Yoga has a reputation for being able to make us more flexible.
This is half true.
Unlike a functional fitness routine, the postures in yoga do not mirror the normal daily life activities. We are stretched and strengthened beyond our usual ranges resulting in a sense of freedom and expansion. This feeling of freedom is compelling and becomes our guide towards new lifestyle choices that support our feelings of connection and vitality.
The beginning changes we are guided to make are usually pretty simple. Without much effort, our schedules rearrange and our diets adjust to support our practice. After a little more time with the practice, we develop a keener sensitivity to how everything makes us feel. This is a vulnerable period within the yoga love affair. We are likely to make big changes in our life in order to pursue and service our new sense of self. The irony is that we are actually becoming more narrow, and less flexible in our tolerances.
While we might create some wreckage, this period is important training in learning how to follow our internal feelings. My teacher, Erich Schiffmann used to say, "Self Trust is the advanced practice." If we stay in this initial phase of following what is only best for us, we will concretize into self obsessed jerks with a mastery of spiritual spin. Only when the internal feelings start to guide us towards actions that we would rather not do, actions that are not guaranteed to result in what is best for our small sense of self, actions that feel scary and require us to overcome deep tight spots, can we be certain that our yoga practice is on track. When we are willing to follow this deeper Guidance, we start to align with the Source of which we are deeply interwoven.
Strangely, it is still the feeling of freedom that we are servicing. It's just that instead of the freedom to tend to our small plans, we are hooking up to a Freedom that only exists when we are willing to "do the Right Thing". Krishnamurti put it, "The free man has no choice." And here is where the skill of flexibility really becomes required. It's no small task to sacrifice our attachments. Our hamstrings are a fraction as tight as our grip on our identity as a good person, our reputation, or our past traumas. Because this internal guidance will continually surprise us with Its demands, we must be nimble, open, and capable in body, mind, and heart.
Yoga makes us strong enough to trust and flexible enough to do exactly what is required of us.
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