Stretch, loosen up and reduce the likelihood of injury. This is not news or earth-shaking advice. Athletes from high school players through professional ranks in all sports from football to tennis know the benefits of a flexible body when it comes to better performance, fewer injuries and less down time. The yogi takes this good physiological guidance further by expanding it way beyond the body.
Everyone knows tightness is a precursor to injury. When the body is rigid and one falls, gets hit, or runs into someone or something, what happens? Instead of spreading the shock over a larger area, absorbing the impact over a wide area of muscles, all of the strain is impacted in a small area. Results: strained muscle or worse.
The yogi reasons that if this is true in the body, parallel things must be happening with the mind. The mind, too, when it is tight, rigid, and inflexible causes injuries greater in scope than these physiological injuries. Unlike physical injuries, the damage although often less apparent, is, upon closer examination, not only broader in scope but also of a nature which is less likely to heal in four or six weeks. Situations happen where we have limited scope or response, i.e. mental inflexibility, and because of this limitation, we have fewer alternatives or possible responses. The yogi, therefore, tries to stretch not only the body, but also the mind, becoming like a blade of grass in the wind, being able to adapt and adjust to the situation at hand.
What kind of "stretching" exercises can one do to prevent or lessen this kind of mental injury? Watch the mind carefully. Introspect. Try to really understand why the mind is rigid and unbending. As situations come up which would normally create resistance, consciously try to make decisions which stretch the mind a little further and further. Just like with yoga postures, the key word is evolution, not revolution. Stretch the mind gently at first, and then, as the mind gains more flexibility, stretch it further and further. This is an on-going exercise that one should continue for the duration of one's life, never thinking that maximum flexibility has been achieved or it is OK to ease up with this stretching.
How can we become mentally flexible without becoming mentally spineless? This is a very delicate question which focuses on one's sensitivity and self-honesty, or one's conscience. As one learns to adapt to legions of personalities, one realizes, not through the rational mind (which can often present arguments to mollify whatever situation one is dealing with) but through the intuitive or higher mind when one is doing the right thing. This is also called conscience. One clear indicator which shows that this faculty is operating correctly is that the output from this higher mind is always of an unselfish, unemotional nature. If the conclusions seem biased or emotionally tainted, then it always best to give the other person the benefit of the doubt and adapt to whatever situation one is dealing with.
The more rigid one is in any situation, the fewer options one has. This doesn't automatically free one to become indecisive or indiscriminative and not make decisions in life. It just mean that one must always be ready to adapt and adjust to whatever happens.
What are the results of mental flexibility? As the mind loosens up one begins to see that most of the limitations in life are formed my the rigidity of one's own consciousness. The lack of opportunities in life directly results from mental rigidity and inflexibility.
Complete inner peace is never possible until these mental barriers come down and the mind is flexible enough to truly adapt to whatever individual or situation that is being confronted. Adaptability is one of the keys to real inner peace.