I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the spiritual, mental and emotional benefits of flexibility that yoga has brought to my life.
With flexibility, we can access the present moment with so much more ease which ends up bringing so much more ease to everything.
In regards to flexibility in yoga, we tend to think primarily about the physical aspects. Are our hips open enough so that we can we take our knee to the side in tree pose? Do we have enough flexibility in our hamstrings to touch our toes in a forward bend?
I’ve been teaching yoga for three years and practicing for 20. Through my personal practice and teaching, I’ve grown and learned tremendously—I’m a firm believer that we never stop growing—but the past year and a half has presented some daunting new challenges.
First, some background.
With one innocent question in March 2014, my husband, Michael, changed the course of our lives. We had been living in East Hampton, NY, happily married for almost six years. Life was very good and yet, we both sensed it was time for a change.
Our community and home were beautiful, but the area was beginning to feel less and less like home. Many small beach homes were being torn down and replaced with huge, impersonal mansions that were rarely used.
We craved a sense of community.
Michael and I, big food and wine lovers, have a tradition: I read a food-related book out loud to him many evenings after dinner. We had just begun reading Growing a Feast by Kurt Timmermeister, a story about a dairy farmer on Vashon Island, WA. Michael, intrigued by Timmermeister’s pastoral descriptions of life on the island, asked one morning,
“What about where that guy lives?”
We started researching Vashon online, and within minutes were exclaiming over how perfect it seemed for us.
I discovered a house that had gone on the market that day that looked like a great fit. We were on a plane to Seattle several days later. We made an offer on, but didn’t get, the house. Six weeks later, we returned and bought a piece of property overlooking the Sound. Six months later, we arrived on the island and began the process of building our dream home.
We have never looked back, never been happier and never had a regret.
Now, we have been in temporary living situations for a year and a half while the house is built. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to find rental homes directly on the water as we acclimate to our new island life. Yet, long-term rentals are hard to come by on the island, and we are preparing to move to our fourth (and thankfully, final) rental house.
It’s been an amazing adventure, (and, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world), but I’m very aware of how a lifestyle that emphasizes yoga and meditation are contributing greatly to my ability to remain flexible and centered through this tumultuous process.
(Not to mention that I’m getting three businesses off the ground at the same time!)
As someone for whom the concept of a clear, strong, stable home space feels essential to well-being, this situation has definitely been challenging.
I’m convinced that the ability to maintain a flexible attitude is directly connected to more joy, harmony and happiness—and, most importantly, the ability to remain present—something we are all seeking.
Everyone has challenging situations, and some, of course, are more challenging than others.
If we can lean into the situation or circumstance from a place of flexibility, from a lack of resistance and an ability to remain open, many miracles, large and small, start to become apparent. It’s a daily, ongoing process; as Jonathan Fields of Good Life Project says,
“There is no ‘there-there.’”
In other words, we never arrive at a place where these tools, teachings and practices no longer serve us in our journey or we stop growing.
When my son was young, I used to say to him often,
“What you resist persists. So just stop resisting.”
I hope those words had some impact on him.
A wonderful book about the power of non-resistance (i.e., flexibility) is The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer. It’s the incredible story of how the author’s life unfolded in unexpected and wonderful ways once he made the decision to go with whatever presented itself in his life.
Stay open, stay present and see the magic that surrounds you if you are flexible enough to be aware of it.
Emily Herrick is a vinyasa yoga teacher who utilizes yoga and meditation to guide students in connecting with their truest, most alive self while creating a calm home environment to support that. Emily grew up on the East Coast and lives on Vashon Island, WA with her husband and two dogs.