Flexibility and Yoga / by Anita Cheung

"I'm not good at yoga.- I'm not very flexible."

I've heard those two phrases above more times than I can count and my response is always- "Nonsense, you can't be "bad" at yoga."

To which I'm often met with laughter, and sometimes an insistent, "No, seriously. I'm REALLY not flexible." 

Why do I think no one can be "bad" at yoga? Because of three reasons. 

1.) Yoga is not just about the physical poses. While most of what we see today as "yoga" are the yoga asanas (postures/ poses); yoga is a lifestyle. It is taking the lessons we learn about commitment, compassion and self awareness and applying it into our everyday situations and circumstances.

2.) Since Yoga is a lifestyle, there is no way to "master" it. It's called a practice for a reason. It's not something to check off your to-do list. Yup. Tick. I've become perfectly yogic. In fact, it is  a constant check-in. With each moment in our lives, we are presented with the opportunity to choose our own reality. We can choose to get angry, or we can choose to let it slide. We can choose to be upset that we're angry, or we can choose to accept our anger for what it is at this moment. It's like those RL Stein Goosebump "Pick your own adventure" books except you can't cheat and go back a few pages to see what would have happened.  

3.) Now that we've cleared up the misunderstanding on what "yoga" means, let's take a look at the physicality of the asanas. We are often bombarded with photos of super bendy and super strong, super-humans. Their elegant beauty graces the cover of Yoga Journal, and shows up on our instagram feeds. While it's all great to look at, I like to compare this situation to that of dancing. 

Photographs of dancers are absolutely stunning. Videos of dance performances are incredible. However, watching these videos and looking at these photos does nothing to help us experience what it actually feels like to break down and bust a move. The joy we feel when we're dancing at a concert with friends can only be lived and experienced. Sure, when we see videos of our goofy selves, it doesn't compare to the videos of professionals but does that mean our moment was any less spectacular?  

So it is the same for yoga. Get out of the mindset that yoga is aesthetic. It isn't. It's therapeutic. It will be different for each person because of our anatomy and the stories our bodies tell. The same yoga class will be an entirely different experience for the runner, the weight lifter, the new mom, and the gymnast. If there is anything to take away from your next yoga class, or this post for that matter, it is to truly feel your body in the poses. Feel the stickiness of the mat beneath your feet. Feel the stretch across your chest. Feel the weight of your hands as they press into one another. At the end of the day, nobody but you felt how you felt in your poses- your experience was unique and simply, just, perfect. 



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