To me yoga has always been about freedom and empowerment. Maybe because of my upbringing or the main culture I was brought up in but I’ve never felt like a strong woman. In a Hispanic household we are taught to be silent, pious, obedient; Men eat first, they make the rules, they are the law, we as women are taught to be of service to men. I never really gelled with that notion, in my heart I knew it wasn’t the way I wanted to be; the question was how to go about being different. When you grow up with strong females in your life, it seems easy enough to be a strong woman yourself. You may not even have given your strength a second thought. When you come from a place where the strong female is not the norm, it becomes harder to become that woman.
To look at me you wouldn’t exactly think that I was weak. Outwardly, I am confident, brash, honest, take no Sh*t, opinionated, independent and everything you think a strong woman should be. At first, my outward appearance was just that, an appearance. The person I showed to the world was the person I wanted to be, not the person I was. Then came yoga. Yoga, which taught me to love myself. Yoga, which taught me to be strong physically and mentally. Yoga, which taught me that vulnerability, fragility and honesty, were the biggest forms of strength.
Suddenly this façade that I had put up became the real me. Yoga has helped me grow into myself…The self that I always knew I wanted to be, the me that was inside the whole time who just needed a little help crawling through the self-doubt.
I would love to tell you that yoga has fixed me completely. I would love to be able to say that yoga made me strong and I have never faltered. That would be a lie, I still struggle with strength. I still struggle with knowing the difference between being strong and being mean- the difference between being a leader and being “bitchy” (don’t get me started on the cultural idea of women who lead being labeled as bitchy by society- that’s another blog post all together!), I still struggle with giving up my strength to make others feel more comfortable. One thing I know is true, every week it gets easier. Some days are harder than others but the me I am today is strong. The me I am today builds up others and herself. This me is confident in her opinions and thoughts while still being strong enough to listen to the opinions of others. This me admits when she is wrong (mostly), this me apologizes, this me concedes, this me stands her ground, this me loves others who are strong instead of being intimidated by them, this me is STRONG.
Yes, asana- the physical practice of yoga, is just one part of the grander practice of yoga. Yes, it is by far the least important of the 8 limbs. Yes, it can be used to inflate the ego and stifle the spirit but holy handstand, batman, did it help me find my strength. Once my physical body was stronger than I ever though possible it opened up the door to other strengths. If this body, which I once thought so weak and useless, could be strong, could my spirit be strong as well? The answer, yes, it could and it was… it IS.
Whatever your gateway limb is, whether it be asana, pranayama, dharana, dhyana, yama or any of the others, may you find your strength in the practice, may you find your true self.
I wish you freedom and strength.