Some people are born flexible. I know this because I am a yoga instructor. I’ll be working on some sort of back bend I just learned or trying out a new hip opener and watch a fellow yogi curl into a pretzel like it’s no biggie. So I ask, “How long did it take you to do… whatever that is?” And often they say, “Oh, I did gymnastics as a little kid” or “I have weird joints that hyperextend” or something like that.
That’s amazing. And natural flexibility is a beautiful gift. But yeah… I was not blessed with such a gift.
So when I put my foot to my head in king pigeon or rest my chest on my thighs in a forward fold, I know exactly what it took me to get there.
So here’s a little story about how I learned to touch my toes.
When I was 14, I could not touch my toes. I honestly didn’t even know I couldn’t touch them, because I was so un-athletic that I had not bothered to try. I was the kid who faked having “exercise induced asthma” to get out of running in gym class. But when I discovered my first yoga DVD, and thought this would be a cool alternative to panting my way around the track, I found out the hard way that my fingers couldn’t even make it to my shins before my whole body seized up.
It was… humbling, to say the least.
So, what did I do? I decided that every day, I was going to do a forward fold and move my fingers one centimeter closer to the ground and hold for one minute. A whole minute of stretching a centimeter beyond my comfort zone was definitely uncomfortable, but it wasn’t forceful or painful. So I kept going. I kept doing the yoga DVD too, once a week, bending my knees as needed, sweating way too much, and staring in bewilderment at the beautiful and super flexible yogini instructing me from the television.
I still remember the day my fingers reached the floor in my bedroom.
I felt unusually exuberant about my hands touching the carpet, worn and stained and definitely overdue for vacuuming, as most teenage girls bedrooms are. But I had done it. And it was so thrilling, that I kept going. Until my hands could rest under my feet. And then until my head could touch my knees. Until I could completely fold in half.
It happened one centimeter at a time.
Small habits matter. The things we do a little bit every day add up. And consistency is a big part of that. There have been periods of my life where I haven’t practiced yoga as much, and during those times I usually lose the ability to fold in half and if I take too much time off even putting my hands on the floor starts to hurt.
So if there is something in your life you want to change this year, some big goal you want to reach, try thinking about it in small consistent steps. Want to learn how to code? Practice a little bit every day. Want to run a marathon? Increase your mileage a couple miles every week. Want to save up for a vacation? Put a buck or two in a separate savings account daily. Then just show up to whatever you committed every day. You’ll get there. And it will be worth every minute.