Hamstrings

I can’t do the splits.

It almost feels like a secret: yoga teacher who can’t do the splits. It’s so aesthetically pleasing, and satisfyingly shocking. It’s the quintessential yoga pose- right after dancer, of course. It’s the one you see on every yogi’s Instagram, and the one that seems to carry with it a certain badge of honor.

So many times have I watched a yogi effortlessly slide their legs in opposite directions, grinning as their hamstrings seem to turn to putty. Every time I attempt this posture, however, I end up propped up on enough blocks to play a game of Jenga with and making what I’m sure is not a pleasant face. It’s half mental half hamstrings- part of me is terrified of hurting myself and being put on the sidelines for a few months, making my normally open hamstrings freeze up. And while I’m struggling on my mat to melt into the pose, I often end up looking to the person next to me, perfectly split, and wishing I had their hamstrings.

This wish comes with a certain amount of bitterness, and a boatload of connotations. If I had their hamstrings, this pose would be better. My practice would be better. I would be better.Β 

Although yoga is about staying present on your own mat, it would be a lie to say we’ve never looked over onto someone else’s. We’re curious, or looking for guidance, or we’re avoiding what we’ve got going on inside. Whatever the case, we’ve usually found something to envy in someone else, whether it’s the way they can jump through to a seat or pop up into handstand. Comparison is famously the thief of joy, and the yoga studio isn’t impervious to that.

I have a teacher who has a strikingly applicable saying: if you take their hamstrings, you have to take all their problems, too.

I’d take the trouble they’re having at work, I’d take the depression they’re struggling with, I’d take their sick mom. If I want this one little piece of their life, I have to take the whole package along with it. Suddenly, their hamstrings don’t seem so appealing.

Someone will always have something you don’t. That’s just how the world works, and it doesn’t mean you’re worth any less or shouldn’t find pride in what you do have. I’ve often found that if I can’t do everything, I feel like I’ve done nothing. If I don’t get the apex pose in a class, every posture before it doesn’t matter in my mind, despite the fact that every asana is an accomplishment in and of itself.

If we put off joy until we reach perfection, we’ll never be happy. We need to stop waiting until we get the splits, or get the job, or get the guy to be happy- we need to be happy right now, as we are. It’s important to have goals to strive towards, but it’s even more important to love yourself every step of the way. Accepting yourself as you are is the biggest component of happiness, and often the most overlooked.

It’s okay to love yourself, you don’t have to wait for a certain accomplishment to give your permission or validation. That posture or that body or that grade won’t change the way you feel about yourself: that change comes from within.

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