“I’m not flexible” is the number one excuse I receive from people as to why they can’t do yoga. First of all, yoga is not something you do. It’s something that happens when the breath, mind, and body come to oneness. Being flexible is not important. In fact, being too flexible can be a hinderance.
Can vs. Should is about flexibility to stability equivalence radar. Just because a student is flexible, doesn’t mean they should go into the deepest most bendy expression of each pose. When arching and contorting compromise strength and stability, alignment, breath, and equanimity, the student has gone too far.
I often see new students looking around at longer practicing ones and whispering that they will never be able to do whatever it is they are doing, or giving a nod to affirm that the visual example they see is one they will start moving toward. This is such a dangerous and unhealthy approach. Each expression of a posture will be unique to the make-up and the needs of the student. Let the teacher be your eyes. Let your feeling body be your guide to repeating your teacher’s adjustments.
We are so eye-centric, leading with the visual in almost all things. Yoga time is a chance to quiet our gaze and awaken the nervous system. Instead of looking with the eyes, try to inspire an awareness of your whole being. Ask your body where it is in space and what it feels inside. If you hear nothing, don’t worry, just keep asking. Over time your body will start to build awareness you never knew it had.
This field of awareness is the start of yoga. It will inform all you do and all you are on and off the mat and the question of what you do with it and all your new abilities is a very important one, especially as your influence grows stronger. (Yes, one of the impacts of yoga is an increase of prana, magnetism, influence.) You may find people, objects, and opportunities coming toward you like never before. These are the instances to use your on-the-mat Can vs. Should practice in the real world.
Can vs. Should is an almost obsolete question here in the US. We seem to have decided as a culture that if it can be done, we should do it, and if it can’t we should try harder. Especially those of us with power and privilege must question the assumption that we should do everything we have the power to do. In fact as our power and influence increase we must be more mindful of each and every action.
The upheaval in Hollywood is a real reminder about using power wisely and about the choice we have to not do all we can do. For our personal practice we can start to look at this question with regards to our energy. As aspiring yogis we know that we don’t need to drill everywhere there may be oil, but we often forget what that means for ourselves. Do we have to do and be it all or is there perhaps a more equitable way to treat our energy and impact in this world? Can we, should we do less?
As you go into the world approaching this difficult Can vs. Should dilemma remember the soft gaze of your practice, and look for answers with your whole being awareness. This is the route to right knowledge. As we experience the wholeness of self, we drop into the wholeness of being which we are a part of and we come to know the ripples and we make mindful choice.