When the word “strength” comes to mind, it’s easy to think about how strong our physical bodies are. We may think about how much weight we can squat or the maximum amount of weight we can put overhead. In a yoga asana sense, we might think of how long we can hold a pose until our muscles fatigue or how well we can do chaturanga dandasana or bakasana (or any arm balance). While physical, or outer strength is highly important it’s also important that we work on and grow our inner strength. Seeing as inner strength isn’t tangible, sometimes it’s quite easy to overlook this force within ourselves.
Our inner strength encompasses a wide variety of mental and emotional aspects, including how we view ourselves, our mindset, our self-esteem, resiliency, adaptability, vulnerability, etc. Our physical strength helps us get into a good physical state so that we can work on the deeper layers of our being. It is ultimately these deeper layers that can lead to everlasting contentment, joy, and satisfaction. It’s also our inner strength that can carry us through more physical challenges which increases our capacity for inner strength and so on and so forth. It’s a cycle that doesn’t have to end!
“You have power over your mind―not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius
Let’s explore some warmup poses for our peak pose, lotus.
Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
- From a supine (on your back) position, draw your knees in towards your arm pits.
- Start by holding your shins and folding your legs so that your lower leg is connected to your upper leg like you’re in child’s pose on your back.
- Progress by taking the soles of the feet up towards the ceiling.
- Thread your arms along the inner leg and bring your hands to cross the front of the ankle to grab the outer edges of your feet.
- Use your breath to continuously guide the knees towards the armpits while you press your sacrum towards the floor.
- From downward facing dog, extend the right leg up for a 3-leg downward facing dog.
- Open your hips so both hip points face the right side of the room and fold your leg in half so that your lower leg connects to your upper leg. KEEP THIS FOLDED LEG.
- Bring your folded leg forward so the knee comes towards your nose. Keep the folded leg. Yes, this might be challenging.
- Externally rotate your right hip so that your right knee tracks towards the right side of the mat and your right foot tracks towards the left side of your mat. Note: this is a movement of your hip, the knee remains in the same position due to the folded leg.
- Place the folded leg down and slide your hips back (only a little) so that your pelvis can settle to the ground behind your foot.
- Check that your navel is aiming forward as opposed to the left side wall. If you notice your off center, place a blanket beneath your right hip. Then fold forward.
- Exit carefully into downward facing dog and repeat on the left side.
- Stand in tadasana.
- Lift your right leg up so that your thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Bring your hands to the front of your shin and walk your hands down towards your ankle to fold your leg.
- With the assistance of your right hand, externally rotate the right hip and guide your foot to connect with the inner left thigh.
- Do your best to maintain the folded leg shape as you extend the arms to the ceiling.
- To exit, bring your right knee forward, remove the foot from your leg, lower the foot and repeat on the other side.
Peak Pose: Lotus (Padmasana)
There are many poses (practically all of them) that in some way assist in enlivening your inner strength. However, when I think of how to truly build up your fortress of self-love, awareness, resiliency, courage, etc., I think of lotus because this is the pose which is traditionally meant for one’s meditation practice. Really, the entire asana practice is geared to allow one to find an “easy seat” so that meditation can be achieved. That’s not to downplay the importance of our flowing, vinyasa class at all, but the magic really does lie in one’s ability to sit still and quietly.
Other options: Sukhasana or Siddhasana
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and soles of the feet flat on the floor.
- Bring your right knee in towards your chest and immediately walk your hands down the shin to fold your leg.
- Externally rotate the right hip and place your right foot into the left hip crease. Note: keep the folded leg.
- Bring your left knee in towards your chest, like a figure 4 stretch on your back. Fold your left leg as you did the right leg.
- Roll to your back and then to your right hand side and use the assistance of gravity to externally rotate your left hip to bring your left foot towards your right knee. Note: being on your back will allow the postural muscles to relax and then you can really focus on the positioning of the legs.
- Using your hands, gently guide your left foot around the right knee and towards the inner right groin. Do your best to create as little movement around the left knee as possible.
- Once your legs are locked into place, gently press yourself up to a tall seated position. If you need support beneath your pelvis, it would be best to ensure those things are nearby before you get into this pose.
- To exit, reverse the steps and focus on moving gently first from your hips and then towards your knees to straighten your legs and repeat on the other side.