Trying to get more flexible? Dont Touch That Foot!

Sometimes in Yoga we we grab our shin to pull it closer to parallel in our Pigeon Pose, grab an ankle to bring the foot higher in Tree Pose, or let a Yoga teacher draw our arms into a bind in a seated twist.

In each case, we are manually pulling ourselves–and our joints and muscles–out of their natural range of motion.


To go “deeper” in the pose, to feel “more” stretch, to “progress?”

Do you hear how insane that sounds?

How meaningful is a stretch, or any movement, if we enter into it from somewhere unnatural or forced? Somehow, our egos or teachings or hot/sweaty/hard/brutal Yoga styles have encouraged us to go beyond where we are, even if the only means to get there is by force. At times the force is heavy (that teacher pulling your shoulder back and drawing your hands together  for that bind), or subtle (the flattening of the low back against the floor as we pull our straight leg into a supine hamstring stretch). No matter the amount of force, the result is the same: we are disregarding a philosophy of Yoga Therapy to meet each other–and ourselves–exactly “where we are.”

What we end up feeling, then, is the Yoga equivalent of pretending to live in someone else’s house.

When the initiation of our movement begins beyond our natural range, we are not home.

It’s likely that during the time we hold that stretch or pose, we may find ourselves relaxing into it, sinking, moving to exactly where we wanted to start. That is organic–like, farm-raised, no hormone organic. It happens without us having to betray ourselves or threaten our body. It happens without us telling our body that it isn’t enough.

Try it sometime. Just try to not move your foot or shin as you enter Tree or Pigeon. Try to let your cervical curve lift naturally off the floor as you draw your leg toward you. You’ll feel resistance and a challenge to your ego that feels like a nudge or even like a sharp elbow to your pride. Breathe into that resistance and see what happens.