Strength supporting flexibility

Acro-yoga: strength supporting flexibility

While subbing a vinyasa yoga class a few weeks ago, I noticed that the majority of the bodies in the room fell into two categories: flexible and stiff. While this is an extreme oversimplification, being the therapist that I am, I began to draw conclusions to life off the mat, and to relationships in general. What I outline here can be seen as literal, metaphorical, and/or sexual.

Flexible bodies tend to over-extend in their practice – their muscles are extremely limber. While flexibility is a very desirable trait in yoga, it can also be shallow, if muscle integrity is not supporting the flexibility. The challenges for a very flexible person is to engage the core body, to engage muscles in the legs and arms, and not to collapse into the pose.

On the other hand, stiff bodies tend to withhold extension. They have a lot of muscle integrity and strength, but they lack flexibility. The challenge for a person with a stiff body in yoga is to soften into the pose; to surrender to the natural flow of breath; to challenge themselves by extending out.

What happens when these two seemingly different body types meet? Generally the flexible (overextended) person meets the stiff (withholding) person where the stiff person is at – otherwise the meeting wouldn’t take place. The flexible person  adapts and conforms (losing integrity), while the stiff person withholds (losing flexibility).

This posture generally leaves the stiff person no space to come forward and it leaves the flexible person overextended, and consequently both parties are resentful. As many couples therapists know, this dynamic resembles the pursuer/distancer dance – one person moves forward and the other moves back, creating a cycle of disconnection, with no seeming end in sight.

Moving towards center

Moving towards center

When muscle flexibility is positioned against muscle integrity, there is a yin and yang that goes on. The challenge becomes, how can both parties move towards center?

Ask yourself, how are you physically flexible? Mentally flexible? And emotionally flexible? Can you be these things while maintaining your own sense of strength and integrity? I wholeheartedly believe that you can.

How does yoga impact your life? Let me know.

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  1. sarah l. says:

    Fantastic article, Laura!! As a recovering ‘flexible’ I can completely appreciate this. I too have begun to recognize the value of maintaining my core ‘integrity’, standing firm in my identity and respecting my boundaries. It really is about balance of the two, isn’t it?…. Thank you for your wisdom. You are inspirational!!

  2. Margo Clum says:

    Wow, really loving this blog at the moment, I did a search and found it, so glad! I have just started with Yoga, and I enjoy what I’m reading here! How close is pilates to yoga though, just wondering?

  3. Eunice Cawthorn says:

    very good article. thx for sharing!