One of the many things that my friend and teacher Dara (studio owner and yogi extraordinaire) is great at is talking about strength and flexibility.
“Most of us are naturally more strong or more flexible,” she says, and reminds us to go with what we’ve got, to inch towards flexibility if we’re naturally more strong, to focus on building strength when more flexible, even in postures that look like they’re all about stretching (there’s pretty much always a duality). I am not a particularly limber person, so I appreciate this reminder, especially in those times when the old hamstrings are barely budging, limiting deeper movement.
I think of this reminder when I’m not in class, too, because I think that it is just lovely. I think of it frequently in relation to massage and to common complaints about hypertonic areas. Sometimes those achy places are just the places where you’re strong — that tight spot between your shoulder blades, that ache at the base of your skull, the tension in your quads. They are places that you’ve strengthened, whether through deliberate exercise or unnoticed work, holding your head at a certain angle, moving through life a certain way, carrying your things just so.
Massage therapy can help you unwind. Sometimes the job is to soothe muscles achy from a long run so that you can turn around and hit the road again. Sometimes it is to identify the places you hold without realizing, the little strengths you’re ready to let go, and to begin to find more ease.
I think there’s ease in words, too, in shifting the narrative from cursing aches and pains to thinking about all the living that’s brought them on, all the little places where you’re stronger than you thought.