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Moving on up – Issue 54

When is a beginner not a beginner? By Alex Ford

At what point do you stop being a ‘beginner’ and enter the realms of the ‘intermediate’? Here, I am referring to yoga, of course, but the same probably applies to most other sports and disciplines as well, from tennis to kite surfing (whatever that is).

This thought occurred to me recently during a class in which I noticed my range of stretching or movement had, ever so slightly, increased. It was almost imperceptible, even to me. Reaching down my back and over my shoulder with my right hand to clasp my left had always been possible for me, just.

But doing it the other way, with my left hand above, frantically searching for my right hand fingers below, had always been beyond me. When I first started yoga, in fact, the gulf between the two seemed immense and unbridgeable.

Yet I continued with my practice, never really convinced that it would be any different, despite my instructors telling me that bit-by-bit my body would open up in places I wasn’t even aware of to allow these new reaches to happen.

And then, one day, there it was.

My left hand reached down, as always, but this time my right hand fingers were actually there, within reach (just). It was quite odd actually. There was no fanfare, and no one else in the room (or outside the room) even knew.

But I knew. Today, my body could do something that previously it hadn’t been able to. It was quite extraordinary really. Something, somewhere, had shifted in me to permit this increased range of motion. I’m sure any yoga teacher could’ve explained it in a flash, but for me, it was almost like magic. What I do know is that this ‘beginner’ is getting bendier.

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