Strong Enough To Be Soft

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

— Chinese Proverb

Admittedly, I was once a master goal driver. One May, I ran my first five-mile course ever, and just a few months later, I ran a full marathon. I've always enjoyed proving myself. But soon after I began practicing yoga, I began to question if I was using my own strength to 'overpower' myself.

“Feel your strength. You can do anything you really want to.”

When I started taking yoga classes and was encouraged to 'do' a pose, it would feel like a challenge to me. I would excitedly take it as an opportunity to accomplish something; to have the chance to succeed. I remember one (well meaning) teacher, who would say something like, "Feel your strength. You can do anything you really want to." But to me that meant, "I am strong, so I need to do everything."

After an initial year or two of brining a lot of power and goal-orientation to my practice, I began to reflect in my meditation and final relaxation if my abilities to be strong and efficient were actual dampening quieter yearnings that I also housed. Was my 'get-it-done' style preventing me from listening inward and really hearing myself?

The more I softened in to listening, the less I craved accomplishment. What I began to hear was my deeper longing for self-acceptance, self-appreciation, self-love. I deeply desired the freedom to relax with myself; to relax into myself.

Don't get me wrong, I like being strong. But what I discovered is I needed to be strong enough to be soft; powerful enough to be open; steadfast enough to slow down; and relaxed enough to appreciate my self and life - just as it is.

Today, even though I do teach and practice 'poses', I approach them from a totally different place than when I first discovered yoga. My mat is where I practice freedom from being goal-driven. Freedom from 'achieving'. I practice yoga slowly, mindfully, and compassionately. I use my strength to support myself in staying present and relax more, and to encourage myself to be kind as I guide myself back to this state - over and over again.