Core Strength: How Yoga Shapes our Willpower



Willpower, by its very nature, is a powerful word. It has the word ‘power’ in it for a reason. We’ve come to associate it with a lot of aspects. We use it to refer to a powerful body, a powerful mind, a powerful job, even a powerful personality. Because of the wide array of options for how this word applies to our lives, willpower is a very personal word. This means that shaping such a foundational aspect of who we are through the practice of yoga gives us the power (there’s that word again) to really create the type of self determination we most wish to possess.

Yoga teaches us balance, pushing us to both take the time to find our breath, and to strengthen our bodies. That mindset has a profound effect on our psyche, most specifically on how our brains think about willpower. Many believe willpower is an innate trait, that we can’t alter or improve it, but really we have control over our willpower. For some, willpower might be easier to cultivate than others, but the ability to refine our willpower lies in all of us, it’s all a matter of how we are able to unleash it for our betterment.

Coming to the mat is an effective tool in cultivating that willpower. Through yoga, we are constantly stretching the limits of our power, strengthening our muscles while lengthening our attention span. Yoga makes us focus, pushing through the various pitfalls of a normal day. Willpower comes with making the choice to attend each and every yoga class – no matter how often. This helps train us to keep making the choice to workout, toning our entire bodies – including the mind.

Each time we attend a yoga class, we have made a choice. Whether that choice is for 20 minutes or 90, whether that choice is often or seldom, we are still choosing to come to the mat. Willpower has 2 components – both the desire to do something and enough gumption to will ourselves into the action. Yoga trains us to marry these components – even once the savasana is complete.

The part of willpower that comes from desire is easy enough for most of us. We all want to feel better, to be more flexible, have more stamina, and stay healthy. This is where the ever present thoughts of ‘I’ll start Monday’ and ‘I’m going to just skip today’ come in. It’s not that we don’t want to take a class or follow through, it’s that the gumption portion doesn’t quite make it. The action part, the gumption, that’s the area of willpower that yoga most supports. As we practice yoga, pushing through the difficulties, and grow into our practice, we gain more and more skill sets that are applicable outside the yoga studio.

Willpower is a skill that can be strengthened and improved through practice, as efficiently as any yoga pose. Yoga gives us the strength of body and mind that makes self discipline a part of us, rather than simply something we do. Every time we are determined to master a difficult pose we are training ourselves to have more willpower. Every deep breath we take when what we really want is to rush and finish, is another step towards increasing our willpower. Yoga brings us not only to the mat but also inside ourselves. Through the practice of yoga, we are able to ingrain the habits of willpower into ourselves fully. Yoga practice makes willpower and self determination part of who we are rather than just something we do.

By Jes Niemiec