In yoga we learn that we need to breathe through discomfort to see progress. We learn that our goals and plans for ourselves are not met the first time we step onto our mat.
But we also learn to be okay with that. In that acceptance, we are taught flexibility of the mind. We are taught that flexibility is patience. It is breathing in and letting the exhalation push us just a touch closer to what we envisioned and hoped for and to wait until our bodies are ready to take us the rest of the way.
Try breathing through these 3 flexibility promoting asanas to practice your patience in acceptance, your ability to be flexible.
1. Forward Fold Standing in mountain pose, take a deep inhale and let your arms reach up above your head. On the exhale, hinge at the hips, adding a slight bend to your knees and forward fold. Depending on your current level of flexibility, your hands might rest on your shins with your knees bent, your shins with your knees straight, or the mat with your knees straight. Wherever you are, notice any tension you might be feeling in the back of your thighs. Breathe. This is a simple pose, but often one that brings up emotions for us if we cannot touch our toes, touch the mat, or straighten our legs completely. Be patient here.
2. Triangle Pose Returning to mountain pose, step your right leg back on your mat in a 90 degree angle, coming into a warrior 2 position. Then, straighten your bent front leg and reach your left arm down your left leg, resting it against your shin or on the mat if that is accessible for you. Your right arm reaches above your head, forming a straight line with your left arm. The goal here is to keep your back straight and your chest forward. If you notice you are starting to fall into your chest, it is probably because your ego has forced your hand further down your leg than the pose warrants for your level of flexibility. Again, breathe here and notice your posture, notice your hand placement, and notice any emotions that bubble up if you cannot go as far into the pose as you would like. Then, switch sides.
3. Wide-Angled Seated Forward Bend Returning again to your mountain pose, gently come to a seated position on your mat. Extend your legs out to either side of you, coming into a split. Again, notice how far apart your legs can stretch in this pose, be patient with your body and learn how to judge the difference between discomfort and pain in yoga, especially in poses that push our flexibility limits. You can push yourself to discomfort, but pull back if you begin to feel pain. Once your legs are at a distance that supports this idea, start to hinge forward at the hips by walking your hands out in front of you. Try to round your back, but keep it straight so that the inner thighs are really put to work. This pose will likely start to bring up emotions as well. You might begin clenching your jaw as you push forward or stopping your deep breathing. Notice these things and correct them, returning to a peaceful place in an uncomfortable pose. Breathe here for as long as you would like.
As we work on these poses, we have the ability to take this lesson of flexibility off of our mats and remember that when loved ones, friends, our jobs, or life in its many forms are not going as we planned, are not following the expectations we set, we must be flexible. We must come back to our breath and remember that flexibility is patience. Just as we cannot rush our bodies in an effort to get our hands to touch our toes, we cannot hold stringent to the expectations we have for others or for ourselves.
Let the mantra for flexibility poses such as this one be 'flexibility is patience' and use the inhalations and exhalations to reflect on how you can become a more flexible person off of your mat.