If you’ve been to a yoga class, be it an online class or one in an actual gym or studio, you’ve likely hear the teacher say something along the lines of “honoring you limitations.” There are lots of ways we can look at this phrase, or rather, the idea. We have to give our bodies time to develop mobility, and we have to give our minds time to get connected with our bodies.
Making sense of what limitations mean in a yoga practice
Accepting your limitations can be what helps you move beyond them. This is a tricky topic in some ways-a slippery slope. Why? Because accepting limitations is, for practical purposes, an act of surrendering to current circumstances. It suggests that things may stay as they are. This idea conflicts with the idea that we can develop ourselves beyond existing boundaries; but that’s only one perspective, a typical dualist approach that is so characteristic of our Western culture. How can we look at this a different way?
It starts with common sense-don’t force yourself because you could get hurt
You don’t want to contort your body beyond its current range of motion as you can hurt yourself. One of the most common mistakes made by yoga students are who are still relatively new to yoga but who have learned the basics is to try force oneself into lotus pose. I must confess that I was one of these students. When I was a few months into my practice, I forced myself into full lotus position because I was feeling inspired and driven. Then I heard a small “pop”.
After that pop, I had a knee injury and couldn’t do half lotus, let alone full lotus. I had to skip a lot of other poses for almost six weeks in order to nurse my knee back to health; I couldn’t even do Janu Sirsasana on that side. In the end, I gained nothing from forcing myself beyond my body’s limitations. Had I stuck with slow, steady progress, I’d have gotten where I wanted to be.
Surrender into the moment…without giving up
This is where the different perspective of surrender comes in-we’re talking Yoga philosophy here. Surrender in this case isn’t about giving up; it’s about letting go by choice. You let yourself be carried forward by the circumstances, rather than trying to force your destiny to manifest itself. Don’t worry if you’re not yet to the point where you can pretzel yourself into lotus-take your time and dig the basic Janu Sirsasana, it’s a great pose that will help open your hips, which must happen before you can do lotus.
You want to experience each pose in the moment and let yourself feel alive. A yoga pose is not just a means to an end, even if you’re doing a prep pose that’s part of a sequence that ends in an advanced pose like lotus. Take, for example, the forward-facing pigeon pose. It’s a great hip opener that gives you a great yoga buzz. It’s a restorative pose that helps you become energized and should be enjoyed.
Fear should not be a limitation-instead, it should be thrown away
It is often said by yoga teachers that poses you dislike are the ones you need to do. There’s some truth in that, quite a bit, in fact, but I never met a yoga pose that I didn’t like. Your physical limitations may require you to approach different poses with caution, but those are the only limitations you need to honor.
Never fear moving forward, and never be limited by your fear. Don’t throw caution to the wind, but do throw your fears of yoga side. Your current physical limitations are simply hills to climb as you learn the amazing things your body will eventually be able to do.