I'm not super bendy. There I said it. Every time I discuss this fact openly I wonder, am I bringing too much attention to it? Will others judge me or think I am expecting sympathy? Am I lying to myself and just using it as an excuse? If I worked harder at my asana practice could I do a full lotus pose or an Instagram worthy dancer's pose? Here is a beautiful fact: my 17 years of practicing yoga has been a journey of accepting that I'm really just not that bendy. It has at times made me sad, angry, jealous and I've even hurt myself trying to strike yoga poses I had no business doing. As I grow a little older and (hopefully) a little wiser, my yoga practice has become one of self discovery rather than a goal to achieve. Maybe my body just was designed to take on certain shapes.
Growing up I took dance classes many times a week and at the beginning of these classes we do our warm ups. Picture me, 7 years old, seated on my bum with the soles of my feet together and my knees opening out to the side. In yoga the Sanskrit name for this pose is Baddha Konasana. Back then in my dancing days, we called it butterfly. Call it whatever you please, but when teacher told the class to hug onto both feet and try to bring our noses down towards the ground, it seemed (in my memory anyways) that every little girl or boy in class would *thunk* touch their noses to the ground. I on the other hand would bend about halfway down on a good day. I would pull and pull on my little leg muscles, silently praying that one day I would be as flexible as the others in my classes. This as you may guess, did not ever happen. I could never do the splits or many other ultra flexible poses. I just wasn't that bendy.
Fast forward over 25 years and I am now a yoga teacher. My practice is a daily habit and one that has taken me on a journey of knowledge and growth. Every day I move and breathe and stretch out my (sometimes) aching muscles. I salute the sun, I work on my balance, I meditate and I do my best to keep myself from staying still for too long. Then I go to bed, wake up and every muscle is tight as though yesterday's practice was a dream. I teach many classes where students are much, much more flexible than me. This is a chance for me to practice the Niyama of Santosha (Contentment). This is where my real yoga training really has to kick in. Comparison, jealousy and ego have no productive space in our yoga practice unless we acknowledge them and learn from them. In these moments of self-judgement I work on accepting my body and my practice just the way it is. And I am just not that bendy.
I have had multiple people of all ages tell me that they can't do yoga or don't do yoga because they are "not flexible enough". I like to think I am living breathing proof that those reasons do not need to hold you back from a yoga practice. When I teach and share yoga in a class setting, I am very careful not to encourage students that with time in their practice, one day their legs will straighten in a forward fold, or their heels will touch the ground in a downward facing dog. I have heard that so many times in many classes and I interpret that message as "if you keep practicing you will get bendier and perform the poses better". Maybe that won't happen, and maybe that's okay! I also don't think that should be the goal. Discovering your breath/mind/body in a deeply personal way that only YOU can- that's the stuff yogic dreams are made of. I found a lovely quote that sums it up perfectly for me... "yoga isn't about touching your toes, it's about what you learn on the way down" I might need to get a tattoo of that one day.
I am getting pretty excited lately. In less than a month I will be returning to one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited, India. Before a trip I get a wonderful feeling bubbling inside, the excitement of possibilities and opportunities to see things I have never seen before. I didn't even have a passport until I was 28 years old, but now travel is a non-negotiable in my life.
When I talk to people about my past or upcoming trips, one of two things happen. We either exchange favourite travel stories and destinations, or the person expresses wonderment and awe, inevitably saying a version of the following remarks- "wow, you are so lucky you get to travel so much!" or "I wish I could travel more, I've always wanted to go to ________" Here's the thing. You will never be any younger than you are at this exact precise moment. To me this means that whatever you want to do, now is the time to do it! What we make time for and decide to do, is what we make happen. Every single time. If world travel is on your life to-do list, but you think you don't have enough money, don't have the time, or are coming up with any other reason for not actually doing it - you can just as easily make the firm decision that yes, this is important to you and you will make it happen!
The title of this post is "Clutter or Travel?", so where does clutter fit into all of this? Six years ago, I started ridding my life of extra "stuff". It was also the same year I spent two months in Southeast Asia getting my mind absolutely blown and falling in love with international travel. This began a wonderful cyclical effect in my life. I got rid of some no longer useful items, my apartment got a little cleaner and less cluttered, it made me want to spend less money on junk to fill my house, so I only spent on what I absolutely wanted to bring into my life. (basically, food and travel!)
I don't miss the mall one bit. I never shop when I am bored and I don't shop as a hobby or pastime. These were all things I did for my entire life, and a small shift in my way of thinking has lead to more adventures than my teenage self would have ever imagined I would go on. If money is a concern, take a look around your house or apartment. No really, take a good hard look. Is there anything in your life that you have just because you've always had it? Anything of value? Throw that sh*t on Kijiji or Craigslist and take every dollar of every sale your make and put it in a travel fund. It really can be that simple. All you have to decide is YES to not keeping excess around your home and YES to saving up some money, making the time and getting out there and seeing the world. Live by the mantra, less stuff, more travel!
It almost seems too simple when you stop and really think about it. Every decision you make will always be motivated from a place of love or fear. This can be an incredibly empowering realization. With only two choices you can really sift through all of the other layers on top and decide simply between love and fear.
Those moments when you are scared you aren't good enough, you aren't smart enough, you aren't (fill in the blank) enough? That's the ego ... that voice inside who wants to reside in fear. Fear stops you from taking chances, from following your heart, fear encourages you to stay in a safe zone, to keep the status quo. Fear convinces you that you can't have whatever you want. That you are not able to grow and do good for others and have good come to back to you. It happens so quietly and quickly within that you barely even notice it happening. I'd say it's a constant struggle to not mindlessly give in to that nasty ego, to not make decisions on the basis of fear. It seems to be the knee-jerk reaction that our society is hardwired to.
Love? Now love, that's where it's at. Think about it! Love yourself, love your life and love those around you. Love the possibilities that reside in the unknown, in the opportunities that exist when you believe good things can happen in the world and to yourself. Love overturns the ego's nagging whispers. Love fills our hearts and souls with a goodness, dare I say it, a greatness that will spread to anyone who is lucky enough to be around you. Love encourages you to be brave, to take chances and to believe in yourself.
The next time you are faced with a decision that scares you and the answer isn't coming easily to yourself, stop and notice your internal dialogue. Has fear naturally started to settle in? Is there a voice within you that is trying to convince you to act out of fear? Try sitting in silence (even a minute or two can help, I promise) and listen to what comes up. If you hear fear based musings, remember and know that you CAN overcome them if you re-frame your response to come from a place of love. This is a skill and a practice that doesn't completely change overnight. I have been practicing choosing love for years and I still catch myself getting stuck in fear. In these moments of mindfulness, these moments of realization, I feel grateful for even noticing when fear has found its way back in - because it's only through noticing these reactions that I can continue to work towards making love the default motivation.
Every once in a while you discover something so powerful, so life changing, yet so simple it blows your mind. This very thing happened to me in 2006. The discovery was the power of gratitude, and I have been on an epic journey guided by it ever since. Through an online movement called "Go Gratitude", I was exposed to the way of thinking that by giving thanks for what I already had, more of life's good stuff would make it's way to me. The effect was profound and almost instant. My relationships improved, I attracted an amazing job that filled me with joy, and for the first time in my life, even though I was attracting more and more good into my life, deep down I felt like I already had enough. This feeling of enough can guide you from a depleted, struggling and empty life to one of abundance, joy and all things sparkly! The ancient yogi's describe having enough in the Niyama of Santosha (aka contentment) The Buddha acknowledges that "life is suffering" - which I interpret as life if left unchecked can turn into a constant cycle of wanting more, more, more and never being satisfied with what you already have. My favourite bloggers and simple living enthusiasts The Minimalists offer the term "enoughism" to replace minimalism if that term seems a bit much for you. Even Tony Robbins expresses that the secret to becoming wealthy is to live from a place of gratitude!
You have enough and you are enough. For me, this is the basis of being simply grateful. Every day of your life, no matter the circumstances, you have a chance to pause and feel some gratitude. The sun shining through your kitchen window, a cuddle from your favourite pet, and when ALL else fails, the unbelievable miracle that you are breathing and alive, living a life that nobody else in the history of the universe will ever get to live.
So pull out your journal or start a blog, heck even write it on the back of a napkin - but make it a daily practice to give thanks for all the good you already have in your life, and be prepared for the unending supply of more good things to come.