Knowing When To Give Up

I had an interesting revelation recently in the middle of a yoga class.

If you’re not familiar, at the beginning of most yoga classes the instructor will often encourage everyone to set an intention for the class. To be honest, I never really understand what this means, but I’m a team player so I go with it. 

More often than not, I go with the first word that pops into my mind and on this particular day that word was “strength.” Fine, that works for me. My mantra of strength worked well for the first half of the class since it inspired me to hold poses longer and push beyond the fatigue I brought with me to class that day. 

But then something changed.

The more I pushed myself, the more tired I became. Funny how that works. Eventually, my legs and arms felt just as tired and weak as my manic mind. This hardly seemed like the goal I was going for. 

In my effort to feel stronger, I was making myself weaker. 

So, halfway through the class, I changed my definition of strength and dropped to my knees in the resting position known as “child’s pose.” Most yoga instructors invite students to embrace this restorative position when their body needs it, but nobody really does it in the middle of class because their ego won’t let them. 

Maybe you’re familiar with this affliction. Even when your body is begging for it, your mind won’t allow you to access what you need because you worry you’ll look weak when doing so.

So, what gave me the permission to crumble into a pile of flesh and bone in yoga class? It was simple. I shifted my definition of strength away from hurting myself and toward healing myself.  Of course, pushing through 25 plank positions requires physical strength. But, dropping to your knees when everyone around you keeps moving requires mental strength. A lot of it.

And that’s what our happiness and inner peace ultimately comes down to — setting our own definitions of success. It’s a beautiful moment to behold when we finally find the courage to do so.  

And I love watching other women do the same. After I dropped to my knees in yoga class to take a break, I watched several other women do the same. There was a collective sigh of relief in the room as women were waiting for permission to hit pause on their practice.  

Looking back, I like to think that moment was the ripple effect of a different kind of strength. I think we should celebrate this kind of strength more often. Strength that comes not from always doing more, but for making the conscious decision to do less.  

That’s my kind of strength.  

This is your life. Don’t blindly follow other people’s definitions of strength or success. LIfe is more rewarding when you come up with your own definitions. 

Katherine Wintsch