Don’t do yoga if you can’t touch your toes

Do you yoga?

Every time when someone who doesn’t do yoga finds out I am a yoga instructor, the very first thing he usually says is, “I can’t touch my toes!”

Many yoga photos out there do give a general perception that one needs to be flexible (yes, just like me not touching my toes in the photo above). What many people don’t realize is that these flexi poses, or asanas to be exact, require a tremendous amount of strength which the photos don’t always capture or reflect well.

When I say strength, it is not just that one moment when you do the pose and have the Instagram photo taken. It is the strength required throughout the practice, to overcome the physical, mental and emotional challenges over the years, and I seriously mean years, to do that one pose gracefully and graciously.

“Do the pose, not the shape”, as I used to say to my students.

Our body changes daily. Even after years of practice, I may be able to do the pose today but it doesn’t mean I can do the same pose tomorrow. As much as we, yogis, salute the sun, no one knows what that day has in store ahead.

Yoga has been one amazing journey for me, both on and off the mat. Not only have I learned many funky and cool poses but also a lot about myself and my life.

With a yoga teacher with whom I resonate (@rossrayburnyoga) leading the class, practising yoga with a group of people right besides me gives me an instant lift no matter how down I may feel. Everyone is doing the exact same pose and everyone is going through her own physical, mental and emotional journey.

When someone gives his best to try to do a pose that is beyond his current ability, everyone watches in awe. There is no competition other than one that we self create. Everyone is there to inspire and be inspired. And it is mostly done without having any dialogue.

I have learned that the path in learning to do a challenging pose, or similarly anything in life, is all down to me. I need to know when to push myself and when to give myself some space; how to pick myself up when I screw up a pose or when I fall flat on my face and still have a laugh about it and; observe how others do their poses and how I can tweak mine.

The quiet strength I have gained by practicing yoga is beyond words. Unlike working out in a gym, I can’t pound it out on a treadmill or a rowing machine. I can’t shout or moan when frustrated.

The quiet space that the kulas (communities) have created in the studios makes and gives me the access and space to go within myself to find more courage, wisdom and strength to continue the learning, that is the pose as well as my journey in learning the pose.

This, in return, has made me dig deeper and deeper each time I face a challenge in life (more details here). It is not about where I can get help from. It is about how I can help myself and others.

It is the balance of being willing to be opened and vulnerable whilst being courageous and strong to do the pose and live my life.

Inspiration is everywhere when the room is full of perspiration. Each respiration we take is another moment and pathway to the next inspiration.

So can you touch your toes?

Namaste.

NOTE : Welcome your yoga experience in the comments so that we can all inspire and be inspired. If yoga isn’t for you, then share what you enjoy doing to inspire and be inspired.

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