I have a confession, and it’s pretty big. It’s actually pretty embarrassing, and something no yogi in her right mind should admit to in polite company. Okay, here it goes.
I am not flexible.
Okay, maybe it’s not all that bad. I can touch my toes or the ground during forward bends, my shoulder are on the whole pretty flexible, and I don’t have a whole lot of range of motion problems. But as far as yogic standards go, I’m not all that bendy. I’m nowhere near achieving Hanumanasana, Baddha Konasana is a struggle, and even after nearly 15 years of practice, I still can’t get into full Lotus, although my feet no longer ache when I can manage Half Lotus.
I think most of my inflexibility comes from the fact that on top of practicing yoga, I am a lifelong endurance athlete. After thousands of miles of repetitive motion, it’s no wonder that my hip flexors, IT bands and feet aren’t interested in trying anything new or different. It’s like asking someone who has played the banjo his entire life to suddenly pick up the pipe organ. Sure, they’re both instruments, but they’re on fairly opposite ends of the musical spectrum.
As an inflexible yogi who also happens to teach a couple of yoga classes per week, I do not have the luxury of hiding my shortcomings in the back of the studio. Nope, they are out there on full display, and honestly, as much as I’d like to be just a bit more bendy, my inflexibility has actually become a boon to my practice and my teaching. Since I fully understand flexibility difficulties, I don’t expect miracles from my students. I am able to offer them tried and true modifications, and I can describe exactly where they might be feeling tightness. I can also show them how to feel a sense of accomplishment and success in their practice despite their weaknesses, as I learned early on that while my flexibility is sub par, I can make up for it with my strength, balance, and coordination.
Finally, being inflexible has done wonders for my ego, which has a tendency of raging out of control from time to time. Every time I feel a hint of embarrassment because my students are bendier than I am, I take the opportunity to remember that yoga is not a competition, and that I can honor the progress of my own practice, even if that progress doesn’t extend much further than beyond my own toes.