Bullshit. The flexible aren’t blessed. The flexible are doomed.
I’m her. That girl. The one who can bend in half backways and frontways without training. The one who can fall into the splits on both sides without stretching. The one who can wiggle into sleeping yogi and remain there quite comfortably. I’m the freak show, if you will.
Plenty of my fellow yogis are much more rubbery than I, but my flexibility is enough to earn wide-eyed stares from yoga newbies and eye rolls from my teachers. Oh, that’s just Megan. Showing off again.
But I swear I’m not. I have to be careful because I’m one of those bendy people who discovers five years into a yoga practice that it may be more challenging to be flexible than to be stiff; it’s so easy to rely on bendiness and ignore strength in the ridiculous name of aesthetics. And when you do that—well, you find yourself living with injury.
A few years ago my left shoulder started acting out, erratically issuing radiating pain—pain so insistent that it kept me from sleeping. And then my right joined the party. The two joints jockeyed for title of Most Painful, and I couldn’t figure out what the hell was wrong. So I went in for an MRI. And my diagnosis was basically: too much flexibility, not enough strength. Same thing with the ol’ hips—they’re too mobile. I have one hell of a time getting ‘em to square off because they’re so fluid, but worse than that, I’m now one of the many yogis who suffer from intermittent but perpetual sacroiliac pain. It’s even an unfortunate sort of badge of honor—I’ve been doing this long enough and with enough God-given suppleness to earn an injury. A very bummed “Yay” for me.
Sacroiliac issues are common in the long-term yogi. There are plenty of articles talking about diagnosis and avoiding exacerbation. But the solidarity doesn’t help.
My power yoga classes have taken on a new flavor. I spend the 75 minutes mourning what used to be a practice of compelling aesthetics. I spend the 75 minutes reminding myself that a crucial part of my yoga is to be mindful of my limitations and to practice ahimsa (non-violence) toward myself. I’ve spent years using the breath to ease me further into postures. Now I use the breath to bolster my spirit and ease me further into understanding and acceptance.
Through this acquired pain born of my reckless flexibility I have discovered an integral element of my practice—both on and off the mat. The Could versus Should principle:
- I could go further in this posture—I could do it beautifully—but should I? What’s the value? Is it worth the potential pain tomorrow?
- I could buy that bag—I’ve got the money—but should I? Really, what do I want with another bag?
- I could win this argument—I’ve got a potent tongue—but should I? Is it worth it to set back a relationship in the name of triumph?
Years of practice have triggered injuries. Injuries have given me pause. Pause perpetuates awareness. Awareness makes me tolerant. Tolerance leaves room for happiness. So I guess I ought to be grateful.
Megan Romo gave up a few weeks into yoga teacher training when she realized that she’s too selfish to focus on anyone else’s practice but her own. She’s not ashamed of that anymore. Instead she likes to call it a honed self awareness born of years on the mat. Presently in the throes of an MFA in creative nonfiction, Megan’s decided now’s not the time to kick the diet soda habit. Follow Megan’s whatnot on her blog Remarks From Sparks and keep up on her graphic art on Facebook.