited ways to modify your physical practice. If you can’t touch your toes or bend your knees there is no shame in adjusting your pose to suit your needs. Offering yourself compassion and permission to use these modifications will result in more physical benefits and less chance of injury!