I’m curious to know what you believe it means to be strong.
What is strength and where does it come from?
What does strength feel like to you and what does that feeling give you?
All month we’ve been exploring strength (again) and the different ways we can connect to the idea and feel it in our bodies. t’s a quality we spend a good amount of time exploring in practice, something I have always valued in my own personal life and philosophy since before the yoga practice became an engrained part of my life and existence. This month we exercised our perspective of strength by peeling back the layers of ourselves until we got to the core and source: inner strength.
It’s a wonderful idea to be strong. But what exactly is strength to begin with?
The dictionary is full of confusing but simple definitions- most of which align with the physical. Strength in connection to our literal physical ability to create and withstand force. This understanding shortens the potential for strength and limits our potential because it only connects to what is already possible in that respect.
On a deeper level, strength is a dynamic and powerful quality we each have that aligns us with our potential and expands it and all of our capabilities. It is the sustaining energy not measured by what we can already do, the quantity of things we can do, or merely the physical appearance. It’s beyond that. At least according to what the yoga practice teaches us in a variety of different ways and what I’ve come to understand.
Inner strength is an endless well of everything we are made of, already made for and designed to do- overcome obstacles, challenges, and sustain life- paired with the ultimate source of strength each of us house - the belief that it exists.
The mantra for practice is such a simple and even kind of silly one:
Yeah. I can. | Yes I f**king can!
Read and repeat.
Read and repeat while working through a challenge and observe the difference.
The difference between trying to build strength in the body and connecting to strength within is huge. Adding to that the actual belief that strength exists; truly embodying the strength within you and feeling the energy switch on to support your efforts so that you can both sustain and exceed. That is powerful.
The definitions of inner strength all connect to character and will. “Integrity of character; resoluteness of will”, and my personal favorite, “mental resistance to doubt or discouragement”. Sustaining power and an attitude, not of force, but of faith.
When we focus on the physical as being the main arena of experiencing our strength we often look to feel that we are clearly and almost easily capable of something or we look to feel ourself use as much force as possible to “make” something happen. Rarely do we connect our experiences with real challenge, a roadblock or with being confronted with an impossible situation. Those are often the times that weakness, lack of strength or disbelief arise. Maybe you’ve had this experience? Doubting who you are and what strength you have because you cannot do something or what you’re going through is so difficult that it feels like a wall between you and whatever is on the other side of it. But in those moments is this glorious environment that is giving us the ability to experience our strength in a way that we never would be able to or cultivate further if not for the challenge or wall of difficulty that tests the level of capability we already have and activates our power.
If everything came easy, we’d never know what strength felt like and we’d have no reason to do anything, practice or apply our effort. It is because we are met with challenges that we meet ourselves more fully and get to know the strength we embody- no matter what it looks like on the outside or manifests physically.
If strength were to be specific and particular to the point of being based on physical appearance or measured by the physical, I imagine it would be a really impossible end to find. Physical strength is a limited supply and is always relative to the physical application. Someone who is the physically strongest in their class and sport may be ranked far lower in a different sport because the strength for that may not crossover and translate directly. Meanwhile, inner strength has the power to translate and cross over boundaries that elevate who we are in ways beyond the limitations the physical binds us to.
The more we believe we are strong, the more we power the body with the fuel of the soul and the focused mentality that moves us in the direction we want to go instead of the direction we don’t. And the more we do that and work through the variety of life challenges, the more versatile our strength is and the deeper we connect to possibility rather than doubt or discouragement.
Inner strength is the love-child of will and faith. Discipline and determination with an equal amount of soul and grace. There is less focus on what is being done and more on the substance fueling the doing and even further, the experience of the nature of our being put to the test and always (at the very least) surviving. The organic process of evolving and experiencing the infinite potential of our spirit.
The further this practice takes us, the further it guides us to simply experiencing and understanding that strength is not apart from us. Strength is already within us and is a part of the fabric of our being. We are strength and with each push and obstacle we encounter along the path may we not only remember it, but truly realize it.