silhouette of woman doing yoga on rocks at sunset over ocean
Thinking Out Loud

Stretch Yourself

Since I moved to the Eastern Shore, I have taken up the hobby of practicing yoga. I figured I could use the mental and physical practice since I tend to get stressed out easily. I usually go to the midweek, evening classes because there are fewer people and the class is more lowkey. Last weekend, I decided to attend the Saturday morning class and it was packed. I even saw some acquaintances which upped the ante to perform well. Normally, I like to workout alone, practice yoga in my room alone, and be in a peaceful space to clear my head. Willingly going to a class where my lack of flexibility will no doubt be visible to others is a big step, but if I don’t go, I won’t get better at my practice.

In yoga, you are only supposed to stretch your body to a place that feels good for you, but I find myself comparing my abilities to others anyway. After a difficult pose that I had trouble holding, my instructor said, “A body stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions.” I was frustrated. I am my own biggest critic. I wanted so badly to prove myself by attempting this new pose and hold it with perfect balance. A pose I had never even seen or attempted before; how is that a reasonable request of myself? If anything, I could barely get into the position! Let alone take it to the next level and keep my balance. In addition, I am working through an injury to my left hip which restricts my strength, flexibility, and overall stability.

The instructor meant for her words to be an encouragement. Do what you can, stretch as far as you can go, and be satisfied with the movements/poses your body was able to achieve today because it will never be the same. After reflecting on this thought, I realized it was so relevant to real life. Every new pose you try is like a new experience that life challenges you with. How can you expect yourself to perfectly execute that pose or situation if you have never actually experienced it before? You are walking on new ground and need to learn the terrain first. New experiences are awkward, just like yoga poses, and require you to put yourself in an uncomfortable position. Once you learn the flow, it’s no longer awkward but familiar and you learn how to move fluently.

Being stretched by new experiences is healthy, but new does not always mean good. We are equally stretched by bad experiences which also brings us to a place that we can never revert back from. While I was attempting this new pose, I mentioned having an injury. In life, we can be inured by our experiences. An injury may heal, but you will always have a scar to show for it whether it be externally visible or internally felt. Injuries restrict our abilities to reach our full potential when practicing a new pose or trying something new in life. You cannot expect to run your fastest mile right after recovering from a broken leg. The cast may be off, but your leg is still weaker than it was and must be carefully used before returning to its original strength. Until then, you are unbalanced.

Whether your experience was good or bad, you will never be the same again. Your “dimensions” have changed, either physically, mentally, emotionally…etc. Memory is a blessing and a curse. Your past experiences are reminders of triumphs and failures. After breaking your leg by falling off of a bike, you will probably feel some sort of pain the next time you see a bike. The bike symbolizes something that caused you pain and you relive that moment when you see it. Likewise, after someone hurts you, you will tend to put your broken heart in a cast to heal. After the cast is off, which takes different amounts of time for different people, your heart’s dimensions will be changed. When you see that person again (or meet someone similar to them), you tend to remember your “old dimensions” but realize you have been changed by the experience.

Let yourself heal from past experiences that stretched you too far, learn how to live life to the fullest in your new dimensions, and never stop stretching yourself by new experiences and relationships. Do not let your old dimensions keep you from being stretched by new experiences. Do not compare your past experiences to someone else’s. Everyone’s walk in this life is unique and no two paths are the same. You were given that experience to stretch your dimensions for a reason; learn from it and move forward with confidence. Do not waste your present moment focusing on your past or you will miss out on what today is teaching you. Namaste.

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