In college, I took weightlifting and Pilates as elective credits alongside my biochemistry and physics curriculum. At the time, I was looking for some strength training to compliment my cardio heavy workout routine. It wasn’t until my first exercise physiology lab that I really noticed how little range of motion I had in my shoulders and how tight my hamstrings were from epic trail running and pounding miles of pavement daily.
It took a snowstorm dubbed “snowmageddon” in Colorado to push me indoors to try yoga.
Right out of the gates my ankles were tight in child’s pose and my toes cramped. I felt miserable and we weren’t even 5 minutes into class. My knees had a deep bend in them for every downward facing dog to relieve the pressure off my hamstrings and I could feel my shoulders getting fatigued with each second.
Everything hurt. For real – nothing felt good or “easy” to me. The teacher just kept repeating “Deep breaths, all together, let it gooooo.”
I found my mind wandering outside of the room, wishing I was running 100 frozen miles in “snowmageddon” instead being here sweating puddles in my cotton tee.
Ragdoll (a wider-legged forward fold) didn’t do anything for my hamstrings, I could only feel tightness in my low back and tension in my neck building. I remember looking at people in the row behind me, gently swaying side to side like a grandfather clock with their chest almost touching their thighs... will I ever be able to do that?
Toward the end of class, in a seated forward fold – I remember thinking “I couldn’t even touch my toes for sit and reach in PE. How on earth am I going to do that now over a decade later?” I was in my early twenties and having a huge wakeup call that I probably should’ve started stretching sooner... There was a lot of self-doubt about my ability to progress in yoga and to be honest, it was mainly mental chatter. I knew things would only get better with more practice.
Maybe I was frustrated that other people in the room were farther along on their yoga journey? Isn’t that an interesting thought to unpack, even off the yoga mat (I digress...)?
After going on to manage a few yoga studios, lead multiple yoga teacher trainings, and even teach full time for a couple years – I’ve heard it all, but “I’m not flexible enough” makes me cringe every time. The truth is that flexibility is just a by-product of the yoga practice. Yoga is about listening to your body and meeting yourself where you are at (because that changes daily). It’s about knowing when to push yourself a little more or sometimes it’s more impactful to pull back.Yoga will never be about touching your toes and letting your ego “show off”. It’s about being present, in the “hard stuff”. The stuff that makes you uncomfortable or doubt yourself -- that’s where you take notes. That’s where you do the work.
So, are you ready to try? If not now, when?