The room was quiet, but my yoga instructor’s words resounded in my brain, much like a Japanese temple bell toll. There seemed to be only me, face down on my mat, arms forward, as my right ankle found its way near my left armpit. (Yeah, “ouch” is right.)
Somewhere between this questionable torture (yogis refer to it as “pigeon pose”) and happy baby, I had an epiphany:
I MUST stop resisting.
And then, yet another:
I am strong.
I realize that a few of my gun-totin’, wader-wearin’, plow-pushin’ family members might scratch their heads at my affinity for yoga. After all, I am an Idaho girl, prone to loving the mountain air and dirt under my nails. However, despite being raised in a family of hunters, farmers, and fishermen, I have learned to cultivate a brand of strength all my own, a strength borne about by heartbreak, rejection, and lessons learned the hard way… which reminds me of a very wise woman’s words:
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
I can only hope that those who know me best would describe me as such.
Either way, I believe strength = beauty. Beauty isn’t hair color, nail length, heel height, or breast size. It isn’t the color of one’s skin, the amount of fat on one’s body, or the lack thereof. Never have I owned a scale, never have I purchased a gym membership, and never have I been on a diet. I don’t subscribe to the idea that a person’s value is determined by a number.
Instead, my weekly yoga ritual reminds me of my strength. Something about contorting my body into a life-size pretzel is more of a physical–and mental–workout than some of the most extreme fitness programs. (Sorry, dudes. Until your P90X routine teaches you to master the one-legged king pigeon, this girl is NOT impressed.)
So, for as long into the future as I can foresee, I’ll be taking yoga classes. Not only has it taught me to be strong, I’ve taken away a few other life lessons.
1) If it doesn’t burn, you’re not trying hard enough.
2) Just breathe deeply. You’ll get through it.
3) Sometimes your face is going to touch the floor, sometimes your ass is going to be in the air. These positions are awkward–albeit uncomfortable–but character building.
3) (Somewhat related to #3) People fart. Get over it.
4) Be gentle with your body.
5) Don’t stick out your booty. It’s unbecoming.
6) Know your limits, and respect them.
7) Stop resisting, already!
Oh, and P.S. ladies, if you want to look and feel sexy, I have it on good authority that a strong, toned body in a rockin’ pair of yoga pants beats out a religious regimen of calorie-counting any day.