Yoga is about Adaptability

Touching your toes

Do you want to know what I most often hear when I tell people I teach yoga? They say “I can’t do yoga. I can’t touch my toes.”

It’s kind of like saying “I can’t drive because I can’t race in Formula 1.”

Yoga has about as much to do with touching your toes as driving normal cars has to do with driving F1 flightless airplanes, but I think I understand why people think this way.  

Everyone seems really flexible

Yoga classes tend to attract a lot of flexible people. People who have been dancers or into group fitness for a long time or basically, people who can already touch their toes and then some.

The photos we see of yoga almost invariably show lean, skinny people in poses fit for a Cirque de Soleil performer. Of course, exposed to this, the uninitiated person living in a non-toe-touching body would think the practice was not for them.  

With thanks to Donna Farhi, a lucid writer with decades of yoga teaching experience, who first put it so clearly:

Yoga is not about flexibility. It’s about adaptability.


Adaptability is defined as the ability to adjust to new conditions.  

Every day your body and mind are different than they were before. Changed by the inputs from yesterday, from the quality of sleep from last night. Our yoga practice serves to center us in our own being. It’s not like a circle we look at from the outside and walk into, trying to find its perfect center.

Yoga practice is more like a vessel we are already within, and as we reach and breathe and focus the mind from inside toward the boundaries, the vessel rights itself around us. Our whole being re-centers around our stable inner core, adapting to the external environment and to the contents within.  

Organizing around center

Take me, for example. A pregnant woman changing multitudes in body and mind every single day. I’m literally growing off center as my center of gravity shifts with the weight of this baby pulling my belly forward.

Without my morning practice, I think I’d feel increasingly off base. Off a base located somewhere in a more familiar body/mind that I would have lost track of months ago. My practice recalibrates my nervous system around the contents of my vessel, including the rapidly dawning reality of unknowable and imminent life changes. And so I adapt, little by little, day by day.

I suspect that yoga offers us a smoother way to face change than the abrupt slap of reality. I also suspect there remains to be felt many an abrupt slap. And for that, we still have our practices.

I trust this power of yoga, so I know I’ll make it through whatever life throws at me. I know what it feels like to adapt using something familiar and often completely unremarkable – my hum drum daily yoga routine. Breathing in….and breathing out. Standing on my own two feet.  


Image by Ray Bilcliff from Pexels