“Wow, you do Yoga, you must be sooo flexible!’ (mental images percolating somewhere of twisted pasta / pretzel shapes, beautiful body origami.) Well, it’s more like tangled paperclips – but yes, flexibility is important. It’s something I never really paid attention to, as touching our toes in PT class was more a punishment than anything else – and that wasn’t a good way to nurture any kind of love for bendy-type sports. Instead I opted for the forms of exercise that involved hitting balls with sticks or racquets or bats.
Fast forward (just a few years), and I realise that flexibility is really another gift that has come to me through my yoga journey, and is as essential as general fitness – if not more. Being flexible in a situation, be it an asana or a confrontation – (or in an economy class airline seat), can prevent injury, stress and so much more. Yoga has taught me that physical flexibility is nothing without mental flexibility and I’ve learnt a lot when it comes to dealing with tricky asanas, or tricky balance, or tricky strength (I’ve said in a previous blog that no 2 practices are ever the same) and these have all been carried into my daily life. I’ve made a few examples of the way of thinking I’m talking about – using some Yoga asanas to illustrate it, and I hope it will help you to be more flexible going forward – especially in your thinking and self-criticism (throw that out!)…
Aeroplane pose: Technically one of the least folded-up poses, but still tricky in terms of balance. If you find yourself trembling during aeroplane, it’s simply just some turbulence. If you fall, it’s just an air-pocket. Either way, the mat next to you may be having a smoother flight, but don’t be perturbed, their in-flight movie may be a bit more boring than yours today.
Crow pose: My ultimate favourite… Have you ever fallen? Then consider yourself a master. Not only did you surrender and not resist to save face (hopefully you didn’t hurt yours) – but you perfectly copied the crow in real life. Don’t they swoop down to grab things anyway?
Losing your direction in class: It’s OK, in Yoga there are only two directions: Left or other left. Being flexible means going with whatever ‘left’ you’ve chosen and smiling at the people you are now facing. No need to jump around in mock terror (or subtly pretend you lost a contact lens) to face the direction the rest of the class is facing. Just smile and go with it.
Warrior pose: As in ‘worrier’ sometimes… Yes, often this is a moment when I come out of my happy Yoga oblivion and see myself in the mirror, all sweaty, hair mincing in a style that would make a Jackson afro jealous, and sometimes with the odd bit of a wardrobe malfunction as clothing tries to creep or bunch into various non-flattering places. This starts me thinking about things like ‘did I lock the office’, ‘I really feel like a burger’, ‘that other lady looks so non-sweaty like she just walked into class.’ ‘Did she really just walk into the middle of this class, she must have?’ ‘OMG is my top on back-to-front’, etc. This is all OK. Let you thoughts bubble over and drip onto the mat and then centre yourself again. It’s part of the process, be flexible to it.
So, I think the point I’m trying to get across here is we’re all human. We’re not all physically very flexible – but mentally we are, and can be. Keep things fun, and lighthearted and never take yourself too seriously.
So whether your pigeon pose looks great – or like a dead pigeon, remember, in any situation – mental attitude, mental dexterity and a good, flexible attitude is just as important as cardio fitness and muscle endurance. Be sure to exercise yours on the mat – and smile!