When I was younger and studying taekwondo, we used to perform judo demonstrations for various events. My sensei enjoyed lining us up from shortest to tallest, then asking the crowd to pick who would do the demonstration. They inevitably picked the smallest – that was little old me – and the largest, usually a grown man. I always got a kick out of this. I’d jerk my hip into his side and use his own weight to flip the man over my shoulder with a thud on the mat, and cheers from the spectators.
It isn’t a matter of strength; it has to do with leverage, transfer of weight, and the angle of your body. The effect is a small, young girl is taking on a grown man; a flaxen haired David toppling Goliath. It is not a show of muscle power, but knowledge, and power of the will.
What is it about feats of strength that are so interesting to us? We love to see the capability of what humans can do. Tiny bodies bearing tons of weight; yogis who can wrench their ankles behind their necks or seem to fly.
Strength doesn’t have to belong to men, and it is not necessarily masculine. In Indian culture, the word for strength, power, or empowerment is “shakti,” from the Sanskrit “shak” (meaning, “to be able”). In Hinduism, Shakti is a goddess energy, the great divine mother. Strength and empowerment is distinctly feminine. Shakti is considered the primordial, feminine energy of Shiva – the female side of the divine.
To me, strength is not about lifting weights (or people), or having rippling, flexible muscles to show. There are many kinds of strength, both masculine and feminine energies. There is great strength in:
– being a mother or father
– fighting an illness
– asking for what you need
– saying no
– surviving any kind of adversity
– overcoming trauma.
Strength is using your mind, your tools, your leverage. Strength is knowledge and power of will. And in your practice of yoga, you don’t need to touch your toes to your forehead or master hanumanasana. Strength comes in valuing your health wellness enough to start, one foot after the other, on the journey up the mountain.
And that is worth flipping over.