The Secret Life of Inflexibles
My teacher’s spine was obviously removed at birth, and it’s wheel time…. ugh… the most dreaded part.
I consider whether I should play the card of the super confident yogi who just knows her own practice so well and choose to take child’s pose instead (trying to make it look like it’s not because my wheel pose is more like a weird square pose, but because I am so awesome, I don’t want people around me to feel inferior). But no, my ego loses out and my inner yogi convinces me that the fact I hate the pose is the exact reason I should do it…
And so I do. My shoulders are screaming and my left psoas is trying to escape my body and run away… and then my contortionist yoga teacher walks up. “Breathe into the pose… You just need to let go of whatever emotions are holding you back and open your heart.” Open my heart??? My heart is fucking open, lady! I made out with a stranger at the bar last night—that’s how open my heart is. And he was hot, so I’m feeling extra open-hearted today!
This was pretty much the first few years of me as a yogi—hiding in the back row of shame, a prisoner of imagined (and, full disclosure, sometimes real) judgement and my own ego.
I spent years convinced I just wasn’t dedicated enough to my practice, maybe I swore too much or maybe I had just managed to piss off some Hindu deity in a previous lifetime and this is how she had chosen to get her revenge on me. It took me years to realize that there are 2 kinds of people: people who have varied degrees of natural inclination to flexibility and those who don’t. I have met plenty of yogis saying, “I’m not naturally flexible, I couldn’t touch my toes when I started. It took me like 6 months to get the splits.”
Six months??? How about 6 years??? No, sweetheart… you do have natural flexibility. Most teachers are naturally flexible, because they are people who start yoga and go, “Hey, I’m fucking awesome at this. I should teach.” The downside is that if these teachers have not been well-trained, they feed us mere mortals lines like, “You just need to relax,” or, “You just have a lot of built up emotions trapped in your hips.”
But us Inflexibles have to give ourselves a break. It is not that we are not putting enough effort in to our practice, that we are not opening our hearts, or that we are emotionally stunted. We have a different body type—that’s all. Flexibility adds no real value to your worth as a yogi. The good news is that yes, with consistent practice and dedication, we can improve our flexibility. It’s a long journey into patience, but the journey will probably make you a better yogi. Transformation, be it physical or mental, never happens within your comfort zone; so in reality, that piss-poor backbend will get you a little closer to enlightenment… or at least closer to letting go of shit you cant control anyway.
As annoyingly frustrating (and at times verging on embarrassing) as my inflexibility is, it has also made me the yoga teacher I am today. I understand where that person whose fingers hardly reach their knees, let alone their toes, comes from. I can truly resonate with their journey as it is something I have felt on my own body and battled with in my own mind. Instead of telling them they need to relax and open their hearts, I quietly say, “I know, it fucking sucks doesn’t it? Sucky is OK though, it’s part of the journey and if you keep at it, it will get better.”
What do you think? Is inflexibility an underrated gift or a frustrating burden for a yogi?