Flexibility vs Balance

About eighteen years ago I went to my first yoga class. At that time, the instructor was a very wise woman in her seventies. She would read very inspiring stories during savasana. One day she made a comment that has stuck with me for years. She said that we are either flexible or have good balance but it is difficult to have both. 

I have since raised the question many times of what I am. Without a doubt I incline more towards flexibility. I am not Elastic Girl, but I do notice that I tend  to be able to stretch more than I would expect was normal for someone with my lack of experience. However I am that student that in more difficult poses always falls.  As I am trying to improve my practice I have been questioning what I could do to at least not fall as much, provoked by a low-key sense of embarrassment and annoyance (the ego, the ego, I know!)

The answer hit me recently while I was on top of my mat. Because I can stretch relatively easy I tend to overreach to a point where the pose is unsustainable for my level of training. The enlightenment moment came when I realize that is no different than what I do in my everyday life. I try to do too much, thinking that I can reach any goal I want, that I can extend time and my energy reserves to utopical levels.  How am I supposed to being able to find the equilibrium in a yoga studio when I am oblivious to what I am doing outside of it? 

When we overstretch, we fall, we get injured. Now, I am not afraid of a little fall. I have done it way too many times and so far I have a perfect record of getting up, sometimes bruised and injured, but I can live with that. The floor is not my enemy, but I do recognize that fearlessness can sometimes takes me into forced recovery time. That is the story that loops in the record of my life. 

Isn’t it time to change that pattern?

The advantage with hyper-flexibility is that it makes it easier to force ourselves out of our comfort zone. It is really useful when we want to adapt to change, when we don’t accept the status quo.  We always want more.  Stability, on the other hand, is about learning to be still regardless of the external forces. It’s being content in our space. In yoga the gift comes when you accept both. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do in our lives?  How do we remain strong and pliable? Resilient and energetic? How do we find the right balance between flexibility and well…balance itself?

Maybe the answers lies in the intent to embrace both, to not get comfortable with any of them, to remain active in our search for the two of them. Maybe it is in the understanding that our happy place lies in having both flexibility and stability compliment themselves, like fraternal twins that fight all day but love each other tremendously. It also means learning what our boundaries are, trying to see outside of them, but only cross those boundaries when we are ready.  

As for my life outside the yoga studio that translates into finding a balance between what comes naturally and what I have to force myself to learn. Maybe my next goal is simply learning how to rest, that definitely does not come naturally. I am confident, though, that balance and me can become friends soon, and so is rest and all the things that I need to work extra hard for.  And even if that seems really difficult now, and even if I fall a thousand times while trying to master those things that are really hard, I might eventually do it. The equilibrium between flexibility and balance can only be found in the active pursuit of both, not in the act of giving up to what is easier and that, it seems to me, it is really, really hard, but also really, really good. I am going after you, balance!