On flexibility

05 February 2016

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a yoga workshop, where I learned two things: 1) I am likely too sarcastic to be truly successful at yoga, and 2) I am not as flexible as I used to be. The latter ended up being just the start of the list of things I discovered I no longer had like I used to, or at least thought I used to: strength, athleticism, endurance. It turns out when you let physical activity like that fall by the wayside for a period of time and then you enter your mid-thirties, this is what happens. Who knew.

The connection between my mind and body has always been weak, and I traditionally had enough luck of health and ability that I never had to think about the material state very much. As a result, I took it entirely for granted, and assumed I would always find it underneath when I reached for it. I assumed I would forever be able to climb that tree, turn that somersault, run that mile, twist myself in that shape, with little effort. But the reality of age has reminded me that there are costs for everything and, eventually, the balance is due. Which prompts practicing a new kind of flexibility: that of mindset.

I like new ideas, and I like growth, but I’m not sure if I can say I’m entirely comfortable with flexibility of thought. We’ve all heard the parable of the tree that bends with the wind rather than breaks, but I’m skeptical, as I am with most bits of spiritual truth (see also: too sarcastic for yoga). Life in general has been too unstable for me to be able to indulge in much flexibility, and I have a nature that tends to extremes, so I now possess a sometimes useful but mostly just frightening capacity for holding on tight. Sometimes bending with the wind is indisguishable from being pushed around; sometimes, if you’re not holding on tight enough, a strong enough wind can blow you away. So then the parable proves itself to be a paradox: in order to bend, you have to have deep, solid roots. And if you don’t start out with those, you have to grow them yourself, in a slow, deliberate and determined way. An inflexible way.

I move back and forth between these two ways daily, applying one where I’m weak in one area and vice versa. I apply discipline where I need to build strength. I encourage fluidity where I’m too judgmental. Notice all the changes lately in the newsletter schedule and how much I’m writing in it? I’m figuring out what works and what I need, and it doesn’t always match up with my plans or expectations, and it changes frequently, as I learn and understand.

As it stands, I’m still bad at yoga. But I’m getting better. Except for the sarcastic part, which I’m fairly certain is a lost cause. Some things simply won’t change. And I think that’s okay.

See all notes