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In high school I could not bend down and touch my toes… and I do not mean that my fingertips were millimeters from grazing them. I was a solid 8 inches away.
I'd played soccer since the age of five, did sand-volleyball in college, and then dabbled in a few triathlons.
But I still could not touch my toes.
It was March 2010 and I was living in a very rural part of El Salvador as a Peace Corps volunteer and I had not seen a woman in shorts in a very long time. Running the rocky roads was only an option if you did not mind a stray dog’s fangs in your heels or a mouth full of dust.
It was then that I searched beneath my hammock for my Rodney Yee book and learned that “you can’t do yoga.”
This was a relief, since I still could not touch my toes.
You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state. -- Sharon Gannon
This may confuse you. However, think about how we're born as babies. We’re a little like a big blob of pudding, rolling all around, all bendy and playful. After time, we become so rigid (I’ll avoid the metaphor).
Most of us will probably never be as bendy as we were as babies and that's OK. I can assure you that you will not see me doing the splits for a very long time.
The idea is that you are who you are. Accepting yourself is foremost. If you do have the inclination to grow some part of you, yoga exercises will help you get there.
I never thought I could do yoga because I was not very flexible. I am still not very flexible and I have been doing yoga for three years. The difference is that now I have accepted myself and understand myself a bit more.
If you want to do yoga exercises, start with acceptance and trust.
Then, if you feel like I did, you may like these exercises:
Get upside down. While in your hot, steamy shower, touch your toes for 30-60 seconds each morning. Watch how you can reach further after just a week or so (and the inversion is good for you too).
Do things a baby would do. Lie on your back and try to play with your toes. Sit on your heels and put your forehead to the ground. Not only will you release some good, healthy emotions (and laughs) but most things babies do are also great yoga stretches.
Go bare. Walking barefoot helps ground us and realizing our connectedness in the world makes us more conscious individuals. After all, yoga is not just exercises, but also a life style.
Want to do yoga, but don’t know where to start? Scared of the studios? Afraid you won’t roll your mat out the right way?
Hey, no worries! Because no one can do yoga. We are all already in our natural states!
Yoga is you and knowing this you realize that each of us has our own place in whichever space (the shower, studio, or living room) we decide to exercise.
There is no way to compare me to you.
I’m still not so great at touching my toes so I just learned to flip over.