I am not very flexible. I admit it. Being a yoga teacher, this presents challenges for me. But not the challenges you would expect. Sure, there are poses that I cannot do because my body simply won’t, but the challenges I speak of are the ones inside my own head.
The voice that says, “You’re not good enough,” and “How can you teach yoga when you can’t even do X-Y-Z?”
My own inner critic nearly kept me from becoming a yoga instructor at all, believing that I wasn’t flexible enough or strong enough. But had I let my self-doubt keep me from pursuing this path, I would be missing out on what has become a truly fulfilling experience, something that I searched for, for many years, and that brings me immeasurable joy.
Letting Go Of Insecurities
For most of my life, if I wasn’t immediately good at something, I didn’t want to continue with it. I let insecurities rule and the “you’re not good enough” voice control me.
When I was a young girl, I loved to dance. I took ballet for several years until I tried out for a special program that rejected me, and I quit. I stopped doing something I loved, allowing that experience to tell me that I would never be a good dancer, and I shouldn’t even bother to continue.
I failed to recognize that whether or not I would ever be a prima ballerina, I could still dance simply for the love of dance.
Perfection is nothing. Passion is everything.
If you do something perfectly, but lack the passion behind it, what good is it to you or anyone else? There is freedom in acknowledging that there are things you will never do perfectly, and you should never let perfectionism keep you from doing something that you love.
I found that I loved yoga so much that I was unwilling to let my inner critic tell me that I couldn’t do it. Inflexibility be damned, I was going to be the best little yogini I could be! My passion for the practice outweighed my fear of doing something imperfectly.
It taught me to accept myself in all of my imperfection, and it taught me dedication and perseverance.
Even still, I have doubts creep in; worries that people watch me practice and think, “She is a yoga teacher?” I often joke that I am the most inflexible yoga teacher you will ever meet. The thing is, it doesn’t matter. I love teaching yoga, and helping students transform body, mind, and soul. It makes me happy, and that is what matters.
I like to think being less-than-Gumby makes me more relatable to students. Seeing that none of it comes naturally to me perhaps inspires their own practice and encourages them to keep working, growing, and improving.
The Challenge of Comparison and Perfectionism
Sure, I get discouraged when I see pictures of yogis doing awesome-looking, super bendy poses. It confronts my perfectionism and challenges me to stop comparing my practice, my body, and my capabilities with others’. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
If I constantly compare myself to others (in yoga and in life) I am robbing myself of the joy of doing what I love, and being who I am. Don’t strive to be what somebody else is; strive to be the most insanely awesome version of yourself, and be filled with joy while doing it.
If you love something, even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, keep working at it, keep trying, keep practicing.
Why We Call It Yoga ‘Practice’
Yoga is called a “practice” for a reason — not only is it a lifestyle that you practice, it is something that you have to practice to improve. There is no end goal. The journey is never-ending, but the path is incredibly rewarding.
It is really satisfying to look back and see how far I have come since I began, seeing my flexibility and strength increase, and taking pride in the fact that I stuck with it, that I continue sticking with it, and slowly but surely improve.
More important still is to witness the transformation that has taken place within my own mind and heart.
My physiological inflexibility has taught me to be more flexible with myself. It’s taught me to accept all that I am, and all that I am not. It continues to teach me not to judge myself so harshly, and to embrace where I am at, every moment of every day, always learning, always growing, always perfectly imperfect.
As Guru Pattabhi Jois famously said, "Practice and all is coming."