There are a lot of things you can find through yoga—most importantly yourself. I’ll always be trying to discover more of myself and I love how yoga has helped me to find (or rediscover) flexibility, focus, balance, and sometimes even Zen.
Lately what I’ve been (re) discovering is strength—and it feels good.
A Journey of Rediscovery
I know that I’m mentally strong because I survived grueling years of infertility and IVF issues, as well as the long adoption process (and being the best mother you can be sure takes mental toughness).
Physically, I stayed strong through doing weights at the gym, running, and aerobic exercise through my twenties, and into my thirties when I added the gift of yoga in the mix—sometimes frequently, other times sporadically.
But somewhere in my early forties I lost my way—less exercise, weight gain, and a little too much looking into a glass of wine for the answers in life (or to escape the questions).
Yoga was still part of my life but I wasn’t truly committed to it and I couldn’t see how the midlife musings that were frustrating me so much could be answered on a yoga mat. Could they be answered at all?
Strength Is Part of the Answer
The midlife crisis may be a cliché and I certainly don’t think I have it all sorted now, but at 46, as a newly qualified yoga teacher, I’m holding space for the questions through yoga and meditation. I’m listening closely for the answers.
And I’m finding strength that I’d forgotten I had (a frequent practice—five classes a week, plus home meditation will do that). Strength lets you believe you will find the answers, even when questions remain.
Here’s how I’m finding strength and how you can too.
1. Switch your focus to strength.
If you focus on losing weight (I’ve lost 12 kg or 26 lbs over 12 months), then it becomes the end game. I’ve focused on getting stronger and healthier. And while I’ve added discipline with my diet, including a nutritional cleanse, strength has been my main focus.
2. Strength sneaks up on you.
You get stronger by degrees. Sure, you may have breakthrough moments when you nail a certain posture (only to not necessarily be able to repeat it next time), but strength builds slowly.
Notice the increments, like I’m noticing how robust my Vinyasa flow has become through underlying core strength and stronger triceps, and forgive yourself for the times when you are not as ‘strong’ as you were in your previous class.
3. Strength is equally mental as it is physical.
And spiritual strength underpins it. When you exercise your mind as much as your body, you really notice the difference.
Will power calls tired muscles to task, while fatigue is accepted with grace or worked through with courage. It’s in the depth of yoga that we truly appreciate the link between physical and mental—the spiritual bridge.
While gym junkies may recognize the importance of mental toughness in a workout, I wonder whether they get the concept of just allowing.
4. Strong is an attitude.
Strength is relative to where you were before (but hopefully not to where others are—there’s no strength in comparison).
Part of me wondered whether I was past being (or feeling) strong. But you can be strong at any age, and the older you get, the more you can recall past strengths to fuel a current resilient attitude. And it feels good to feel as strong as you’ve been before (Oh yeah, Full Wheel Pose).
5. Acknowledging weakness is strong.
There are some things you will probably always find difficult, and even those things you almost ‘nail,’ can be acknowledged as weaknesses. The weak person refuses to recognize any flaw, but the strong person turns acceptance of their weaknesses into their armor.
Self-awareness and humility will always stand you in good stead, whereas hubris will prove your downfall.
The journey of discovery and rediscovery is lifelong. Yoga can help you stay strong along the way if you tap into the source of universal strength inside yourself.