The key to unlocking flexibility is not just practice, it’s about understanding how to speak the language of the inner body. If you practice the wrong technique over and over, chances are that you will not get the desired result. Practicing a flawed method is like driving in the wrong direction. Hitting it faster and harder will only take you that much further away from the goal. Slowing down and checking the roadmap gives you time to recalibrate your course for the right target. In yoga it’s important to remember that the target is always about the inner state. The yoga of yoga is never the pose itself. The pose is the method of experience, but it’s not meant to be your final destination.
Every pose requires you to embark on a journey to the innermost regions of your body, mind and soul. There are subtle cues to encourage you along the right path and warning signs to discourage you from making a wrong turn. Yoga is more about learning the language that your body’s own navigation provides than it is about forcing your body into a shape. The first step in yoga is more about listening than it is about telling. You have to “meet” your body and bring your full awareness into the quite space of user the surface of the skin. Only then will be able to really hear the messages that your body sends you. There is a natural intelligence in the body and yoga has the ability to tune you into that ancient and powerful wisdom. I like to think of the body like a car that has been designed by a master engineer. Your body has its own GPS and it comes equipped with everything it needs to accomplish its mission. It has been perfectly formed, but it requires care and the right type of sustenance. Flexibility is evidence of a well-oiled and cared-for machine. At the same time, the body is so much more than just a car. The vehicle of the body is alive itself, so it’s more like a partner on the journey than a static piece of machinery. In order to truly find freedom in the practice you and your body have to walk together in unity as friends and learn to speak the same language.
So often we treat the body as an adversary and blame it for all our problems. We think our vehicle is flawed because of its size, shape or age. And truly, yoga poses can frustrating, sometimes painful and even lead to injury if performed wrong. The deeper work of the yoga practice is about finding a way to practice while avoiding all the damaging pitfalls of unnecessary pain and traumatic injury. But despite our best efforts it’s not always possible to travel the inner roads with absolute ease and flow. Sometimes you hit a traffic jam. Tightness and stiffness in the body feel like congestion. Everything is blocked and there’s no way forward. Sometimes you can find an alternate route, but most often you just have to sit there and be patient. Honking your horn is a fruitless endeavor only certain to annoy everyone around you, just like getting mad at your body for it’s lack of flexibility is a dead-end. Ramming your car into the car ahead of you is criminal and injurious, just like jamming your body into a pose that your body isn’t ready for is also a kind of assault that leads to pain and suffering. So, what can do you? Sit there. Observe. Practice patience, kindness and tolerance. Focus on the breath. Remain equanimous. Breathe. Surrender. Have faith. When the traffic jam is over it will be over. When body is ready to open it will. Sometimes there are good reasons for traffic just like sometimes there are good reasons that the body isn’t full released. All you can really do is make friends with your body and accept where you are on the journey today.
By Kino MacGregor