Flexibility is a State of Mind.
One day I wondered how having my legs behind my head has improved my life. So far no Indian guru called to congratulate and tell me everyone in the ashram is so proud that I can do it. What a bummer.
So, why do it? Does the pose make me kinder, more loving or appreciative? This was when I realized that no yoga pose is a physical pose. The essence of the pose is everything that cannot be seen from the outside. Like the TARDIS, an asana is bigger on the inside. It is not about having a flexible body; flexibility is a wonderful side-effect of a practice like yoga. Flexibility is a state of mind. A flexible mind is awake, truly alive and untouched by old thinking patterns. A flexible mind is free.
Flexibility is an amazing kind of strength. Looking at nature, we can see that being flexible makes a lot of sense. I was just outside on the terrace and admired the beauty of a field of wheat. It was moving with the wind like waves. I was fascinated by the effortless balance between too much and not enough flexibility. If an ear of wheat was less flexible it would break. Would it be more flexible it would collapse.
When it comes to ourselves we usually think of flexibility in terms of touching our toes or similar. We don’t usually think of flexibility as an inner practice. Sadly, we created a flexibility competition, even in the yoga world. Practitioners worry about who can reach farther and bend deeper. We compare and compete and loose focus of the urturing aspects of flexibility. I seriously doubt that the original intention of yoga is creating flexible bodies. I believe that yoga invites us to see the true nature of flexibility.
But first, let’s look the importance of flexibility with some logic and everyday application:
Do you need to have a leg behind your head while brushing your teeth?
Is it necessary to touch your forehead to your knees when you put on your pants?
Would your kids volunteer to do the dishes when they see you in an impressive backbend?
Would you never ever have a bad hair day ever again, if your legs would be willing to bend into a Pretzel position?
Would your family and friends love you more if you were more flexible?
Have you ever been in a challenging situation thinking: „Damn, if I were able to do the splits now, this problem would be solved!“?
I don’t know what kind of challenges you have in your life, but I guess all your answers were the same: no. No, we don’t need too much flexibility to make it through the day, to have more love or fun or ease in our lives.
No doubt it does make sense to take care of our bodies to feel free and strong in every day life. We always want to be able to bend down to pick up our kids or tie our shoes. Being able to do that, we don’t need to be hyperflexible, right? Stretching is important to free our bodies from tension. Doing sweet, gentle stretches is highly effective, no acrobatics needed. But there is more to flexibility than freeing the body: freeing the mind.
Life is in a constant flow. Like life itself, our mind can be incredibly flexible and adaptable. However, when we hold on to an idea of how things are supposed to be, we create tension. The mind becomes rigid, seeing problems instead of opportunities. Plus, holding on to old patterns is quite an energy drain and we might run out of steam to pursue our dreams.
A flexible mind however, is an amazingly powerful helper.
Sometimes things don’t manifest the way we planned. We are facing a new or unfamiliar situation, maybe some change we didn’t expect. We can’t control everything. But we can adjust the sails. A flexible mind accepts changes and can see new opportunities to make the best of what is.
With a flexible mind we start to learn again and expand beyond the limits our own mind created in the past. By letting go of old patterns we can allow new things in. Independent from outer circumstances a flexible mind is very powerful and able to transform a difficulty into an opportunity. Flexibility helps to be more playful and we can live our dreams with our minds at ease, awake and curious. With a flexible mind we are free from the past and can be all we want to be any moment.
We can practice inner flexibility any time we want. There are plenty of opportunities. Let’s take a simple example. Say, you planned to go for a run in the forest, but it’s pouring with rain. The rain is something you didn’t expect and it is your chance to practice flexibility. But remember we don’t want to loose focus on our purpose. First, remind yourself: What is my purpose? Why did I plan to go running? Second, decide on how to be flexible while still sticking to your purpose.
Let’s choose two completely different intentions and the assumption that you don’t want to go out in the rain:
Your intention is to have some me-time. Fine, you could change the activity and have a nice bath instead. You still spend some quality time with yourself, only in a different way.
You want to go running because you are training for a marathon. Ok, hop on the treadmill. You’ll still stick to your training schedule.
Yes, I know this is a very simple example. Almost too basic…but this is exactly my point: If we want to train inner qualities, we want to practice this quality in situations that are not highly emotional. Why? Because it is easier to strengthen an inner muscle when the challenge isn’t overwhelming. Practice and play in the small everyday-thingies to program your mind to be flexible and find out what the sweet spot between too much and not enough flexibility feels like. If you face a bigger challenge it is good to know that you trained for it and are ready for it. But no need to prove anything or look for big challenges. Just keep playing and get to know yourself better.
I hope you’ll enjoy feeling your mind stretching way beyond what you thought possible. Like the graceful dance of the ears of wheat in the wind, our mind can dance as well.