Sunday, July 25, 2010

Flexible or vulnerable?

I want to keep exploring this idea of flexbility that I began in my last post. My conclusion there was, “just start.” Start moving, and eventually the flexibility will start to arise. But the question is how did we get unflexible? (Yes, I know that is not a word, but hopefully you get the idea.) It is (almost) cliche to say that children are flexible, and we lose that flexibility over time. But why? How? Does knowing the genesis of that loss give us some insight into how to fix it? I think it does.

Physically, what does it mean to not be flexible? We lose our physical flexibility when our muscles get too stiff, when they constrict and hold their shape. Certainly, one cause is repetitive motions that are “not good” for our bodies; my favorite culprit is the chair. Oh, the modern chair, in which we constrict our hips, crunch our low backs, round our shoulders, and when the computer is added, jut out our jaws. And many of us spend hours upon hours a day in a chair.

But what are we holding in those constricted muscles? Our muscles hold our past. They are havens of our emotions, our memories, and our thoughts. People talk of bursting out crying or laughing in particular postures. Sometimes, I will have the most random thought pop into my head of a distant memory during yoga. That is usually when the lawyer in me takes over, and I start wondering what it is about that posture, that muscle, which causes me to remember one moment over another. Oh well.

Perhaps the greatest gift children can give us is openness. Certainly I am not going to glorify childhood. It has its downsides for sure, but the open eyes with which children see the world is awe inspiring. Have you ever been with a group of people when a baby or toddler arrives? Every one's eyes turn to the child; we yearn to be back in that space where life was exhilarating, and where each moment was an opportunity to learn something new.

How do we lose that? Shall I call it innocence? Openness? Spaciousness? Acceptance? Dare I call it flexibility? In some sense, we must lose it. After all, a baby would be lucky to last two days without an adult taking care of it, and toddlers not much longer. Why? They are too vulnerable. Animals must protect their young from predators, and humans had to as well until civilization. But today, a baby could walk into the street, or not be able to reach the food in the cupboard. They are vulnerable and need the support of adults. Eventually, they become those adults who then long for their lost flexibility and gawk and laugh as children go by.

Yoga helps us find that inner child. We begin to open our stiff muscles, go deep into our memories, and start to see the world through children’s eyes again. After all, “child’s pose” and “happy baby” are both hip openers. But just as children are vulnerable, so too, can we become vulnerable as we begin to open. Some are not quite ready to face that past and may have held it deep for a long, long time. That is why yoga is a practice, a process. It gives us time to open slowly and carefully.

I am quite scared by people who want to get flexible overnight. Instead, I hope that people, especially those who are extremely stiff, both physically and perhaps mentally, to take time in yoga. It takes a long time to become the people we are as adults, and we cannot go back immediately. More importantly, if we give up too much, we lose our ability to care for ourselves. We lose our personal strength . . . but that is a post for another day.

So, I hope to encourage people to get started, but be careful and give yourself the time and space to grow and open safely.

Namaste and Blessings!

© Copyright 2010. Rebecca Stahl.

1 comment:

  1. As I often do, I just read the last 4 or 5 postings. I like the themes, as they move forward. Flexibility and vulnerability go hand and hand, often with joy and fear. I know that I am physically less flexible than many people, and yet I am emotionally more flexible than many. I suspect it's because I sit all day, don't move enough in my body, yet I have spent years with more joy, less fear, and an ease of adaptability.

    At the same time, flexibility means being open to what is next, and if we plan our lives too much, perhaps because we're afraid of change, we may lose opportunities. I'm thrilled for you that you are finding wonderful opportunities as you remain open and flexible in your future, and I hope that you continue to have a vision for your future, while recognizing that the vision may get sidetracked the next time you wake up. I know it has for me, and I suspect it will continue to for you.

    Love, and namaste.