The other day someone came to one of my beginner yoga classes in Wimbledon. It was her first ever yoga class.
At the end of the class, I went up to her and asked her how she found it.

Me: “You did really well this evening! How did you find it?”
Her response:
“I don’t think yoga is for me…”
Me: “Ok, so.. is there anything in particular that you would…”
Her: “Well… I just think I need something that is going to improve my flexibility.”

Me: *blank stare*

I think this can be a really common feeling among many new yogis.

Let me elaborate: New Yogi goes to one yoga class and sees some other people touching their toes (or whatever it is they are doing). New Yogi tries to touch toes and ends up half-a-ruler-above-knee cap. New Yogi thinks, “Damn. Yoga! I’m not flexible enough for this shit.” New Yogi quits yoga. The world cries.

Now, whilst I will STRONGLY (and loudly) argue that touching your toes has VERY little to do with what yoga is (read here for more clarification), I would say that the whole scenario I’ve elaborated above, plays out in yoga studios around the world over and over.

To give you an analogy of what that scenario is like, I’ve decided to illustrate it in a point that we can probably all relate to or understand or have experienced at some point in our lives –


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* quits running. quits healthy eating*

((Facepalm))

The practice of yoga, and particularly the physical practice of yoga is exactly that, a PRACTICE. The body opens, through time – with practice, practice, practice. Yoga will DEFINITELY one hundred percent improve your flexibility (if that’s the reason you have been drawn to it), but it requires a continual practice. All our bodies are different and therefore take different times to open and find space. The process IS the practice.

My first consistent yoga practice was through Bikram Yoga – a sequence of 26 postures, which always stay the same. One of the poses in this sequence is a toe-stand and it is entered through a half-bound-lotus forward fold.

{Before I continue, I would like to mention that I have terrible knees. TERRIBLE knees. I have dislocated both knees more times than I can count. The patella, literally slides right on off the patella groove and hangs out somewhere on the side of my leg, waiting for me to manually push it back. It is NOT pretty. And as you can imagine, it is pretty freaken painful and extremely freaken unnerving. (One time I dislocated it, it wasn’t actually my fault, my brother “ankle tapped” me in the swimming pool. Note: jury is still out as to whether it was an “ankle tap” or a full blown kick. Anyway, I digress)}

When I first started with this Bikram Yoga, I remember being in a yoga class and hearing the teacher cue the entry into the half bound lotus forward fold. I picked up my foot and tried to bring my knee down to the ground and it just would NOT move. Then when the teacher continued with, “and then forward fold” I literally thought, “Wow, this woman is insane. There is no way on living earth I will EVER get down there. EVER. My knees are just genetically not going to allow me to do that.” I watched (in awe) as some of the other yogis in the room folded forward (Drishti, what?). I remember thinking, “How are these people even doing this? That looks like the most painful thing ever!” and “Are they not scared their knees will pop right off their legs?!”

I decided there and then, that the “half-bound lotus forward fold” was just never going to be something I would be able to do.

And that was that.

(Spoiler Alert: I was wrong)

I took the thought of that posture COMPLETELY off my radar. Not in the ‘yogi-sense’ of “let me non-attach to the end result of this posture and revisit it at a later stage of my journey”, but in the sense of, “I’m not wasting my time with this useless posture, because I know I will never be able to do it.” (#commonthoughtsofnewyogis)

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So anyway, I practiced. And I practiced. And I practiced. And then I didn’t feel like practicing, but I practiced anyway. I didn’t practice this posture necessarily specifically, I just practiced, practiced, practiced everything else – And allowed my body the time to open on in it’s own, to slowly build strength and slowly release the fear of, “holy-fuck-if-you-try-bend-your-face-to-your-thigh-in-this-position-your-knee-is-definitely-going-to-explode”. Which to be honest, is the hardest thing to release, of all.

And THAT is where the yoga happens.

In the release. In the connection between the thoughts we hold in our mind and the thoughts we hold in connection to our bodies. To what we think we can do and what we are truly capable of. Both on and off the mat. It is that union of what our body knows, in sync with the mind that controls it. Our bodies already have everything they need, it’s only our minds which lock it tightly. Our minds that fix everything into inflexibility. Whether that means the feeling of not being “flexible enough” or “good enough” to join a yoga class, or the fear of postures that first seem impossible, it’s that tightness in the mind that is released on the mat.

And yes, sometimes that comes hand-in-hand with touching your toes, but for that, you’ll need a bit of practice.

xo xo

Ps – I’ve shared a pic of one of the first times I’ve ever gotten into the half bound forward fold up on my instagram account (a little while back) for anyone who is interested.