It took me years to get strong, because I wasn’t always. Trust me, it was necessary, too. So when I look back over photos from my younger years, I feel this fierce protectiveness for the frightened, young girl I once was. Everything in me wishes I could go back and let her know, it’s ok – no one’s going to hurt you. And I promise, you’ll come away stronger.
She did. But getting stronger would only be half the battle – and allowing a softness to remain has proven a much bigger challenge. I remember a few years back, during an intense moment of struggle in my practice, David Garrigues looked at me and said:
“Peg, you just need to learn to be strong and soft – at the same time.”
He spoke, as if this concept were simple and not terrifying. You see, I didn’t want to be soft. To me, soft meant I could get hurt, while strong could protect me. Soft meant weak, insecure, and vulnerable and so I just couldn’t understand how I could be any of those things and still remain strong.
Though really, isn’t Ashtanga’s Intermediate series itself, a lesson on just that – finding the balance between the firm and the yielding? Just think Kapotasana! Maybe that’s why it always made me so crazy … and why I progressed through, kicking and screaming – even quitting 3 different times – because I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) trust my strength enough to be soft.
Of course, what David and the Intermediate series couldn’t teach me, life finally would. Last year, I hit a wall. Stripped of my usual energy and strength, I wasn’t just tired – I was exhausted. I tried pushing through but of course, that only made it worse. I’d always thrived on being busy, on being the one who could “do it all,” so I wasn’t just confused, I was scared.
You know what I’m talking about, right? We’re all supposed to be super-heroes. Up at dawn, practice hard, go to school, raise a family, build a career, climb the corporate ladder, with a tidy house and home-cooked meals – we can do it all! And as if powering through all this isn’t hard enough, we then beat ourselves up for the bind we can’t get, a kitchen that never stays clean, problems at school, issues at work, relationships that fail, and so on.
This is so wrong. Or rather: Incorrect method!
It’s so important we keep room for what is quiet and gentle, especially in the midst of all our hard work. We must invite into our lives more ease and patience, acceptance and forgiveness, kindness and joy, surrender and rest. We must allow ourselves to be cared for just as we care for others. And we need to find solace, as much as strength, in our practice.
The wall I hit was a gift. For it did not break me, just opened me up to the enormous power in softness.
In this issue of the Ashtanga Dispatch magazine, you’ll hear this same tender theme, over and over again. From Taylor Hunt’s journey out of addiction to Stan Byrne’s struggle with depression – the message is clear: we don’t practice this yoga to get strong OR soft. We practice to heal. And to heal, we need both.
One of the greatest blessings I’ve received from working on the Ashtanga Dispatch magazines and podcasts has been the comfort in knowing, I’m not alone. And you’re not alone. That, in a practice and path that is ultimately solo, we are all in this, together.
For this – and for you, I am grateful.
P.S. Would love to hear what you think of the magazine! Drop me a note below!