I don’t know if I read it in one of her emails, or if it was in a video, but I remember Tara Stiles once talking about the parallel between your life on the may (as in the yoga mat) and your life in general. How when she first took up yoga she strived to master all of the most flexible and pretzel-like poses and in doing so eventually realized it was making her not only super flexible on the mat but in her life as well. She was taking on too many projects, bending in too many directions for too many people and at the heart of it all, was becoming flexible more than she wanted and putting herself at risk . Then as she began to focus a bit more on building strength within her practise, she noticed that she was becoming stronger in life too. That she was finding it easier to say no to projects or opportunities that didn’t serve her well, and was becoming more centred. As I’m recalling this from memory, I’m sure I’ve butchered the details of the story, but I think the general idea of it comes across the same, and I think it’s true not only for your yoga practise, but in any type of sport/activity.
Over the past few years I’ve dealt with a lot of changes, many that were out of my control, some that certainly were. As a result I’ve had to pull back a bit on my flexibility in life, but at the same time try to maintain what flexibility I have on the mat. I’ve never been uber flexible. I some instances I appear more flexible than I am thanks to a pair of very long and slim arms that can easily slip here and there. 😉
That’s me in the top photo in the purple tank/black leggings in a bound side angle during training. I think I was the only person who could do it without a strap (besides our instructor). But just look at those arms!
And it’s interesting now to look back and realize that along the same time I decided I needed to be a bit stronger in life, learning to say no more often and turning down things that didn’t feel right I started adding more strength training back into my life. For so long I was teaching all cardio all the time (what a disaster that why for my body. Oye) and lost so much muscle that I was getting injured all of the time. When I cut back first on how much cardio I was teaching and started saying “no” more often, I also started focusing more on muscle-building not even realizing the connection.
Here I am about 18 months later from that initial shift, and without realizing it again I now see that for probably the past 6 months anyway my focus has moved again from trying to build strength and being strong, to striving for a balance of strength and flexibility – both on the mat (and in classes) and in life. About 6 months ago I started saying “yes” a bit more often, (but on my own terms), re-assessing things in my life that weren’t working and making changes to them, and by cutting out my own strength workouts in favour of teaching and doing a bit more yoga.
Have I seen staggering changes in my life as a result? No. I have reduced my stress levels by implementing some changes that have taken the past 6 months to complete and I feel like I’m closer to striking a balance than I have been in years.
So what’s the point of all this rambling? Do I even have a point? I’d like to think I do…
Sometimes looking at our lives and trying to be objective can be hard. What can be easier is looking at what we like to do physically. If you are all about getting flexible and limber that’s awesome – but in order to protect your body you need to maintain a certain level of strength or you’ll break. The same goes for life. Being flexible is wonderful, but if you are willing to flex so far that you let someone break you, you’ve got a problem. If strength is your game but you can’t touch your toes because your hamstrings and hip flexors are so tight, it’s only a mater of time before you get injured. And if you are all no-nonsense in life and refuse to budge even a little you’re going to eventually find yourself stuck in one spot with nobody left around you to help you move.
Strive for a balance. Become flexible but strong. You might not get a job as the circus strong man or contortionist, but you might just find yourself living a happier (and injury free) life!