Recently someone said to me "You must work really hard to have such flexibility in your backbend practice!”
I want to be as transparent as possible so I felt the need to set the record straight...
The truth is - I don’t work really hard at it. I was born with a very flexible back and little has changed since I started practicing yoga. I remember doing backbends and back walkovers across my front lawn as a little girl purely because they were so much fun. To this day, backbends feel reeeeeeeeeally good, even when I’m not warmed up.
Hips are another story. I was born with femur bones that don’t have full-spectrum range of motion in my hip sockets. I have bone to bone compression in some yoga poses. I used to force and pry myself into “hip openers" that just weren’t conducive to my skeletal structure. It caused me physical injury and mental agony. I thought to myself "I’ve been practicing yoga and stretching for years!! Why aren’t my hips opening?!” I wondered if my years spent running cross country and playing soccer had stolen all of my dreams of ever attaining full splits.
It was incredibly frustrating and it wasn’t until I studied with some amazing anatomy teachers and physical therapists and proceeded to do lots of personal research did I realize that no matter how much yoga or stretching I do, I can’t change the shape of my bones! It doesn’t matter how flexible my hamstrings are; if my bones are compressing, movement is going to be limited. And some yoga poses are just straight up dangerous for my body.
Since that discovery, the intention of my yoga practice has been less about attaining a specific yoga pose for the sake of attaining a specific yoga pose. It’s been more of an exploration of functional movement. I ask myself “Is this yoga pose going to provide me greater functionality and mobility (a combination of strength and flexibility) in my every day life?” OR do I want to learn this pose because it's looks fancy or a teacher told me to do it? Through this process I’ve stopped focusing on my limitations and started focusing on all of the amazing things I CAN do. This new way of thinking has revolutionized my practice and my life.
I hope that by sharing these insights I can be a voice for those that may be going through something similar. If a teacher I admired shared this with me years ago it might have saved me years of frustration and countless injuries.
Today I don’t put so much pressure on myself. I’m letting go of unobtainable standards that I put on my practice and my body. I’m getting to know my body and learning to accept it exactly as it is. I’m learning how to support myself so that I can support others. I’m learning to appreciate other peoples bodies/yoga practice/instagram posts without comparing them to mine.
And it feels pretty damn good.
I’d love to hear from YOU. What discoveries are you making on your yoga mat?
All my love,
This is a great article that shows real life pictures of our bones and how differently they are shaped. It's pretty fascinating and reminds us that we all have different shaped bones, so we are going to have different yoga practices.