The dual definition of flexibility is that it is both the ability to bend easily and also the ability to change or modify. Meet flexibility’s cousin: resistance. Whether the change is in our mind or in our body, understanding the layers of resistance can give us a glimpse as to how we can give space to meaningful shifts in our lives.
On an intellectual level, changing our minds or adapting may mean that we are not necessarily opposed to a change – we just need to understand the “why, what and hows” of the change. This can range from communicating a change to a driving route or why a back bend (or any other pose) is a way to foster mobility in the spine. From a physical perspective, preparing for a back bend requires engaging the abdominal and the muscles of your inner thighs to stabilize and protect the low back. Understanding the mechanics of the movement help will perform safe back bends … And increase flexibility in the spine.
On a personal level, fear of not being heard in the midst of change, or loss of status can creep up. If we are resisting change at this level, it is most likely due to the belief that change is disruptive and overwhelming. Think of the last time a change was “directed” to you in the workplace, where no consideration was given to involving you in matters that concerned you. Imagine if you had been involved in the decision-making. It likely would have been a more favourable result for all. When it comes to yoga, there must be a general level of trust with you and your teacher. Offering modifications so that you can decide what is best for your own body is instrumental. It’s a relationship – one where your teacher learns to listen to your needs and adapts a practice to make you feel good about the time you’ve invested on the mat. Your yoga teacher shares important knowledge that builds that trust. Once you can trust your teacher with your body, then reaching to the depths of the heart becomes a lasting journey.
The deepest of all levels of resistance is at a cultural level, where a legacy of past change failure has led one to believe that the change is a “fad” and a “wait and see” approach is taken. This is the hardest type of resistance to reduce as it challenges our fundamental belief system. It requires a tremendous amount of trust building and multiple attempts to prove the change is actually in your best interest or that it is actually happening. If you have experienced living with a teenager, you no doubt have played a part in the game of seeing your child make bad choices and have had to negotiate trust again and again. With time (and patience), inevitably there is a shift in behaviour. It’s very much the same in yoga. When you’ve had a bad experience with it, or with a specific teacher along the way, the likelihood of stepping on a mat again is low. Yet. Yet, something inside of you tells you it’s a good thing. Meet this resistance with an openness to explore or to bend in your belief that all yoga is not for you. Persist! Don’t let up! Try different practices, different styles or different teachers until you find your match.
It does start in the mind. Once we peel the layers back and put in practice strategies to adapt and become flexible to possibilities, we unveil a rainbow of opportunities to grow and to fill ourselves with joy.