I have heard this sentence many times, but it should be the other way round: “As I am not flexible, yoga is for me”. The belief that it is only possible to do yoga if you are flexible (when we actually mean “elastic”) is the reflection of the approach, mostly shallow and wrong, that we use to define our daily life in Western society. Yoga is not just a physical matter. In fact, the physical part of it is the consequence and result of a deeper practice rooted in breathing.
Identifying the level of elasticity only with regards to our metabolism is not enough. Part of that elasticity actually explains the way you face life. For example, a person who is under continuous stress will end up in a state of high tension. This tension can manifest itself in two different forms: psychological or emotional, and physical.
Psychological or emotional stress is the result of hectic mental activity —a ruthless attack from our own thoughts, many of them destructive, that lead us to exhaustion. Physical tension appears in the form of stiffness, contractures, injuries and organ disorders.
How can we resolve this state of stress? One option is to gorge yourself with anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and tranquilisers. The other option is to control your breathing. The first option has immediate but temporary effects, but also ends up making the organism dependent. The second one has mid-term effects which are long-lasting and can be self-controlled.
In order to act on the physical and mental blockages it is necessary to release tension. To release tension, we must control our breathing, and more precisely, the exhalation. We should focus on long exhalations: taking time to exhale two or three times longer than the inhalation. Long exhalations help us pace down the heart rate, and it is only when we calm down our heart rate that we are able to calm our mental activity. And it is only when we calm down our mental activity that we can release tension, both physical and emotional. This work is the foundation of yoga and it will undoubtedly increase your elasticity.
Duna Yoga. February 2019.