Have you ever stopped to consider how wonderful it is to have limitations? Think about it…would life be fun if everything you do comes easily to you the very first time? Some people would probably say yes, but I think that answer would be given without REALLY thinking about it. I think limitations are something everyone should experience along the journey of their lives. I think limitations help us grow in ways we never would if everything just came naturally and was 100% perfect.
A couple of weeks ago, the center where I go for my Lyme treatment reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in leading a yoga class there on Monday evenings. The owner explained that I could have a variety of students, as many have physical limitations due to whatever they might be coming to the center to be treated for, and asked if I would be OK with a pretty varied population. I was told they had blocks, chairs, blankets, straps, bolsters…you name it and they were prepared. I didn’t even have to think about it. I instantly said “YES! Of course! I would be honored!”
Some yoga teachers might not be quite so excited to teach a class of this sort. It’s a challenge to prepare a class that ANY type of student can participate in. And if you’re a vinyasa junkie, then a class of this sort might be very awkward, because it probably won’t have much of a “flow” to it.
But I am a person with physical limitations. Ever since I got sick, my body just can’t do what it used to do…I’ve got many posts throughout my blog about my frustration and struggle with finding my new practice. For a long time, I hesitated to teach because I felt like no one would want to take class with a teacher who couldn’t even do the poses herself. But through trial and error, I have figured out what I can do, what I can’t do, how to modify out the wazoo…I think I am a much better teacher because of my limitations.
You may be wondering how limitations in a yoga practice can make a better teacher. The perception out there in the world is that a yoga teacher should be an expert at practicing yoga postures. And yes…I agree with that thought to an extent. But I suggest rephrasing that to “a yoga teacher should be an expert at teaching yoga postures.” Allow me to explain.
Most of the general population has limitations while practicing yoga. Maybe it’s as simple as tight hips or hamstrings, or you have difficulty sitting still. Or maybe your limitations come from an injury or illness.
Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Well, aren’t these BAD things? Isn’t it bad to be so tight, or to be ill? Don’t we want yoga to fix these things???”
OK…it’s true that yoga may help you get more flexible or recover from an injury more quickly. But it certainly won’t happen overnight. Which means…
You’ve got to learn to accept yourself as you are, in the moment. Limitations encourage you to stick with that learning; otherwise, you’ll never find the understanding you need to move past it.
As a teacher, my limitations have helped me empathize with my students, allowing me to modify a practice to fit their needs. Because I have restrictions, I understand why certain poses are challenging or risky for certain populations. And because I understand, I have compassion for those who are struggling…I’ve been there, and I am STILL there on many occasions. I have completely changed the way I teach because of my limitations…and I feel it’s for the better. I admit that maybe I don’t teach a kick-ass Power Yoga class anymore and pack the room like I used to. But that’s OK. As a person with limitations, when I was trying to find classes that my body could actually do without causing more issues, there weren’t many out there. I found a couple, but they were not offered regularly (like, maybe once a month), or they were offered at odd times of the day because these types of classes don’t usually pack ’em in and generate lots of revenue.
I get it. I truly do. I’m just glad I’m being given this opportunity because I’m so excited to share what I’ve learned and encourage anyone struggling to never give up. Work with what you’ve got and use it as an opportunity to learn what you’re truly capable of.
If you can approach your practice in this way, no matter how big or small your limitations might be, it connects you to the concept in yoga known as santosha, which translates to “contentment”. It’s not easy being content with where we are right now, when we’re constantly bombarded with social media posts and images that make everyone else seem so perfect.
Discovering what you’re capable of may help you find happiness and acceptance for wherever you’re at, regardless of what might limit you.
Do you embrace your limitations? I’d love it if you could share your thoughts in the comments as to how you do it. We can all learn from each other!