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Redefining Strength

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

One and a half months shy of turning six years old, my brother was born. I’ll never forget the moment. My Auntie stepped out of the upstairs room of my parent’s house to announce I had a new baby brother. I was devastated. I hated boys. I spent my lunch times running away from and wrestling them in their attempt at playing a reciprocal game of catch and kiss.

Before I finished primary school, I begged my mum to send me to an all-girls Intermediate School. It turned out that I didn’t fit the bill for the all-girls Catholic school in my hometown and so I wasn’t accepted. Instead I settled for two of the most “character building” co-ed schools in the country.

“If you cant beat them join them.” – Donald Thompson Jr.

As I grew into early teenage hood I prided myself on having so many boys as friends. I found them less complicated and less emotional. Besides, siding with them avoided some of the teasing about having hairy legs, or growing boobs, among other stupid things that boys teased girls about.

Each year at school the girls were given bumper stickers that said, “Girls can do anything!” This was my Mantra for the longest time. I used this to prove myself and compete with the strength, attitude, and behaviour that my male buddies appeared to naturally possess.

By the time I got to my late teens/early twenties I was struggling between being quietly repulsed by boys and silently wishing to be one.

I became uncomfortable with my growing curves, I hated bras, found my breasts an inconvenience (especially for running), and I loathed my menstrual cycle. I had no interest in getting married, or having babies. I repeated over and over that men have it so easy, and how I envied that. I wasn’t at all happy in my body, or happy with myself as a girl growing into a woman, and I definitely wasn’t enthusiastic about the expectations pressed upon me.

When I started practicing yoga, there was no exception here. I used my physical yoga practice as a way to strengthen, and tighten and feed my masculine side. I embraced my natural physical strength, and I fed it, over and over and over again. I gravitated towards male teachers and scoffed at anyone who expressed vulnerability, or shared something heart felt.

“I am a woman…who I am today is deeply rooted in who I was but it does not define who I will become.” – Yanni Brown

The funny thing with yoga is that no matter how physical your approach is in the beginning, the teachings quietly begin to seep in regardless. The more I moved and connected to my body by way of movement and breath, the more intimately I began to know myself, and feel more comfortable in my own skin.

I began to grow my hair long; I started getting manicures and even started to wear the odd dress (yes all stereotypical signs of femininity, but it was a start). People would comment on how there was something different about me. I started to glow. I continued to push myself physically, still got a huge kick out of drinking the guys under the table, and pulled out ‘The Worm’ in the middle of the dance floor from time to time, but I was definitely starting to connect to my more ‘feminine side’.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” – Buddha

When I first discovered Forrest Yoga, Ana Forrest’s masculine side as a woman impressed me. As I got to know her and learn from her I began to recognise and honour her great internal strength as a woman. I would wow at the command she had woven within her softness, vulnerability and grace.

It was primarily through Ana's teaching that I began to explore softness within my own strength.

The out of balance masculine path that I was muscling my way through, and what many woman today follow, did not sustain who I was. It cut me off from my natural energy source, and within it I neglected self-care.

When we feel shamed about being seen, seen not to be perfect, seen to be different, seen to be struggling, seen to be failing to hold it all together, we disconnect from the heart and soul of what we have a strong and organic connection to.

On the flip side, when we are comfortable with our feelings, our emotions, and our bodies and are able to communicate that, we hold a very special kind of strength. The strength to hold space for ourselves, for others, and to share the softer, more intuitive lessons in life.

I have come a long way along this journey, and I love how life offers new lessons when I’m ready for the next step. I now understand that honouring myself as a woman, and acknowledging my femininity is not necessarily about whether I’m wearing a dress or not, or whether I have my nails painted, it’s more about allowing. Allowing life to flow in parts instead of always having to be doing. Allowing myself to rest and be quiet. Allowing myself time to do the things that feel nourishing. Allowing myself time and space to be creative. Allowing spontaneity.

Where I always embodied strength in the form of pushing, muscling my way through things, talking it on, bearing it all, pushing and controlling, I now feel into it as an internal power. A grounded-ness, the ability to hold space with softness and receptiveness.

Embracing these insights have built strength in me much deeper, graceful and more knowing. I’m happier in my skin than I have ever been, and I feel deeply inspired to support, collaborate and gather with women from this place that I have arrived at.

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