“Giving In” Is Not Giving Up – in Yoga and in Life

I am not the biggest, I am not the strongest. I am not the prettiest and I’m not the smartest. I am successful not because I am a concrete pillar in the rain but because I can stand with my feet grounded in the storm, yet bend with the wind.

We grow up learning that if we just try harder and push more, then things will work out. If we’re losing it must be because we need to use more muscle, give more effort? Boys especially are told this. This is how men hurt themselves and this is why men hurt women.

Physically pushing against adversity damages the only body we have been given – a disastrous price to pay in exchange for the ability to jump over certain hurdles. I see this often with my yoga students – again, predominately in men – throwing their bodies into poses that they aren’t ready for and that I can see are clearly painful for them. Why is okay for women to rest but men must physically persevere? Who are we competing against in an individual practice like yoga?

We push, struggle, and suffer when we don’t need to, and to no avail. A T’ai Chi principle I was reminded of today: water wears away stone. Buildings on mobile foundations survive earthquakes and glass shatters while putty bounces. Being soft and flexible are desirable qualities, not signs of weakness. This is how we “win,” not by being the most forceful but by being the most malleable. By giving in when we need to and accepting what is happening as a temporary but necessary moment in a much longer journey.

The next time you’re hurting and feeling like you’re losing, whatever it is: breathe in the heat, or breathe in the heartbreak, or soak up the anger and take the parts you can use, exhaling the rest for another time. Unclench your fists and unfurl your face.

Please, take that child’s pose, and stay for as long as you need to.

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