Tips for building strength through yoga

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I am participating in a fun 30-day wellness challenge put on by my friend Mike at the Wellness Bucket. The second day, the challenge was to state your current fitness goal. My focus is on building strength.

Yoga has helped me in all kinds of ways. It has made more flexible, resilient, centered and more content. I’ve found more balance in my life (at least some of the time…) and also have learned to be ok with things when things are a bit out of whack. And lately I have been discovering strength through yoga. It is pretty awesome!

I know that I can be mentally strong. I have been through the death of a parent and a partner within a year. I have felt betrayed and lost after completely losing trust in someone that I trusted more than anyone. It’s not events themselves that make one strong – shit happens to everyone. But it takes strength not to let these things own you. Making that choice is courageous.

Physically, I have maintained my strength through karate and martial arts. But after an injury and many years off, I lost my way a bit. Now I am rediscovering the strength that I had forgotten was even in me. For me, it is a consistent yoga and meditation practice that provides the foundation.

Here are some things that have helped me to be strong. I hope some of these ideas help you as well.

1. Make strength your focus.

Don’t focus on losing weight, how you look or attaining a certain pose. Instead focus on becoming strong and healthy. Strong body, strong mind.

In your yoga, practice strength-building poses, such as Warriors (at least some of the time). Hold poses for longer than you think you can. Practice sun salutations. Do a little bit every day. Do your nemesis pose (hello Camel …) and embrace the challenge.

2. Celebrate incremental gains

Strength creeps up on you. It’s not like you suddenly go from 10 to 100 pushups. But over time things start to shift.

After a couple of weeks of sun salutations, you may notice that you can do Chaturanga (high to low pushup) from your toes instead of your knees. That’s awesome. Or you may notice that your practice becomes more robust once you build some core and triceps strength. It’s subtle but it is growth – celebrate! And also cut yourself some slack if on some days you feel “less strong.”

3. Understand that strength is also mental

It’s an attitude. If you believe that you are strong and that you can be even stronger, you will be. Strength is something you build over time and it is relative to where you began. You don’t have be an Olympic lifter. If you go from holding Warrior pose for 2 to 4 breaths, that is building strength.

You can be strong no matter what your age. And it feels pretty empowering. Wheel pose? Haven’t done it in years and didn’t expect to again. But a few weeks ago, I did it. It was through the encouragement and help of another yoga instructor. And it was exhilarating!

4. Acknowledge your weaknesses

There are some things that may never be easy for you. Acknowledging your weaknesses embodies strength. You accept what actually is right alongside possibility that you may or may not be able to change it.

For example, injury or anatomy may prevent you from ever doing a particular pose. Or maybe headstands scare the hell out of you. Refusing to accept any kind of “flaw” is shirking responsibility. Accept it. Even embrace it.

And then figure out how to deal with it. It may even be just accepting that something is not for you right now. The ability to be humble and self-aware demonstrates tremendous strength.

5. Be relentlessly consistent

Discipline is strength. It is not easy to get on your mat when you are tired or overwhelmed. But by showing up anyway, you are building a very strong practice. You are training yourself and reinforcing that it is important.

In yoga, tapas is “fiery discipline” – an intense, focused and constant commitment. Tapas helps you stay the path. It begins with intention and choice. You get to decide the path you will take. And then to make it happen you call on discipline and drive to keep moving forward. This is strength of spirit.

Yoga most certainly encompasses flexibility and relaxation. But it is also about building strength  – in body, mind and spirit. We are all part warrior. We just need to let her out.

What do you do to get stronger? Just leave a comment to share your thoughts.

 

4 thoughts on “Tips for building strength through yoga”

  1. Thanks for the tips! I’ve started up a yoga regiment that I’m trying to do at home. You’re right, like many exercises, yoga also requires consistent practice to see the results. I’m starting to feel a bit stronger after doing yoga only three times this week, but I know that I should do it more often than that to reach my fitness goal. How many days a week should I do yoga to reach the same level as most yoga gurus? I would like to teach yoga one day.

  2. The last time that I saw my chiropractor he suggested that I try yoga. I know that Hinduism is the root of yoga, but is it possible to just get the physical benefits out of it? I’m not really interested in religion although the physical benefits of this activity have a lot of appeal to me.

  3. I think it’s great that you can find more balance in your life by doing yoga. My wife has asked me if I wanted to join her every week when she goes to her class. To be honest, I was a little skeptical at first. But after learning the benefits I think I’ll give it a shot! How long should I try it before actually making a decision? Thanks for the help!

  4. I did not realize that yoga can give me so much strength. I think that Yoga can really help with strength mental and physical. I am excited to try some of these yoga moves.

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