There is a duality to yoga that can sometimes be confusing. On the one hand, there is this element of relaxation and ease. We are told to breathe into our bodies and soften while we melt our heart centers. That all sounds so peaceful, doesn’t it?
Then there is this other part of yoga where your teacher instructs the class to do a full vinyasa in one breath, hold a four-minute Side Crow, push into Handstand, flip over to a Backbend, and land in Scorpion—which actually takes a surprising amount of effort.
There’s a delicate balance between exerting yourself, and being gentle with your body. A lot of this actually has to do with personality. I see it all the time with my fellow classmates.
There’s the guy who gingerly places his elbow on his thigh for Side Angle, who even though his body could go further, is taking it easy and being chill. There’s the girl who does extra Chaturangas between every Upward Dog, binds her Half Moon, and pushes herself so much, I get tired just looking at her.
Finding Your Inner and Outer Strength
Some people push themselves too hard, and some not enough. Yoga is one of the most ideal platforms to examine that tendency within yourself. I tend to be an overachiever in life, so Restorative yoga is pretty much my worst nightmare.
“What? You mean I’m just going to lie in Goddess Pose and not sweat? How can I make this harder for myself? I know—I’ll take the blocks from under my knees away… Yeah, now I feel it.” Sometimes the hardest thing for me to do is to do less.
Yet there are many who have the exact opposite tendency, and they instead need to get more comfortable with challenging themselves rather than always doing what is easy for them.
Part of yoga is finding your inner and outer strength. If it was just about lying on the floor opening your hips, then I think that’s called something else, and you do that in the bedroom. You need to be not just a passive participant of the practice, but rather an active observer of both your mind and body.
Exploring your own vitality is pivotal to the yogi experience.
Part of the journey is to respect your physical and mental boundaries, but also nudge them along. If you never elbow up against your limitations, then you’ll never grow or evolve. Of course, we want to be kind and loving towards ourselves, but we don’t want to be coddling self-enablers either.
The More Strength You Inhabit, the Stronger You Become
The other day, I was taking an online class from Yogaglo.com, and the teacher, Claire Missingham, said something that blew my third eye up: “You have to be strong to get strong.”
I actually had to press pause on my computer to take that phrase in—and because I also wanted a bite of my 90% cacao chocolate bar. The concept resonated with my so deeply. It was like a vibrational bowl singing the tremor of truth.
The more strength you inhabit, the stronger you become… Such a simple, yet profound notion.
I have kept this with me in my practice and daily life, reminding myself when something scares me that I also know has transformational potential. In the face of adversity, annoyance, hardships, complications, and even opportunities, I have a new mantra. “I have to be strong to get strong.”