The Power of Weakness: Embracing Our Physical Limits

Two weeks ago, while floating the river with my wife and visiting family members, we encountered a small stretch of rougher-than-usual water. These weren’t class 5 rapids, by any means, but a bit more than we were prepared to handle in our flimsy two-person inner tubes.

Blindsided by a particularly powerful waterfall littered with potentially hazardous boulders, I jumped into the ice-cold depths in order to help guide our rafts safely to calmer waters (hopefully without losing our cooler full of gourmet deli sandwiches in the process). I succeeded, but not without taking on an unappetizing volume of river into my open can of coconut water…

… and sustaining a sudden injury to my right wrist. Accustomed to being young and fairly resilient, I assumed the problem would fix itself. I did everything right, as far as I was concerned: tried to keep it out of commission for a few days, regularly stretched and massaged the area.

Yet, I was nagged by persistent pain and a disconcerting clicking noise anytime I moved my wrist (which, because it’s such a central part of the body, was quite a bit). After several days of this, it seemed the time had come to consider addressing the issue more seriously: with a store-bought brace and possible doctor’s visit.

But I found myself kicking hard against the prospect of accepting such help.

I worried what students might think of me if I wore a brace.

I recalled the previous times I had seen yoga instructors relying on such physical aids as hard braces and compression wraps – without really meaning to, I had judged them weak and inept, unable to adequately use the healing powers of yoga to help themselves… incapable of setting aside temporary discomfort in order to reap the benefits of pushing their physical boundaries.

Now, I was taking a dose of my own medicine.

I’m told that, oftentimes, the things we judge so harshly in others are the exact insecurities with which we, ourselves, wrestle.

As difficult as it is for me to admit, I struggle with accepting anything I deem as “weakness” within myself. One of my goals in becoming a yoga instructor is to model for my students how to push their limits and experience the resulting rewards. You cannot grow if you do not live in a zone of discomfort, at least for a short time.

But another of my goals is to model healthful, holistic living, and part of that is recognizing that we’re only human – even the best and strongest of us have boundaries.

I believe yoga can heal a great deal of today’s physical and emotional ailments, because I’ve seen it at work in my own life. But sometimes, the best thing we can do for our bodies is to allow it ample time to rest and recover, so that we can perform at our very best. Not to realize this fact is to risk further injury and harm to ourselves.

So, for this season, I will embrace my weakness. Rather than considering it a “failure,” I’m taking it as a signal from my body that it needs to slow down – not forever, just for now. And I’m choosing to see this as an opportunity to get creative about ways to continue strengthening other areas of my body that are not injured.

This, my friends, is why we call yoga “a journey”: through its practice, we learn something new about ourselves and our world every time we approach our mats. My journey doesn’t look like yours, nor does yours look like anyone else’s.

That is the magic and power of the practice.

What about you? Do you find it difficult to embrace your physical limits? If you’ve found ways to better manage your expectations of your body, I’d love to know! Share them below or reach out via email:

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