I loved a fellow yogi friend of mine’s recent post on Facebook – ‘I bend so I don’t break!’  It brought back teenage memories of my mother’s words of ‘don’t force it or you’ll break it’ in those moments I turned to brute force on a bulging suitcase zip.   Needless to say, I came worse off, yes the zip broke but it was me that had to pick up the pieces-literally-holiday clothes strewn across the floor! 

And whilst we don’t always like to listen to our mothers, they tend to be right!

Like the zip, try forcing yourself into a yoga asana (posture) and you’ll likely fail or worse case, cause yourself injury.  After all, yoga is not yoga without the integration of breath and a carefully crafted balance of sthira and sukham (steadiness and ease). 

So often we have high expectations of ourselves, what we should be doing and when, that we forget that our minds and bodies are an ever changing moving feast.

We all have those days where we beat ourselves up over what we haven’t done, what we should have done or what we could have done and really, why?  In the same way, why does is matter if I swim 60 lengths this morning or 6?  Or if I run round the park once or three times?  Is this reality or is this just our ego-self goading us on?

Of course, it’s great to have goals, to have targets, to be motivated but as with anything in life, there needs to be a bit of give and take. 

If we take unrealistic expectations of ourselves out of the equation, suddenly things start to look a little different.  Rather than fighting with ourselves physically or mentally to be or feel a certain way, we accept that we are where we are and it is in these moments that we are most connected and at our most truthful. 

Take the willow tree, all flimsy and willowy, blowing in the wind.  He had no control of what direction the wind would blow in the same way we have no idea of what challenge life will throw at us next.  When a storm hit the woods, the willow tree went with the flow adapting with the changing winds and despite losing a few branches and leaves along the way, he survived the storm.  Unlike the willow tree, the oak tree that had previously stood strong, solid and steadfast, resisted the wind so much so that it caused his roots to unearth much to his demise.

Creatures of habit, it’s hard to be flexible and to adapt to life’s challenges but if you can allow yourself an inch to bend mentally as well as physically, then like the willow tree, from a place of strength, you’ll weather the storm.

Click below for a little practice to get you started…

Yoga Journal Strength & Grace Practice

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