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Generally, when you do any sort of yoga or martial arts, one aspect that stands out from more western sport and athletic training is the constant focus on the fact that flexibility is strength.

 

Last week at a kickboxing session (I teach and co-teach about once a week or so, for non-journal readers who have zero context about my daily life), we had a guy come in who had been a wrestler, who was stacked with muscle to the point his body was a stocky rectangle. Dante and I spent some time explaining to him, when he expressed massive frustration that he got winded fast, that his mobility sucked, that he wasn't nimble, that he absolutely had to focus on his flexibility, ASAP. In essence, he wasn't strong -- though our culture would almost unilaterally define him as such -- because his strength wasn't useable: his muscles kept him from actualy being able to use his strength.

 

I think one of the aspects of strength in women, particularly, that people often notice and admire, but have a hard time verbalizing, is that exact same thing in an emotional, experiential and interpersonal context. If we are not flexible -- adaptable, able to change step, empathatic and compassionate, expressive -- in other words, emotionally flexible, we can only be so strong. Most women don't have to purposefully seek out these things: by virtue of the life of our class as a whole, learning to be adpatable in this way is essential for our survival.

 

A wet branch bends more easily than a brittle one: if we are inflexible, we can only be so strong.

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Uploaded on November 25, 2005