When I hear the word “flexible,” I usually think of stretching.
Specifically, I think of stretching the body, such as through warming up before I work out, or attempting a new and intriguing (impossible) pose in my yoga course.
The other day, our yoga teacher, Adriene, started talking about flexibility. It took me a second to realize she wasn’t actually talking about the body at all.
She was talking about the mind. Specifically, she was mentioning how we can’t expect our bodies to become more flexible if our mind refuses to join in.
A body might be perfectly capable of evolving in a pose, but not if the mind insists it isn’t possible.
For example, let’s say Adriene is trying to teach me to do “triangle” pose. Or “one-legged pigeon pose.” Or “mountain” pose. Or any pose, really.
And I am wobbling about like crazy, flailing for something to grab onto, stiffening every relevant muscle in an attempt not to fall over in the privacy of my own home yet again.
Meanwhile, my mind is keeping up one of its favorite commentaries about how clearly my body and I don’t share its safety-first priorities. It is telling me no way can I do that pose – now or ever.
So, session after session and lesson after lesson, I continue to flail and flop while my graceful teacher floats along in the video I’m watching.
But then what if, all of a sudden, my mind one day looks at Adriene delicately balancing on one knee or one leg or one foot or whatever is going on, and says to me, “You know, that doesn’t look so hard – we can totally do that!”
Suddenly, the flailing and flopping stops. Suddenly, for a moment at least, I, too, become floaty and graceful as my mind and body decide they are each willing to open up and give the new pose a good, solid try.
What I think Adriene is attempting to teach me (and the other zillions of at-home yogis-in-training who want to float rather than flop through each session) is that, with a flexible mind, a more flexible body also becomes possible.
I really like this, especially right now while I am coping with some chronic pain issues that have created newfound physical inflexibility. I like that I can be flexible in more ways than one – in body on some days but in mind on all days.
I like that “me, flexible” can be a reality even on the days when my body feels like a gridlocked pretzel and it seems there is nothing to be done about it but wait it out and try again tomorrow.
On these days, I can be flexible on the inside instead. The more I practice this – the more I look to more than just my aching body to provide me with the flexibility that keeps me feeling safe and sane, the more I see how outside flexibility eases up again as well.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever had to cope with any kind of inflexibility – say, chronic physical pain or ongoing mental fear or anxiety – that has felt really life-limiting? Have you experimented with trying to feel the flexibility you need and crave in a different aspect of your life instead?