I have never been able to touch my toes, ever.
When I was in the fourth grade, there was a famous incident where my teacher (a Mrs. Buffum who haunts my nightmares) sent me to the Principals office. We were doing exercises in PE and she thought I wouldn’t do it when the truth was that I couldn’t do it. We’ been at loggerheads over other things so she just assumed that I was (not) doing it to spite her.
Over the years I’ve worked at loosening my very tight hamstrings without much success. I have long legs relative to the length of my torso, and I’ve never been able to touch my toes without bouncing (yes, I know you aren’t supposed to bounce). I simply gave up on it. After all, it is possible for a person to live a long and healthy life without touching their toes, and I’m really not much of an athlete. I’d rather sit in a comfortable spot with a book or my computer than move my muscles into a sweat.
Then, about three years ago I started to take yoga.
One of the things my teacher says is that yoga is about letting go. I have always found this a difficult concept to grasp because I am usually all about embracing–even desperately grabbing on. But I attempted to apply that concept not only in class but also to other parts of my life including my writing.
Obviously in yoga we do a lot of bending and stretching and core work and balance. It’s been a really good discipline for me and I’ve benefitted in many ways, but those toes have remained just as far away from my hands and fingers as they ever were. I talked to my yoga teacher and she said that it wasn’t my hamstrings it was my lower back. I didn’t believe her. After all, my hamstrings are short and my lower back is loose and I still wasn’t touching those toes.
Then, one day I visited a different yoga class. We did some seriously intense work on the hamstrings. I had my heel up on a chair (because they use chairs and blocks and straps in this yoga class) and I had to lean over and reach for my toes and I had a startling thought.
Later that day while standing in my kitchen, I leaned down and . . .
. . . I let go . . .
. . . then I let go a bit more . . .
. . . and I touched my toes . . .
. . . because I realized <cue lightning sound efx> that for the past FIFTY YEARS I have been trying to touch my toes by bending at my waist when I needed to do the bending from my hips.
Sometimes long held beliefs need to be rethought, reimagined, re-explored and ultimately let go so that we can move on.