Five minutes into the yoga class, and Kathryn Budhig (the most fun Yoga instructor ever) from the other side of my computer screen tells me that if “that plank pose is too strong for you today, put your knees down. That’s power. Doing what your body needs, listening to your body and taking care of it is powerful.”
Not pushing, straining, hurting, or forcing. And it hits me. I sometimes forget the incredible power within myself. The power to take care of me. To put what I need first. Not what my inner critic tells me I need, not what others might think is best for me or expect from me, not what the world believes I should be doing or being.
It’s easy to get caught up in the popular thinking that power and strength rise from constant movement, constant achievement, endless ‘doing’. If you do it all, then you’re strong, if you catch and return every ball tossed at you, your power is in no doubt.
But, I think we’ve got it all wrong. What if the power is really in those moments when we listen to ourselves, choose to value ourselves and say ‘Actually, right now, I need gentleness more than being strong’, and in choosing to be gentle with ourselves we are in fact being incredibly strong and courageous?
That moment on the mat long ago, had me collapse in tears. Once the tears were spent, it felt as though the entire Universe and my understanding of it had shifted. I felt I could write ten thousand words explaining the epiphany – that’s how “big” that moment felt. Yet, the realization is astonishingly simple: Our power resides in our ability to choose to care for ourselves.
Of course, there are many times when pushing, stretching ourselves and expanding to meet a challenge are exactly what we need, writer Elizabeth Gilbert refers to this as healthy striving. It is indeed good for us to stretch and flex our muscles and try hard to do hard things. I do it all the time, and nothing feels better than pulling off something I’m not sure I can accomplish.
But, on those days when we are weary from the work, deflated by a rough patch on the road, hurting from the inevitable wounds life inflicts upon us, or feeling we are incapable of being kind to ourselves, those are the moments when we can become our own heroes, wielding the superpower of kindness and gentleness to our own precious selves.