Last week I found a yoga studio (FINALLY) in Atlanta that just felt like home. The teachers had that energy I was looking for, the other students were similar to me in their practices and lifestyles, and the studio had the cleanliness of a fitness-centered practice plus the spirituality of the crunchier yoga places. I was in love.
In one of these classes, the teacher had us in side plank – a pose that I used to loathe, until I got to the point that I could do it. Now, I love the strength and length of the pose. But the pose itself is challenging and will always be challenging no matter where you are in your practice. This is something that I love about yoga – there is no mastery of yoga in its entirety. We can become teachers, but we will all be students forever. And for me, who is a voracious student, that is exactly the kind of thing I like in my hobbies. There is always a way to take it deeper. There is always a way to challenge yourself. There is always more to learn.
“Lift out of the pose,” the teacher was saying. “Feel strong in this pose, focusing on the strength that you do have and not the strength you lack.”
These words almost knocked me right out of the pose. In life, and especially in group exercise classes, it can feel so easy to focus on what you feel you can’t do or what you think you’re not doing good enough. But how often do we focus wholly on the strength we do have? How often do we show up for ourselves, or even just show up on the mat, shining in all of the strength that we already own?
I often tell my students, when we are in restorative poses, “this does not have to be the deepest stretch of your life, just find your edge.” But what if we began to tell ourselves “this does not have to be the strongest moment of your life”?
Maybe it’s society that puts the pressure on us to put the pressure on ourselves. That when we feel weak, we only make ourselves feel weaker by berating ourselves for not being stronger. But strength does not come all at once. It is something we build – something we work towards.
This does not have to be the strongest moment of your life. Maybe you need to use a block, to get a little more grounded. Maybe you need to lower to your knees to take the weight out of your arms. Maybe the best thing you can do today is take a shower. Maybe you need to cancel the plans you made. Maybe you didn’t meditate, but you did three sun salutations this morning.
The point of this is: we do what we can, and we just need to trust that it is enough. When we’re doing all we can do – that’s it. There is nothing more the world can ask us for. So, if you’ve been playing the comparison game or giving yourself a hard time, try celebrating the strength that you do have instead. You’ve worked hard to get here, and it’s okay if you’re not at the finish line yet. You are still going strong – whatever caliber of strong that might be today.
Remember that we say a flower is blooming whether it is in half, three-quarters, or full bloom.