I Am Not Naturally Flexible: Confessions From A Yoga Teacher
I am not naturally flexible. Sometimes I feel like a complete sham, being a yoga teacher and not able to express full hanumanasana (the splits) …
Over time and with a lot of forgiveness, I have allowed this to become a strength rather than a hindrance. Due to an inability to demonstrate some poses in their fullest, I have been forced to improve my understanding of anatomy, my communication skills and my explanations of postures. Comprehensible and down-to-earth analogies are needed in order to safely guide students in an out of complicated asana.
I have let go of a tremendous amount of ego watching my students advance and surpass me in their bendtacular physical abilities. Rather than envy or jealousy, I am filled with enormous amounts of pride. It's a truly humbling experience that I am honored to share with them.
When my stiff body does manage a touch of suppleness, it becomes a fantastic victory. Last year, while teaching Gomukasana (cow face yoga pose), I was demonstrating how to position the arms when suddenly my fingertips grazed each other for the first time ever.
I almost stopped the class to shout, “Hey everybody! My fingernails just momentarily brushed each other!! Wooo hoo!! Did anyone see that!?!?”
Which would have been both inappropriate and ridiculous in a room full of clasped hands behind backs.
But there’s something more here: When tickling fingertips together draws such awareness and excitement, suddenly little things in life offer us so much encouragement. This small victory made me feel like I could accomplish anything!
The intense sensation of joy and triumph in that moment gave me so much empowerment. Once I had let go of the goal-oriented nature of my practice and the negativity I had let myself experience for being inflexible, my practice flourished.
It is now almost a year later. Today my yoga practice is about joy. It is about love. It is so much less about the asana. When I step on my mat, I close my eyes and I move my soul with breath and posture. I let my heart pour out on the rubber floor. Whatever I am feeling I just let it be.
I have become so much more compassionate and forgiving of myself on the mat that it has permeated other areas of my life too-less judgment, more being okay with others as they are. By allowing expression and removing rigidity from my personal yoga practice, my body has opened up as well.
Today, not only can I do the splits, but lotus, arm balances, fallen angel, full dancer, have all become part of my regular practice. Oh, and Gomukasana too! I can totally grab my hands and even reverse prayer these days! I never in my life thought I would be able to express these asana!
Step on your mat. Close your eyes. Take some deep breaths. Ask yourself, “What is possible?” You might be surprised with the results, I know I was!