As soon as I hear the word ‘limitation’ my rebellious side starts to ignite. I get a bit bristly, thinking that someone is telling me I can’t do something. It has a vague whiff of giving up or not even beginning to try, it’s tinged with disappointment and negativity.
I have lost count of the times that people have said to me, “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough”. People assume that yoga is about getting into a pretzel position. The yoga of instagram (mind boggling) pose has a lot to answer for! In truth, I had those similar misconceptions once upon a time too. I thought that as a yoga teacher I ‘should’ be doing and teaching the cirque de solei yoga we all watch with awe. The truth is though, many of these poses are not available to my body. Or, if they are, feel awful and do not serve me well. By ignoring the whispers of my body I am conforming to a ‘look good’ type of yoga rather than the ‘feel good’ type. And that friends, is absolutely not what I am about.
For me, knowing my limitations has been a huge learning curve. I’ve had back ‘issues’ for a number of years, a weakness in my lumbar region. Over 17 years ago I suffered a back injury which granted me a week long stay in hospital and weeks of physiotherapy. I had to find a new way to climb and descend stairs because taking them one at a time was no longer an option for me. My strength, my range of movement was limited.
A few years later, inspired by a dear, brave friend I decided to train for a marathon. During my training I had further back issues but in 2016 I ran that bloody marathon. Well, to be precise, I ran the first half and then walk/ran the second half because I had to listen to my protesting body. The point is I listened, didn’t give up, just finished the race by a different path. Nowadays, after further back issues I struggle to finish Couch to 5K (for accountability purposes, I started it again today with my daughter week 1 run 1 done).
Because of my experiences I have a deeper connection with my body. I take the time to listen to her little whispers of warning, making sure I take heed of them before they become screams of pain. It’s about knowing that each day is a new day and with that comes new possibilities. My cobra pose of yesterday may be very different to my cobra pose of today and even tomorrow. Why? Because the needs of my body change (sometimes minute to minute) depending on what I am experiencing and rather than throwing negative self talk at my body, I give her a gentle smile and tell her it’s all ok. I’m her friend, her best friend and I change my practice to suit my body, not the other way around.
When I’m on my mat, knowing my limitations is an asset and I actively encourage my students to explore their limitations too. We throw the negative connotation of the word to the wall and start to look at it with a positive gaze. We modify and adapt our yoga practice to best honour our bodies and free our minds of comparison and judgement. We recognise that our limitations are not failings. Failure is an event, never a person. We are not defined by our limitations but majestically set free by them.
Our limitations are simply our foundations, our building blocks to transformation. We start where we are with no comparison because there is only now, not yesterday, not tomorrow. So, no, knowing your limitations isn’t a bad thing…its one of your super powers!
I want to share my yoga with everyone regardless of people’s misconceptions, body shapes and abilities. Yoga is for EVERY body…including yours.