As we grow, age, adjust our path in life, etc, we change. Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s not. But either way, it’s more or less inevitable as we go through life. When I was 16 and competing in junior Olympic gymnastics, I could do splits (hanumanasana, in the yogi world) at angles of over 180 degrees; I could do “pancake straddles” (upavistha konasana, but with legs at nearly 180 degrees and chest flat on the floor) relatively easy. Suffice it to say that at 40 and not in competitive gymnastics, neither of these is the case any longer. In fact, I often feel like I’m about to pull my groin going into these poses, along with poses like triangle and countless others. Because my body, my life, my activity level, and the type of activities I do have changed. And I don’t love that it hurts, because who wants to feel like they’re pulling their groin muscles on a regular basis. But I also have learned not to compare 16 year old competitive gymnast me with 40 year old “more likely to be a competitive napper” me. I’m joking about the nap thing, kind of, but the point is that my life has changed a lot, as has my body. And that’s ok. Our bodies can change for so many reasons. Or lives can too. So does how comfortable we feel in various yoga poses. And it’s all ok. It doesn’t mean we can’t make yoga goals for ourselves (like not feeling like we’re pulling a groin in triangle pose, for example). Goals are great, as long as they’re set with the right intention. But trying to force ourselves into poses that don't serve us in this stage of life (or this week or at this moment) simply because we used to be able to do them a certain way probably only makes us feel worse, physically and on the whole, than just adjusting to what works for us in the moment, and starting from there.
It works the same way in life. There are many areas in life in which it’s easy to think of how I “used to be”. And in certain circumstances this can serve as an inspiration or motivation. For instance, if we used to feel more confident (a “used to be” that I visit in my own life often) - we know we can experience that, that we’re capable of it, and maybe that inspires us to keep building our confidence, keep focusing on our own worth, making positive changes for ourselves. But often, our “used to be”s do the opposite - they make us feel like we’re less now because things have changed. And this can become a slippery slope. As in yoga, trying to force ourselves into something we used to do or be that doesn’t work for us now can be painful, and do more harm than good. Thinking less of ourselves because we aren’t where or who or what we were in our 20s (or whatever age) simply holds us back. It keeps us in the past, instead of looking at the opportunities that we have here, at this new stage of life, and where we can go from this point forward.
And sure, I’d like to have more energy like I used to, and not feel like I’m pulling my groin in triangle pose. But honestly I wouldn’t want to be the same person at 40 that I was at 20, or even 30. It would mean I’m stagnating, that I’m not growing and learning and maturing and gaining new perspectives. And hands down, I’ll take growing and learning and maturing and gaining perspective over being able to do a full split or a pancake straddle or the perfect triangle pose any day.