Start where you are: a strengths-based approach to yoga

Start where you areI thought a strengths-based approach to yoga wouldn’t work. This is why I was wrong.

Identifying and building on strengths makes much more sense to me than trying to change ‘weaknesses’. So I’m a big fan of taking a strengths-based approach to development and improvement. And this holds true in so many different arenas, from community engagement and international development to business leadership and personal growth.

So – what about a strengths-based approach to yoga? At first it didn’t quite feel right. Wouldn’t this mean doing the same postures I had always been able to do or focusing on building strength in parts of my body that are already strong? How would this help me create balance in my body? And how would it enable me to challenge myself to go beyond my self-limiting beliefs about what is possible? It felt like a strengths-based approach to yoga might keep me stuck rather than moving forward.

As soon as I wrote these thoughts down, I realised that of course a strengths-based approach to yoga makes sense. A strengths-based approach doesn’t mean staying stuck in the same place. It means using your strengths as a tool to become even better.

Wish you could do that advanced arm-balance you’ve seen on instagram?

Try noticing what you can already do or how you are already moving closer towards the posture. Are your arms getting stronger? Have you just found the confidence to lift both feet off the ground? Are your hips naturally flexible or stable? Focus on whatever strengths you can identify, keep building on them, and practice gratitude for how far you have already come.

Next time you practice that same posture, remember the strengths you identified last time but also check in with your body and mind and notice how you’re feeling. Have compassion towards yourself if you can’t go as far as you could last time you practiced. Start from where you are on that day. Identify what your strengths are for that posture at that time, focus on building on them, and take time to appreciate what you can do.

Gradually, by giving your attention to your strengths and continuing to build upon them with patience, self-awareness and compassion, you will move closer and closer to that previously unattainable posture. And when you get there, you will feel gratitude for your achievement but also for your journey and what you have learned about yourself along the way.

Focusing on your strengths will move you forward with self-acceptance and gratitude. Focusing on what you cannot yet do will keep you stuck, frustrated by what you have not yet achieved, and more likely to risk injury trying to get there.

What strengths can you build on today, on or off the mat?

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