Yoga teaches us to be flexible. It works deeply into the muscles, stretching and elongating, releasing tensions and introducing new ways of opening and moving the body. Making space where there was none, shining light in the dark.
The point of this is not simply so that we can learn to touch our toes or sit in the lotus position, but so that we can be flexible in our mind. In our approach to life. My teacher always told me that ‘The way that we show up on the mat is how we show up off the mat’ – that fear that holds you back from trying those balancing poses is the same fear that holds you back in your career or personal life. That drive that sees you pushing yourself in every pose is the same drive that pushes you to over-commit, over-schedule and over-achieve off the mat. That resistance that holds you back from fully nailing a pose, from pushing through the procrastination to get on the mat or to try something new is the same resistance that keeps you stuck in your life choices. Fear is fear, Drive is drive and Resistance is resistance wherever it shows up and play out in your life.
“Everything is everything”
– Lauren Hill.
Therefore if everything comes back to the same starting point then what we do on the mat impacts how we feel off the mat. That’s the reason it feels so good and keeps you coming back for more. Opening up the body into shapes that we wouldn’t usually feels so luxurious after days or weeks stuck in our habitual movement patterns. Moving the spine, working the large muscle groups in the legs, torso, arms wakes up the small muscle groups around the face, within the hips, shoulders, and feet. It opens up possibilities that we had been unaware of in our planes of movement and allows energy to flow in a new way. Sparking the same flow of energy in our perspective.
Maybe it’s sitting in stillness that is hard for you, chair pose or inversions, whatever it is we will all have something that we resist, dread even (hello pigeon pose) that once we’ve done it we feel a flood of relief, achievement and sometimes euphoria. For me it’s headstands. I still need assistance, I don’t practice enough alone and spend so much time talking myself out of it, but when I do get there it feels amazing to have pushed myself and turned my world upside down. Doing this one (or many) small things on the mat lead to approaching things differently off the mat. The mental stillness or clarity after a class significantly impacts how I manage my time and my focus of attention, the physical strength I feel after a fiery flow leads me to feel emotionally stronger and the satisfaction gained from momentarily getting into a pose I previously thought was unavailable is so freeing it opens me up to think – ‘what else can I do?’.
Today needs some flexibility. It is three years since I lost my Dad. It is a day that needs space, memories need remembering, emotions need feeling. It is a day to be marked. My usual routine of a yoga class and supermarket shop is off limits and instead a puncture has appeared in my car tyre. This has meant a 2 mile walk home from the garage and a flexible approach to lunch with my Mum. This might have been a source of stress in the past, letting someone down, not getting the time I need to stay ahead, not having the house running as usual.
Instead today I accepted the day that I had been handed, different to the day I thought I wanted and took a deep breath. I set off on the walk home, with no headphones or company for distraction and found the space I craved. The cold biting and refreshing and by the end the blood pumping and endorphins singing. My trainers are a little less pristine and my mum has had to wait longer than I would like but everything is as it is. Why make it harder for myself by piling on the emotions and suffering to an already potentially painful day? So, channeling all I’ve learnt from yoga I plan to approach today (and hopefully the rest of the week) with flexibility.