Today, 25 April, is ANZAC day in New Zealand and Australia. Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It commemorates the battle of Gallipoli, and is an important day of rememberance for New Zealanders.
I think about what it took for those soldiers to get through the horrors they were experiencing. It seems to me, from reading several papers on that subject, that it boils down to… yoga. Seriously. The basic trinity at work in yoga is Balance, Strength and Flexibility. Those three principles are what get us through life. A balanced view, strength to do what needs to be done, and flexibility in being adaptable. And in seeing the view of another. Getting the whole picture as much as we can.
This week in my classes I want to examine the importance of flexibility. So how can I convey that in my classes? By teaching students to find, to look for, the flexibility in asanas. In the strong warrior – where is the flexibility? In Uttanasana – forward fold – examining how the mechanics of the pose work on a physical level as well as a mental one. As a teacher I can see all too clearly in a class when someone is in a fold (or many other asanas they may find difficult) and their thinking stops them from finding the asana.
When demonstrating something like Uttanasana, Eka Pada Koundyinasana (flying splits) or Hanumasana (splits) I can often see on participants’ faces: “Yeah. Right. You want me to do that.” If we can learn to think: “Hm. I wonder how it is done? What do I need to do to get into that pose?” That, right there, is flexibility. Being open. To learn, to see and recognise limitations such as physical ones for example. And importantly, to work with what you have.
I promise you: if you think you can’t, then you won’t.
Darwin noted that it is the adaptable, the flexible species that survived. That is the meaning of evolution – changing with circumstances to adapt.
I learnt that if one anticipates and resists pain, it makes it worse. If you are open and work with what you have, you may even go away from that pain with something new. Something you may have learnt and most certainly with a notch or two more resilience!
Those soldiers experienced and had to deal with things most of us never see in our entire lives. They had to find ways to get through those experiences. Life offers us choices. In everything. Even doing nothing is a choice. So when we have to deal with pain or suffering or difficult people or difficult situations, can we be flexible? Do we keep coming up to a brick wall, or can we see if there is another way around that obstacle?
In my next article we will examine how to become physically more flexible. We will take some of the asanas like Hanumasana and look at how they work and how we can make it more accessible.