Soft and Strong

Where are we going?

Where are we going?

This morning in yoga Amy asked some questions:  What do we need/want from the class?  What is our intention for the class?  Then she guided us to quiet our minds and use our breath to tune into our bodies and hearts.

My first thought was that I wanted some power poses.  Like many people, I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me by this week’s news, and I need some support.  Next came the words “soft” and “strong.”  I want to come from an open-hearted space without being a pushover.

Throughout the class Amy kept prompting us to return to our inner focus, checking in to see how our intention was manifesting in our bodies.  We practice in a physical therapy office, so a lot of attention is paid to correct alignment.  When we’re aligned correctly we don’t use extra energy to keep us in the pose.  We can feel both our strength and the softening that correct alignment allows.  Sometimes we want to look “good” in a pose, and push too much.  Feeling the tension this brings helps us to realize that we are pushing (or our teacher comes by and corrects us!), and we can soften and relax.  For someone like me who tends to “effort,” this has been very helpful in class and in life.  On the other hand, we can collapse or not fill our bodies with energy, which can leave us feeling weak or spaced out.

Amita is strong and joyful!

Amita is strong and joyful!

Tenderness and strength

Tenderness and strength

Similarly, when we have clarity of intention for meeting challenges in our lives, we can feel both our strength and softness, and we can adjust the balance of the two.  Strong emotion is appropriate in dangerous or stressful situations; it can provide energy when we feel overwhelmed.  But it is not always the best way to meet others, so knowing how to maintain the strength that comes with the emotion while balancing it with compassion, curiosity and creativity can help us navigate difficult terrain.

As we move into this new post-election territory, may we all find our direction, get support, and balance our open-heartedness with resolve and strength!

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6 Responses to Soft and Strong

  1. Kim says:

    I’ve been looking forward to your blog posting this week. Thank you for much needed perspective and something I can really lean into. Have a wonderful retreat. <3

  2. Diana j. Legun says:

    Even though I have only taken yoga instruction once in my early 20’s, now at age 65, I still understand what you have written so well here. I’m glad Amy shared it. Thank you.

  3. Steve says:

    Very nice Kathy. Funny how stiffness can look strong but we learn that stiff brittle things shatter. When I catch myself I try to think flexible, like bamboo and modern skyscrapers or like water.

    • Thanks, Steve! one of my favorite images is of John Muir lashed to the top of a giant sequoia in Yosemite during a windstorm, feeling the movement of the tree, with that flexibility.

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