September 25, 2019
The Wisdom of the Flexible
There were only two people in the class. It was the early morning. One was flexible. One was not.
We were in the midst of stretching exercises. The inflexible one had hit an extremely uncomfortable impasse.
He was nowhere near the desired position, but he felt that he could not stretch any further. At this moment, he looked at his flexible counterpart, and contemplated: “How the hell is she doing that?”
The flexible one could feel that she was being noticed. She turned to acknowledge her struggling peer, whose beleaguered bewilderment begged for some sage advice:
“You can do it… Don’t bend in a place that can’t bend. Find the place that can bend, and bend there.”
It’s obvious. It’s simple. It’s almost obnoxious…but it’s true.
Life’s greatest lessons are obvious. They have been there all along. They don’t move—they don’t come and go. They blend into the background. They are fixtures, as common as the air and the ground, and so they are easy to miss. They are constant whispers, and we become desensitized to them.
Pain screams and yells. It demands to be heard. As we begin stretching, our pain begins screaming: “Stop this insanity!”
The pain of stretching is like a passing siren: As you begin, you hear its approach. As you continue, it blares so loud that you have to cover your ears. As you endure, it passes and fades.
Perseverance is the first necessity. Have your mindset. Endure long enough to explore small adjustments to your stretching technique. These small adjustments can afford you huge increases in flexibility.
The practice of stretching is a full-body exercise, but the pain of stretching is often localized. A man tries to touch his toes, and his hamstring feels like it is “on fire”. The man’s focus is consumed by the feeling of his hamstring. He ceases to be a human being. During this stretch, he is simply a burning hamstring, with sweat on his brow and a grimace on his face.
His other ligaments and tendons are ready and willing to stretch more, but he has completely forgotten that they exist.
You are more than a burning hamstring. You are hips, and knees, and ankles, and shoulders, and one spectacularly functional spine. Remember who you are, and you can stretch further than you ever imagined.
The best way to learn about anatomy is not from a book or a smartphone app. It is by understanding, feeling, and experiencing your own body.
The function of your body should not be foreign to you. If there is one thing you should know how to use, it should be the physical body in which you have to spend this lifetime.
The knowledge of the human body cannot be confined to a book. Our bodies keep this wisdom alive. It reveals itself constantly, in everything we do. We just don’t notice.