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.