The Bendy Ideal

Just recently, I’ve finished reading Susan Cain’s book about introversion titled, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Throughout the book all I could think and feel was, “Finally someone gets it!” In a culture where extroversion is prized and introversion is despised, should we all aspire to be the ideal extrovert? That’s certainly what I’ve thought and have attempted to do for most of my life. But alas, Cain says no, we don’t have to. And thank God, because I was always the one at the club thinking, “Why the fuck am I getting drained while everyone else around me is getting more and more hyphy as the night goes on?” Quiet goes into detail about how we all have inborn temperaments and – for the most part – it’s best to stick within our comfort zones. That’s not to say that if you’re an introvert,  you should seclude yourself from the rambunctiousness of the outside world. Instead, introverts should be selective in finding a balance between solitude (which tends to rejuvenate an introvert) and social stimulation (which tends to tax an introvert).

Now, how does this relate to yoga?

In the yoga world, there tends to be an ideal body type: the bendy type. And why not? Flexible yogis who can execute difficult poses are visually appealing and make damn good cover shots for Yoga Journal. While a generous range of motion is not a bad thing (in fact it can be a great thing and a great thing to aspire to) – much like extroversion – it’s vastly overrated. Some of my greatest yoga instructors have a more limited range of motion, and those limitations have given them a better understanding of the subtle body – an understanding that might have been skipped if a generous range of motion allowed them to rest on their loins (no pun intended). Like temperaments, we are all born with a certain body type. While we can make subtle changes to our body in terms of flexibility, it can be unwise and unsafe to reach too far beyond our body’s natural range of motion; moreover, overreaching can be counterproductive to the yoga practice itself because the ultimate goal should be to gain a better understanding of your body and yourself, not to reach a certain level or series.

It’s important to see our strengths within our limitations. For instance, you might not be an ideal networker, but you may be able to delve into a task with more rigor than someone who needs more social stimulation. As for me, I can barely wrap my arms around each other in Eagle pose because of my tight shoulders, but I can hold Downward Dog for days because of the stability my tight shoulders provide. Susan Cain ends her book on a sweet note by saying, “The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.”

So, use your power wisely.

-The Humble Warrior

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10 thoughts on “The Bendy Ideal

  1. Thanks for posting that – its so good to be reminded that the benefits of yoga do not require perfection in every pose. I was disheartened to read recently that there is an annual asana competition in the US and they would like to have yoga in the Olympics.

  2. Keech says:

    Doug,
    This is awesome! Great work!

  3. amylockwood says:

    Doug, your flexibility may not be in body, but in spirit…not that flexibility is a goal.
    Hope you are well. I’m going to get my ass to class again soon. It’s been too long.
    -amy

  4. This is really well written, Doug.

  5. Warriors and Goddesses says:

    It comforting and somewhat rare to find a teacher that will admit to finding difficulty in certain poses and not being able to get into them fully. You can’t teach about working within your own limitations if you don’t demonstrate and honour your own….. thanks for the book recommendation also, I too am an introvert (theres lots of misconceptions about what that is since there is more than one type). Its not plain rudeness driving the want to “shoosh” people all the time! Bliss and Bless

    • I connect so much better with teachers who are willing to admit their own strengths as well as their limitations. And I can totally empathize with there being a lot misconceptions about introverts. People tend to form quick opinions of introverts as either “nice” or “bitchy” when neither are the case! Bliss and Bless to you as well.

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