Final proof that the point of yoga isn’t flexibility.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Oct 8, 2010
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“This blog has nothing to do with yoga.”

Actually, it does, if you read it. There’s even a “yoga video” by Zlata and some “real yoga” videos about yoga with integrity.
The point is an important one: too many of us confuse flexibility and yoga, and so are ambitious in their practice. As Richard Freeman frequently reminds his students, those who are less flexible actually have an easier time “doing yoga,” because we reach the edge of our comfort and have to work with that with precision and gentleness, and without ambition.

Defining yoga is always tricky, but in Zlata’s defense (see images, videos below) she doesn’t present this as yoga. The point of this here blog is to point out that any of us can do yoga–whether we’re stiff, or no. Flexibility is not yoga. Yoga is practice!

Here is what yoga is all about, fundamentally:


Yoga Extreme III.

Ugh. Couldn’t even watch much. Zlata, wow! Ouch?

Final proof that yoga isn’t about bendy skillz—if it were, this remarkable lady would be the greatest yoga teacher in the world.

So: Yoga isn’t about acrobatics or contortionism—or yoga poses. Yoga is about “stilling the waves of the mind,” as Patanajli put it.

Super Human Elasticity.”

More videos and photos:

Yoga with Integrity:

Yoga & Eating Disorders:

Club Yoga:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


20 Responses to “Final proof that the point of yoga isn’t flexibility.”

  1. Lindsey says:

    yoga must be really hard for her.

  2. maria says:

    This "expose" wasn't really claiming to be yoga. Last time I checked, kiss of the spiderwoman wasn't in the lexicon.

  3. […] the original here: Yoga Extreme III. | elephant journal Tagged and categorized as: Yoga , camera, innocent-voice, Result, Yoga Comment (0) | TrackBack […]

  4. Joseph Boquiren says:

    I'd like to get into an MRI using her pose :P. It looks like she's invented a couple of new yoga poses too.

  5. elephantjournal says:

    Righto. My point is that this amazing spiderwoman has flexibility down pat. And what she's doing clearly has little to nothing to do with "stilling the waves of the mind," as Patanjali put it. Therefore flexibility [does not equal] yoga. So, whether flexible or no is not a measure of "how good you are at yoga."

    How present we are when we practice, perhaps, is a better measure of our "skillz."

  6. elephantjournal says:

    In my case, the point of yoga is to loosen my shoulders and neck from too much time on the laptop! And slow my brain and bring me into the present moment, that strange, foreign territory!

  7. YogiOne says:

    One of the first things I learned about yoga is that yoga is unique for each person who practices it. This appears to be true on all levels, depending on the needs and current state of the practitioner. Bendy people can benefit from strengthening and defining themselves while stiff people benefit from gaining a little flexibility. The latter of those two appears most difficult on both a physical and emotional level though.

  8. Chris says:

    I think this is a great point – IF yoga were solely about flexibility or fitness, then all the bendiest and fittest people in the world would inadvertently be the best yogis. But, we know that yoga actually takes some efforting towards something more than this – towards union, towards stillness, towards oneness.

    An aside: why does she keep looking at me that way!!???

  9. […] push themselves too far too soon as they attempt to attain a pose before their bodies are ready. Contorting into a prescribed sequence of poses for the sake of the poses themselves is gymnastics, not […]

  10. Roger Wolsey says:

    see also this article that warns about being "overly flexible."

  11. melanie says:

    not surprising that it was a guy who posted this article. super informative. (<—–that's sarcasm.)

  12. katherine says:

    I personally don't see the point of this post in this context. And she clearly has a generosity of spirit to surrender to MRI analysis. It is a gift of the universe and environment … and good for her. I would like to know if her personal practice, which is likely daily and for at least a few hours, incorporates pranayama since she's got the asana down on some level.

  13. kayleigh4peace says:

    At no point in the video did she say the word yoga, nor did anybody else. She was introduced as a contortionist and she described herself as a contortionist. Any judgement on her for missing the point of yoga is misplaced…she isn't claiming to be doing yoga!

  14. Rogelio Nunez says:

    I agree there was no mention of yoga in the vid. She is blesse w flexibility n iS healthy

    I do agree w the headline though. Yoga is so much more than the physical aspects wether flexi or strong bodies. It’s mostly about mind Asana is but one step towards yoga.

  15. It's true that flexibility is not the same as yoga.

    It's also true that:

    1) We know very little about this young lady's mind. For all we know, she may spend her entire life in a state of perfect one-pointed focus. Patanjali does write, in the Yoga Sutras, that some people are born into a state of yoga. Based on the limited evidence available to us, she could be one of them. How could we tell?
    2) It's one thing to say that flexibility isn't proof of yoga. It's another to say that, therefore, there's no relationship whatsoever between the two. As I've developed strength and flexibility through my asana practice, I've worked through old emotional residues, improved my ability to concentrate, and become far more comfortable sitting in meditative postures for considerable periods of time. By themselves, none of those qualities constitute yoga, but they all increase the potential of accessing a state in which the fluctuations of the mind fade into the background and communing with the eternal becomes a possibility.

    Yoga's a practice for a reason. For most of us, it requires discipline, dedication, and devotion. I think there's a danger, when posting articles like this, of implying that, because some people spin it as an exercise in vanity, the physical aspect is completely irrelevant.


  16. LatexandOil says:

    This looks more like fetish photos.

  17. LatexandOilandBoxes says:

    The one with the woman in the box is quite disturbing and most are quire objectifying. What does this have to do with yoga?

  18. Do you know that what she's doing doesn't still the waves of her mind? It seems like that's something you couldn't know…

  19. Joel says:

    That's what I was thinking… You can't actually "teach" yoga for this reason. It is a deeply personal internal experience. Like riding a bike, certain support, techniques, and pointers can be given… but it is the student who must put it all together to find the state of balance within.