There’s a famous quote that says ‘yoga is not about touching your toes, but what you learn on the way down’. I couldn’t agree more. Touching your toes is just an arbitrary measure of flexibility, and being flexible is not what yoga is about (although you might become more flexible with time).
You might never be able to touch your toes and that’s absolutely fine. Yoga will teach you about where you are in your body, how to respect your limits and with practice will help you to – safely – challenge yourself so that you can move your limits a tiny bit further (if this is what you wish). I believe that there’s a special magic about yoga—it meets you wherever you are and provides exactly what you need in that moment.
Here are some of the reasons why you shouldn’t measure progress in your yoga practice by the increased flexibility in your body.
- Yoga is about self-acceptance, not competition
Yoga is not a competitive sport – it is a personal journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Everybody is unique and we all have different physical limitations. Some individuals may have longer limbs or be naturally stretchy, while others may struggle with tightness or limited range of motion. The true essence of yoga lies in honouring your own body and its limitations without comparing yourself to others.
- Yoga is a holistic practice
Yoga is not just about stretching and physical postures. It encompasses a wide range of practices, including breathwork, meditation and ethical principles. The physical asanas are just one aspect of the eight-fold path of yoga (check my series on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali if you want to delve deeper into this). Focusing solely on achieving particular poses neglects the other elements that contribute to the overall wellbeing and transformation that yoga offers.
- Yoga is about finding comfort in discomfort
Yoga teaches us to embrace discomfort and find peace within it. Rather than fixating on reaching a specific pose, the practice encourages us to observe our sensations, thoughts, and emotions without judgement. It’s in the moments of challenge and resistance that we grow and learn the most. So, if you are not particularly flexible, instead of feeling frustrated or defeated, use it as an opportunity to explore and understand your body better. Focus on the process, the journey, and the lessons along the way, rather than solely on the end result.
- Yoga is adaptable and inclusive
Yoga is a practice that can be modified and adapted to suit individual needs and abilities. Skilled yoga teachers understand the importance of offering variations and props to support practitioners at different stages of their yoga journey. If you can’t touch your toes, there are numerous modifications and props available to help you find comfort and alignment in your practice. It’s essential to remember that yoga is for everybody, regardless of age, size, or flexibility level.
- Yoga is about inner transformation
Ultimately, the practice of yoga is about self-realisation and inner transformation. It’s about developing a deeper connection within ourselves and in the world around us. The ability to bend and stretch effortlessly might be a desirable physical outcome for some, but it pales in comparison to the profound internal shifts that yoga can facilitate. Through yoga, we learn to let go of attachments and expectations, cultivating a sense of gratitude, contentment, and self-love that extends far beyond our physical capabilities.
So, the next time you struggle to reach the perfect pose, try to praise yourself for where you are with your practice instead, embrace the beauty of your unique yoga journey and welcome the potential of transformation and growth that this practice can offer you.