Get Strong By Learning To Soften
I’m known for my strength; they call me “The Beast.” I have several proteges at my studio; they are known as “Baby Beasts.”
Being known for my power isn’t new for me. When I was in high school, I was voted “Most Likely to be an American Gladiator” at prom. I was appalled at the title when I was 17. But now, at 38, I don’t mind being known for my strength.
The truth is, it’s not easy to press with straight arms from crow to handstand. The truth is, I worked long, tedious hours to produce those results. The truth is, they did not come until I learned how to soften at my edge. Yes, that’s right. Not muscle. Soften....
In April of 2012, I attended my second Advanced Teacher Training with Ana Forrest, one of my favorite “gurus.” This was unlike any other teacher training that I had ever before attended, even though I had attended the exact same training two years prior at Kripalu.
This time, I took my five month old baby and nursed her at every break. This time, my mom had just passed two months prior and I was still in the throes of loss. This time, I was there to not only work, but also heal and process the major life occurrences I was navigating.
In short, this time, I actually wanted the exorcism. (The exorcism is what some of us call it when Ana and her team of assistants help you honor and then expel that which you are hiding — from self, from peers and loved ones, from the world. This is usually a process involving tears, screams and snot in the corner of the practice room while everyone else keeps practicing and pretends not to notice.)
Historically, I had attended these trainings primarily for the physical experience and in hopes of avoiding any major drama. This time, I wanted much more. This time, I wanted true growth — more than just ideas for new sequencing and new poses. This time, I wanted to see my true self and to learn to love that creature for whomever she is.
What I saw, what I learned, what I garnered for the first time was the ability to see my own tendency to get pissy and frustrated when confronted with my edge. At the time, I was far more likely to quit at my edge then I was to get curious, get still and tune into my breath.
In this training, for the first time in more than a decade of practicing yoga, I was able to access the mode of observer and see my unhealthy tendency to struggle at my edge and fight with my breath rather than soften.
And so, when I cultivated this awareness, I began to create change in my life, change in my practice, change all around. It was beyond empowering. It still is. For now, I can see myself in my relationships. And when I am confronted by something I don’t want to see about myself, instead of muscling my way through the argument and throwing acid in the face of my loved ones as I sprint from the scene in a desperate effort not to see my own blemishes, I stay. I breathe.
I soften into what is. I recognize “I am that which I am” and I have no need to loathe that creature. That creature deserves love too. Both light and dark sides.
Once I started embracing this, the breakthroughs started rolling in. In my practice, in my life, in my career, in my parenting. On all sides.
So now, as a year later approaches and as many of my fellow teachers prepare to embark upon their own first time Advanced Teacher Training’s with Ana Forrest, I have to pause and honor the huge transformations I have been able to access since learning how to soften.
It turns out, softening is where it’s at. I love dichotomies and paradoxes and this is one of the greats, I offer it to you humbly — if you want to access your true power, true strength, true grace, play with softening at the edges. And by all means, enjoy the journey.