What if you had access to a strength that would allow you to reactivate your life? A strength that brings lightness and butterflies to every future decision, turning you inside-out, shifting your perspective and giving you air to breathe that makes you high. Strength so transformative that you begin to question whether or not you were ever truly alive.
When you hear the word "strength", is your first thought of muscular biceps or walking on stage to speak in front of a large group? Obviously those are two common definitions of "being strong". But I believe there is an alienated world of "misfit-strength" located in the space between bulging arms and public speaking. I also believe the practice of yoga can turn our direction toward a realm of new hope, new life, a new strong way to live.
A New Definition of Strength
For many, the very beginnings of a journey toward Yoga starts with asana, the physical practice of poses. Myself included, the desire to practice yoga often begins with a physical practice in a yoga studio or somewhere on our mat. It's common to be drawn to tangible experiences first as we enter into something new, different or exciting. Similarly, the journey toward strength often begins with a day at the gym, lifting weights, or finding a way to feel or become physically stronger in the body. Like in yoga, this process tends to naturally push us deeper toward what we are really searching for. The tangible practices we experience are often only scratching the surface of a frosty window that will eventually show you a new world. My yoga asana practice opened a door to a place that made it feel safe and natural to look inward. By looking inward, a new light was shed on myself and on the world around me. I wanted more, and so the story unfolds with door after door.
Physical strength can lead to a recognition of inner strength, which can then lead to a place of mindful or soulful strength....and that is the strength I want to talk about.
Soulful strength. It's different than inner strength because inner strength refers to a non-physical strength that leads to courage, and courage to either do something, say something or move forward in some way. Soulful strength is also non-physical but rather than it leading to forward movement or success of an action, soulful strength just accumulates. It accumulates only when we are conscious and aware of it, allowing it to just be without needing to take an action or movement. It's a strength that builds a stable base made of truth, purity and authenticity. It's a strength that resonates with our purest energy as a human being and soulful being. As it accumulates, it rises into a solid and untouchable foundation of love and peace that exists around, under and in between everything. Not sure about this? Do you feel a depth within you? A depth that feels like a resource. A place to go to that offers intuition, a gut-feeling, a scary premonition at times. That is your soulful strength. That is the piece of you that will forever be strong...and strong in a way that can defeat anything, if you can tap into it at a moments notice.
Be Strong, They Said.
I've struggled with this recently. There's been a lot in life that I've ended up feeling better about by either telling myself to "be strong" or hearing it as guidance from others. "Be strong!" What does that mean? No one ever told me HOW to be strong? Be strong. Okay, I will. Work through it, deal with it, feel strong about it, build a wall around it...around me. Fight through the toughness that exists, wait it out until you are back to a place of comfort.
How would you feel if I told you that it's okay NOT to be strong. Would you be relieved? You don't have to be strong, you don't have to tough it out. Would you finally relax? Would you cry? What if that which you were afraid to feel was really just a friend? If I told you to NOT be strong, would you become vulnerable? Weak? By feeling the truth, perhaps you may actually become stronger? Soulfully stronger.
Be strong, they said.
Yoga for Strength
Yoga is inward attention. Inward attention is the practice of a deeper recognition of what is true, what is peace and what is real. Discovering and acknowledging what is real will allow you to build a foundation of strength that you can carry with you in life, and into any situation. It's like a rock, a rock you sit on during a brutal ocean storm. This rock is so deeply secured in the earth, that no matter how destructive the waves are, it will not move. Yoga is this rock. Through my yoga practice, I access my physical strength and my inner strength to find this rock. Yoga can do this for you too, if you practice patiently and listen to your heart and body. Nothing happens overnight, especially with our physical bodies and minds so easily morphed by a non-attentive and materialistic society. There's no rule book for being strong, but there is an outlet through yoga to get us closer to a strength that will resonate through mind, body and into real-life when we need it.
According to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, one of the eight limbs of yoga is the Niyamas. There are five niyamas that describe observances of the self. Consider the niyama "Svadhaya", which means self-study. Through self-study or looking inward, we develop the sight to find what's "hiding" deep within us. In the book The Yamas & Niyamas, Deborah Adele says "If we close our eyes, our very lives rest on a false foundation. We cannot be afraid to look." It can be scary to look deep, especially when we do so to find a source of strength. This process can often distort what we think we know about our-self. Another Deborah Adele-ism (I highly suggest this book)..."knowing that we aren't who we thought we were begins to open up the possibility of knowing our true self."
We can practice accessing Svadhaya in our yoga practice. Sometimes in classes instructors may suggest that we move our bodies with our breathe. I would offer to rearrange those words to say, follow your breath - as if you're holding it's hand curious where it might be going. It is here where you can begin to deepen your connection with your true self. Let your breath and body "hold hands" through your yoga practice, not matter how un-rhythmic it may feel at first, and you will find a place within you that feels almost perfectly in sync to the breeze outside your door and to the walls surrounding you. In that space, there will be a resource unlike what we were ever taught to seek. That is the place to go to find soulful strength and sit on your rock.
"We all carry within us;
the fullness of wisdom,
It is never thwarted,
and cannot be destroyed.
But it is hidden deep,
which is what makes life
- Huston Smith
Hello, I'm Julie.
Discover the wisdom of yoga and how it can bring nourishment, well-being and a deeper connection to all aspects of your life.