Truth Byte # 37

Truth Byte # 37

Flexible is the new strong.

I started up my yoga classes again. It has been a few months since I rolled out my mat, because I was starting to feel like an hour of yoga every week was a bit indulgent. After all, I could be spending that time folding the pile of laundry that chronically sits in my guest bedroom, or vacuuming out the backseat of the car (damn kids and their food crumbs) or catching up on emails (over 4000 in my Inbox that need to be filed or deleted) or de-cluttering my garage. So I skipped yoga for months, thinking I would spend the time doing all these other annoying tasks, which, by the way, I never did. I simply took a longer shower and chatted on the phone with my sister instead.

But I digress. Back to yoga.

A few weeks ago, I got back to the gym and the studio. This Monday, before the teacher turned on the soothing voice of a white woman singing Hindu hymns, I noticed the guy again. This guy takes the crazy aerobic class that’s right before yoga in the studio. He always wears a wet t-shirt...wet from all the sweating. Sometimes, the floor of area where he has been working out is splattered with his sweat. His head glistens with it. I find it kind of gross, but kind of amazing at the same time. After all, we are the gym to sweat. I don’t know his name yet, but in my mind, he is “Sweaty Bald Guy with White Runners”.

So this guy was on his mat before the music started, and he was doing some amazing pose where his whole body was off the floor and only his arms supported him, a sort of plank in the air. When he saw us watching, he lowered himself to the floor and went back to stretching. He was a little shy that we had caught him being so strong.

Fast forward to the last pose of the class. I don’t even know what it’s called, and I was about to put my socks and hoodie on and call it a day with the “lie-on-the-floor-and-try-not-to-fall-asleep” pose, but I couldn’t help trying this new pose out. Basically, you sit on the floor and put one leg behind your head, and the repeat it on the other side. Our instructor led us through it one micro-second at a time, until many of the yogis in the room had actually done it. One white-haired grandma who walks with a slight limp shouted gleefully, “Look at me!!” as her foot actually floated up behind her head. I tried my best, and was amazed at how high I could convince my leg to go.

This was a moment where being flexible became much more important than being strong.

Sweaty guy just sat there, looking around him in awe. He didn’t even try it.

I left that class with an incredible appreciation for the power of flexibility. And through the week, I have noticed how important it is to be mentally and emotionally flexible as well.

Our grandparents, and perhaps even our parents, mastered the art of being strong. They often had to push through trying conditions and keep going when it was difficult. They hardened their hearts so they could work long hours away from their children. They hardened their faces and their feelings so as not to worry anyone or impose. They asked for little as they were used to doing so much on their own. They carried their scars secretly, and did not talk about the pain of the past or the ghosts they fought every day.

But the world is changing, and fast.

What matters now is not so much the capacity to keep going, but the capacity to adapt, to change. Those who are stuck in their ways are going to get left behind in the emotional revolution that is happening around the world.

When we are willing to be honest with ourselves, to look inside to try to understand why we do what we do, to redefine ourselves as Life shapes us, we build a different kind of strength. This flexibility makes us not only strong, but adaptable. When the winds of change threaten our values, we may sway a little, but we do not become so rigid that we will break.

And how we train our bodies and interact with our families reflects that. If the focus is just on building muscle mass, we are forgetting about the joints and the ligaments that allow free movement. If we just want to get bigger and leaner and stronger, we may neglect the exercises that keep us balanced and agile. If we just go for more, we may forget to really appreciate what’s right in front of us and be able to feel instinctively when it’s time to pivot in a new direction.

So today, I would challenge you to think about the areas in your life where flexibility would be more useful than traditional notions of strength. Are there some places where you could let go a little, stretch beyond your comfort zone, and settle in to a new range of motion?

It’s your life, and only you can live it.

Dr. Saira Sabzaali

Dr. Saira Sabzaali

Dr. Saira (she/her) provides mental health support through individual counselling, groups, immersive workshops/courses, and free educational content. Over the last 14 years, we have helped men and women of many backgrounds find answers to their questions about work, life, love, and meaning. Much mainstream psychology overlooks spirituality, family values, and community context, so we have decided to specialize in serving clients who are ready for change and also want to include their cultural values and spiritual beliefs into therapy.

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