Has anyone ever told you to bend your knees?
As often as I do yoga myself, I am still not a super flexible person. I have long legs and tight hamstrings that don’t always cooperate in the ways I would like them to. This physical restriction can be challenging because I have an image in my mind of what my yoga practice “should” look like. Because I often judge my body based on what it can’t do instead of what it can, I have left many yoga classes feeling discouraged instead of empowered. I think one of the main reasons people shy away from yoga is that they compare themselves to the seemingly perfect Instagram yogis who make incredibly difficult folds and balances look easy. While these yogis are great examples of the benefits of years of dedication, our fear of accepting our bodies where they are at prevents us from reaching our ultimate yoga goals.
Let’s look at one of yoga’s most recognized poses as an example: Downward dog. With my tight hips and hammies, I can sometimes get my heels to the floor and legs straight in an attempt to look perfect, but it is always at the expense of my back. With my legs straight, my back rounds, and I cannot lift my tailbone as high. Ultimately, this pose’s goal is not to get your heels to the floor but instead to lengthen and strengthen through your shoulders and back. By chasing the “perfect” expression of down dog, I actually prevent myself from achieving it! This rule applies to any and all modifications. It can be scary to grab for a block when no one else does, but when we deprive our bodies of the help they need, we make them more susceptible to injury and less likely to reach our yoga goals.
Comparison is the thief of joy. -Teddy Roosevelt
Yoga is often one of my greatest teachers off the mat as well, and this issue of comparison can also show up in our day to day lives. As Roosevelt explains, sentencing ourselves to the prison of comparison robs us the pleasure of celebrating our own individuality. It is so easy to look at others and stress that you are not as successful, as pretty, as in shape, as (insert whatever your compare here) as someone, but other people’s shining does not make you any less bright. Everyone’s practice is their own. We all progress at different speeds in different ways but the beauty of yoga is that we do it for the practice, not the end goal. Whether you have bent knees or straight legs, or use blocks and straps on every pose, the point is you are there. You are showing up on your mat, for yourself, and that is what it is all about.
Please be kind to your body. Accept and love it for what it is now, don’t punish it because of what you want it to be. Give yourself permission to take it slow, to ask for help, and for goodness sake, bend your dang knees!
What is an area of your life where you need to “bend your knees “? What is holding you back from giving yourself permission to adjust?
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Broke Girls Yoga is a new yoga and lifestyle blog for anyone who wants to take care of their mind and body without breaking the bank. Yoga is such an amazing tool and should be accessible to anyone, not just those who can afford weekly classes. BGY will be posting weekly blogs featuring yoga tips, flows, and journal prompts to help you begin or deepen your own yoga practice.