How Much To Stretch OR Is The Body A Metaphor For The Mind?
Flexibility is a good thing. Being flexible enough to have optimal functioning in the body is really important for joint health and pranic flow. Mental flexibility is important as well. Getting unstuck from past conditioning is an important aspect of yoga training.
Often we work with these metaphors in the physical plane and then we get results in the mental sphere. Moving through our sticky physical blocks can unstick some of our attitudes. So many have experienced an opening when pushing through the fear of doing a handstand, for example. We feel empowered and less afraid on many levels, not just physically, as we get over the fear of inverting.
But does this relationship go on forever? One might think so based on the thousands of yoga classes that promote this idea. Find more Range of Motion (R.O.M.) in your joints and you will find more openness and flexibility in your life. This however is simply untrue. No Rishi ever said this. No text I’ve never seen hints at this. In fact it’s not even discussed. There is an optimal R.O.M. for each joint in our body. Once we reach this, we are as stable and free and healthy as we will ever get from stretching. Anything beyond that will just put us at risk for joint degradation and injury.
So why do yoga teachers keep encouraging their students to get more and more flexible? Do they really believe it will move them past all mental afflictions? Or maybe it’s not obvious where to stop for most teachers. Not to mention that all of the social media pics of extreme levels of flexibility are encouraging us to be in a flexibility competition with ourselves and each other.
Maybe what we really want is a body that helps us on the path to mental flexibility? If that is so we should be stretching in a way that promotes enough flexibility and enough stability that we are empowered in our body long term. Because if you do read those yoga texts, many imply that we might be at this mental flexibility thing for a long time. And we will need strong, flexible bodies to accompany us on the way towards mental freedom.