Being able to touch your toes doesn’t make you a happier person.

I have shamelessly nabbed the above title from Nadia Narain – a great London teacher whose classes first got me interested in yoga a few years ago. And it’s true. You look around the room in a class and you see some students desperately trying to go deeper into poses. They’re looking round the room at their fellow students, seeing that perhaps one of them is able to get their chest down onto their thighs in a seated forward bend, and our old friend the ego rears its ugly head and says, “I can do that!”

seated forward bend
Now ain’t she just the happiest lady you ever saw?
(Image from thegreatestwallpapers.blogspot.

They strain, shoulders inching up around their ears, their fingertips turning white as they grip for dear life on their big toes, their knees buckling and their backs hunched as their noses teeter so very close to their kness. But are they breathing? I bet your bottom dollar that any thoughts of deep, lovely, full yogic breath have disappeared from their totally sattvic uncompetitive thoughts.

That person who is able to almost effortlessly hinge into a beautiful forward bend may be a professional dancer. Or someone who at least doesn’t spend eight hours a day tapping away at a computer. But as Nadia says, just because they can do that, it doesn’t make them happier. They’re likely to find certain asanas or postures challenging as no-one can be good at everything. Maybe they’ve got other things going on in their life that they’re finding seriously hard.

Yoga is about being true to yourself, listening and working with your body – not against it. Indeed, you often find that you can go deeper into a posture by taking more time and using your breath to release.

We need to be grateful for what we’re able to do and with our lot in life. It’s so easy to get caught up with comparing yourself to others and wanting “what they’ve got”. In the new year I decided to start a gratitude diary. Next to my bed I have a little notebook and in it I write five things for which I am grateful on that particular day. It’s a great practice to help cultivate positive thoughts and I recommend everyone to do it. You can be thankful for the big things but also it’s worth remembering the everyday ordinary things too.

And now back to my mat… if… only… I could just get my body to look a little more pretzel-like and wrap… my… ankles… round my neck…