What being able to do the splits hasn’t done for me

Hanumanasana is a real ego pose. It’s one of *those* poses, the ones that everyone envisions themselves as being able to do one day, when things are perfect. I say “everyone” but we all know that’s not what yoga’s about… right?

Recently I’ve found myself being able to get into hanumanasana. I can do the splits! My 10 year old inner self is rejoicing . The headstand AND the splits, just imagine, me of the past could show those little gymnast wisps a thing or two. The reasons for me being able to do this ‘feat’ are simple: naturally flexible hamstrings coupled with excessive hip flexor stretching. Every day I walk, run or sit and so I do my lunges to stretch my hip flexors. Stiff, tight hip flexors are not an option for me anymore, I cannot abide them. So I stretch and I stretch and I have done for 3 years. No surprise then that my flexibility has increased.

My reactions to being able to get so far into hanumasana have been complex. First of all shock and amazement-” WHAT is my leg doing THERE??” Then interest- “Ooh I can really lift my chest and stretch my hip flexors… nice” But this is just on my own, yoga classes are a whole different story. In my yoga class I am one of the few who can get anywhere close to being somewhat comfortable in this demanding, and potentially hellish pose. (One of the others is a ballet dancer and looks like she could stay there all day.) So when the times comes to attempt the slow slide into hamstrings and hip flexors it can be quite the performance. This annoys me because I am not a performer in my yoga class. I like to do yoga in my yoga class. The attitude in my yoga classes does can get a bit “show-offy” and it makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t want to be clapped when I balance and I don’t want to have to stop and watch someone else stagger on their hands for a minute. I want to do my yoga and still my mind.

For instance a few weeks ago I was taking a class taught by a teacher who doesn’t seem to have much patience with herself. She said she’d been practicing yoga for 7 years but she seems to treat her practice like a chore, like the point of it is to get into impressive poses like handstand, forearm balance and.. yes.. the splits. We did the splits in that class and I slid into it very deeply and somewhat comfortably. The teacher saw me and said she’d been telling herself she’d be able to do the splits by Christmas for about 7 years before saying “I wish I could do that”. The look of disdainful jealousy was something. And the tone. I looked down at the floor, wanting to disappear, hating my flexible hip joints and legs. How do you respond to that?

Her attitude is unfortunately one that is way too common. I’ve heard the tuts when people fall out of balances, seen the gritted teeth and felt the extreme tension that comes from a lot of frustrated, goal focussed people being in a room together, being made to do poses that bruise their egos. And I don’t like it. It’s not why I do yoga.

Because being able to do the splits does not change my life at all. I wanted to say to that teacher that yes I can do the splits but it doesn’t stop me from waking up feeling like I can’t get through the day, it doesn’t mean I won’t spend 2 days in bed because of my depression, it doesn’t help my dodgy digestion, it doesn’t make my life richer, or easier, it doesn’t improve anything about my life except it makes my hips that little bit more flexible.

Of course I didn’t, I was just silent. I just wish I could get it across somehow, I’m sick of being the quiet girl sometimes! Still if you can’t say anything nice…

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1 thought on “What being able to do the splits hasn’t done for me

  1. a lot of complex currents going on there brija

    and was i like that? yes, more so when i was younger, though it’s never completely gone, i “work” with it 😉

    though i think i’ve gotten much kinder to myself over the years, maybe better so with what i can do pose-wise and activity wise, than in the arts

    btw, seems like you’re doing a good job of getting less “quiet” 😉 just maybe figuring out what you’re going to say in a way that’s still ok with you, kinda a continous process i think, at least for me

    nice post, take care brija!

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