The word “strength” has been on my mind for several weeks. I’ve fallen asleep and woken up thinking about it; I’ve found myself contemplating it during my workouts and my commute, and in quiet moments throughout the day.
My recent strength fixation is directly tied to this issue of Experience Life. The original intent was to focus on strength and its physical aspect — this is, after all, a health and fitness magazine, and strength training is a go-to activity we advocate.
But our approach to health and fitness goes well beyond the physical, and it became clear as this issue came together that strength can be defined in a variety of ways — and it can mean different things to different people at different points in their lives.
So rather than getting stuck on the definition, I decided to share what this word means to me right now.
• The physical ability to move the body in ways that support everyday activities; it can be developed through any form of movement that challenges the body and creates positive change (physical and emotional). It allows you to literally move yourself and objects.
• A skill or talent that someone excels at and employs to improve his or her day-to-day experiences. Ideally, it’s tied to passion and purpose, and to what motivates someone to keep plugging away, even in the face of obstacles, naysaying, and limited resources.
• The mental capacity to handle what life throws at us, including physical and emotional pain. This form of strength is the one we’re often not aware we possess until we’re faced with a challenging situation (e.g., child birth or the loss of a loved one); in this case, it’s synonymous with resilience.
As I reflected on these definitions, I realized that one important period in my life influenced them — and fundamentally changed how I view myself and my own strength.
It began in 2010, during my first pregnancy. Terrified of what giving birth would be like, I set out to be as physically and emotionally prepared as possible. This led me to a prenatal yoga studio that focused on empowering expectant moms.
I was initially skeptical, but as I attended more classes and as my pregnancy progressed, my mindset about what I was capable of began to shift. I started listening to my body and training my mind. At the same time, I developed a passion for this way of talking about and approaching birth.
My daughter’s delivery was not easy, but it was easily the most transformative experience of my life. I felt strong (physically and emotionally) — if I could do that, I could do anything. A year later, I got certified as a prenatal yoga instructor so I could encourage other women to tap into their innate strength; a year after that, I taught a class to 20 expectant moms the night before I delivered my second daughter.
Strength is personal, and you’ll see many interpretations of it in this issue, starting with our cover story on David Freeman. His physical strength led him to his passion that is driving his purpose to help others overcome their own limitations. Senior editor Maggie Fazeli Fard shares her own definition in “The Best Part of Being Strong”. “Every Body Is a Yoga Body” highlights stories of how yoga has helped 10 people find greater meaning in their lives.
Each example of strength is different yet equally inspiring. Just like yours, in whatever form it takes.