When it comes to yoga, most of us immediately think of flowing movements, gentle tunes and fairy-like 22-year olds floating past in tight fitting yoga pants. Strength, on the other side, is thought to be found in body pumping fitness studios with sweaty, muscle packed guys. Of course we are all trying to avoid stereotypes, but let’s face it - when people think of ‘yoga’, their first association is’t necessarily ‘strength’.
But what if we’ve got it all wrong, and TRUE STRENGTH is something altogether different, beyond the physical level?
At Flex, we believe that true strength lies in the willingness to challenge ourselves wherever we are at, being committed to our personal growth and transcending our self-imposed limitations. That’s why strength looks different for everyone: for a single mum it can be juggling the demands of her kids, ex-partner and workplace. For a busy executive it can be to switch off and be still. For all of us, in a multi-media world, being truly present takes conscious effort and willpower.
The ancient Sanskrit word ‘yoga’ means ‘to link’, ‘to unite’ or ‘to connect’. The aim is to connect with our Higher Self - the eternal part of ourselves that holds our potential, the blueprint of who we truly are. As our yoga practice progresses, we can observe ourselves shed layer upon layer of that-which-we-are-not. As we let go of misconstrued ideas about our limitations, we can see our true nature shine through, our unique gifts and abilities that are meant to be shared with the world.
In yoga, true strength isn’t about gaining muscle mass or a lean physique. Rather, strength is in the daily practice of committing to yourself, balancing your mind and being willing to let go of what no longer serves you. Whether expressed though the flexibility to touch our toes, the self-discipline to master a headstand or the willingness to be truly present in the moment. On the road to self-mastery we can only ever start where we are at.
Three counter-intuitive paths to strength
Strength isn’t an innate resource we do or don’t have, but a quality we can choose to develop. And although it sounds counter-intuitive, to gain strength we might have to surrender some of it to begin with …
First and foremost, it requires the vulnerability to look at ourselves and acknowledge our own imperfection. That in itself can be the biggest hurdle. Modern society will often frame vulnerability as weakness, so we tend to be too ashamed to allow ourselves to appear weak. And yet remember a time when someone was willing to be vulnerable with you - it takes a tremendous amount of strength and trust. if this rings a bell, have a look at Brene Brown’s talk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ - it is the most viewed TED talk of all times.
Next up is humility - being able to admit that we don’t have all the answers. That we might need help. The willingness to find a guide and listen, so we might learn a thing or two. Admitting when we have been wrong so we can correct our course.
Lastly, developing strength requires self-awareness. If we can’t catch ourselves when we lose track, how will we be able to correct our course? Your environment is always a great mirror - you can identify what does or doesn’t work by looking at the results of your actions and inactions. Ask yourself: Who is on your team and would be willing to give you open and honest feedback? Who are your true friends, who will call you out in your less-than-impressive moments, and tell you the heard truths you don’t want to hear?
Food for thought
Ask yourself: What’s your main challenge these days? What are you doing to step up, and step into your strength? Who is on your team, as a friend, guide or mentor? How can you encourage them to support you on your journey? And what rewarding results will you be able to see when you show up in your full strength?