I do believe the two go hand-in-hand. If the mind isn't willing, how can we expect the body to be willing? The principle extends even beyond just our physical limits, a flexible mind in being open to various perspectives can also be key to unlocking hidden potentials and possibilities.
Long before I became a yoga teacher, I took an 'advanced' yoga class and was quite irked...the teachers had us doing jumping jacks and holding 'basic' poses (i.e Warrior I/II - which you end up learning, as you advance in asana, is way more complicated than 'basic') for what felt like forever. In the 75 minute class that was supposed to be 'advanced' we had done 100 jumping jacks and 5 poses - no handstands, no backbends, no inversions, not even a vinyasa. I could tell I wasn't the only student feeling frustrated, annoyed, and thinking that I just wasted a good 75 minutes of my day. And, then right after he cued savasana (along with the annoyed, rustling noises of students trying to dip out ASAP), the teacher said something so profound, that tied into just what he was trying to teach us, and just why that class was such an "advanced" class. It's stuck with me since, he said:
"Tune into what you resist. It may just be what you need most."
*boom* my world shattered. In that one little phrase, my 75 minutes transformed from a perceived 'waste' into a 'pivotal' life lesson.
I wasn't always flexible. I never took gymnastics, I took one ballet class and when the teacher tried to stretch my hamstrings, I cried and screamed so hard, they advised my mom reassess if this is what I really wanted. In fact, I was the kid who failed PE in middle school (yup, the gym teacher called my parents for that 'discussion'), at age 17, I could not for the life of me touch my toes, and remembered thinking I'd NEVER EVER EVER GET INTO STRETCHING (hah! and forget about yoga!). So when people ask me is flexibility possible? Im of course biased to say "YES, I think so! but only if the mind is flexible." What do I mean?
For many years, I 'stretched' and got no where. Everytime there was discomfort, I thought to myself "ouch, this sucks, it hurts, IM SO INFLEXIBLE" I'd see flexible people doing what I thought were "crazy" things with their body and thought it impossible for myself - if that sounds familiar, keep reading.
I resisted my first yoga class. I resisted holding, I resisted the OM, I resisted thinking I needed their positive new-age phrases. But, I had a one week trial, and at the risk of wasting my money, I stuck with it. It wasn't until the third class or so (practicing yin yoga - a slow-paced style of yoga with asanas (postures) that are held for longer periods of time) that my mindset started to shift. With the guidance of my very first teacher, he encouraged letting go of our habitual mental patterns of "this is not for me, I can't, this hurts, I suck, Im not flexible, etc etc" and to simply concentrate on the sound, rhythm, visualization, and action of breath. Without even trying or thinking I was stretching, my body transformed.
Fast forward to today, this principle constantly applies and I constantly remind myself - what am I resistant towards and Why?
Figure out the Why and then make an informed decision.
The problem is, there's a tendency to simply default to decline whatever it is we resist without giving it too much thought. We simply 'know' we don't like something or think we don't have interest, or think we are right. Is the why out of fear? Is it out of ignorance (what we think but may not know)? Is it because it's hard?
Tune in. Ask the why's and you may just find yourself unlocking more than you'd ever imagine.
[ FYI: these days I'm starting to dip my toe in exploring deep hip openers, and I can recognize the same fear I once held with backbends - the story that rounding my spine doesn't feel good, and it's just not for me. I'll let you know how it goes! ]
Funny thing is, most of what I resisted, is what I do now.
In the beginning of my backbend journey, I was AFRAID. I have a history of cervical and lumbar spinal bulges and herniations since my teen years, and I held a story that if I did backbends, I would exacerbate the pain and make it worse. For many months, I refused to backbend or do a wheel pose. It wasn't until I let go of that story and discovered just how therapeutic proper backbend practices can be.
*Now don't get me wrong, awareness and ahimsa (non-harm) to self is important here too. Every practice was a fine art and balance of tuning into the intention of deepening a pose, knowing when to back off and find ease, and understanding when to advance to face fear.
I signed up for my first YTT with zero intention of teaching. I simply wanted to learn more, plus my dear friend was putting it together, and I wanted to support her. Half way through the training, everyone was encouraging me to teach, and I kept resisting. It wasn't until the day of graduation (where I had to teach in front of everyone), that I decided it was what I wanted to do and pursue.
No joke, during the 6 long years of anorexia, I resisted eating. I restricted my caloric intake down to 500, and had the biggest fear of seeing the scale increase by 0.01 lbs.
It was a long, arduous battle, but that first moment I took a step to stop caring, I realized just how much I love food (more on this in another post)
FALLING IN LOVE
My fiancé and I met in December of 2009. I was smitten, but I resisted 'love' - I told myself I wasn't capable or worthy of love. Even at year 5 of our relationship, as friends asked "are you guys going to get married" I replied "I don't know, probably not, we're just having fun". It wasn't until 2015 that I let go of my resistance and fear of being hurt, and let myself fall FULLY HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE with this man. And I'll have to say, this feeling of loving and being loved fully? It's something I wouldn't trade for anything.
SOCIAL MEDIA/PHOTOGRAPHY/WRITING THIS BLOG!
I hated being photographed as a kid, I would get angry and run away from photos or offer to take them so that I wouldn't be in them. I never thought I'd enjoy sharing my life on social media and cultivating a community with all of you. And I even said just a few months ago "Oh I could never write blogs, I hate writing"...funny how things change isn't it? Step by step, something drew me to be here, where I am today, and I love every moment of it
There are so many more examples.
But at the risk of making you read a novel, I'll end this post with this sentiment:
Flexibility starts in the mind. It starts with the flexibility of believing in possibility, in detaching from our own narratives - let go of the stories. Tune into what you resist, and ask why. Can you let go of the stories, can you let go of the fears, and can you step into the space of what you perceive to dislike? Its often the key for unlocking our hidden potentials.
Namaste, with all the love and light,