The statement I hear most often following one’s discovery of what I do: “….but I’m not flexible.” Usually its preceded by, “I’ve heard how good yoga is for you…” Or, “My doctor has recommended I start doing yoga…” Or, “My back really hurts…” Or any other perfectly good reason to start. And yet, it is almost always followed by an excuse that has prevented them from starting. (The difference between reasons and excuses can be a whole post in itself–I’ll save that for another time)
When you started learning to read, did not knowing how to read keep you from reading? When you started learning to ride a bike, did not yet knowing how to do it keep you from riding? When you started learning to drive, did your not knowing how yet keep you from driving? If you are a runner or play a sport, did you jump off the couch one day and run a marathon? Or play starting position on the varsity team as a 5 year old? I think you get the point. You always begin not knowing, without the skill, without the ability. The starting comes first, then the learning, then the mastery. Starting always comes first. Yet starting is the hardest part. I love thinking about things. Imagining them, planning, dreaming, but that first act of doing that puts the ball in motion I find most difficult. (Ending something is nearly as hard, but again, another post, another day)
The second most popular thing I hear when someone finds out what I do, “My knee/back/hip/shoulder/fillintheblankwithabodypart hurts. Is there a yoga pose that will help me feel better?” The answer to this is yes and no. Our bodies are kinetic chains all strung together each affecting something else. When your right knee hurts, you’ll favor it and your left hip will have to strengthen (tighten) to make up for the pain in the knee. So while there may be a pose to target an area, the best way to make that part feel better is to strengthen what is weak and loosen what is tight. And the only way to do that is to shift the focus from a part to the whole.
So here’s where you start. Whether you aren’t flexible, or your back hurts, whatever your reason for not starting a yoga practice, start here.
This can’t be any simpler. Every day for 30 seconds or more touch your toes. Yep. Just that. Who cares if your knees are bent or if you can’t even get your hands to touch your knees? Just start. And notice. Pay attention to how the backs of your legs feel, how your low back feels. Pay attention to the progress you make each day (knees straighter, fingers lower). As you fold, push weight down into your feet, but carry no weight in the neck and shoulders. Do it every day. For a week, maybe two. Now you’re doing it. You’re *doing* yoga. You’re gaining flexibility, your back is hurting less. But beyond that you’re introducing new habits of attention, of practice, of discipline, of self care, of accepting imperfection. And the secret we yogis keep is that THAT is yoga.
“When we are able to notice what we are doing now, to experience our current state completely and without judgment, the old patterns will begin to fall away.” (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 37)