When I started practicing yoga, one of my main objectives was to become more flexible. And now that I’m teaching yoga, I often have students tell me the reason they want to practice yoga is to increase their flexibility. I’ve also met a lot of people who say they could never go to a yoga class as they are “too inflexible”. Then there are the people who’ve practiced ballet or gymnastics during their childhood and are ultra flexible…but the thing is, yoga is NOT about flexibility.
In the West, when we say “Yoga” most of the time what we’re referring to is the Yoga Asana or the physical side of yoga/ yoga postures. But yoga is so much more than that.
Patanjali (who wrote The Yoga Sutras, an ancient yoga manual) never mentioned that Asanas (yoga postures) were to help with flexibility. He describes a Yoga Asana or posture as “steady and comfortable, firm and relaxed or effort and ease.” Essentially Yoga is about finding the balance between those seemingly opposite states. There can be no flexibility without stability.
When a yogini experiences the opposing feelings in that moment of practice, she learns that they are actually one in the same in so far as both experiences are transient, both will pass.
Asanas or Yoga Poses can be meditative or postures can be aimed towards building strength or balance and steadiness.
So, if like me you are not naturally flexible, don’t despair! See this as opportunity not a hindrance. It offers you the chance to let go of our ego when practicing. Don’t compare yourself to the former ballet dancer on the mat beside you. Just because someone maybe in a difficult pose, it does not mean their practise is more valid than yours. Instead, focus on your breath, calm and clear your mind. Respect your body and listen to its needs. Flexibility may come with time but it’s not the be all and end all!