There can be a misconception about the type of strength we need in yoga.
Beginners often assume that we access all our strength from our muscles - purely from the capabilities of our physical body. But even when muscular people come to yoga, their strength does not always match their appearance.
Although physical strength is important in order to access certain poses, we also begin to see that there is a lot more that is required from us than only our muscular output.
There is a strength which resides much deeper inside us that we need to call on. When we access that strength and rely on that more than our muscles, our whole experience of yoga changes. Physically it becomes a little easier, a little more rewarding and we build a better relationship with ourselves and our own capabilities.
Patience, compassion, humility and trust are all qualities we need in yoga and life. They are also all qualities that our superficial muscles would never be able to provide. If we only relied on their strength, we would only be asking of a portion of ourselves. We would have to work harder and use more of their resources than we need to. Without the qualities mentioned above, this becomes an unsustainable not to mention depleting experience.
We can apply this exact same concept to our eating and health. Think of willpower as our muscles. It is a superficial and often temporary form of strength. We can use it and rely on it for a period of time, but eventually all that controlling of what we eat becomes too tiring to sustain.
If we think we need more and more willpower to control ourselves into eating the right foods, we lose the essence of that inner part of ourselves which is already guiding to keep us healthy in the first place. We are covering up a strength that is already there. And so rather than covering up our inner strength with willpower it may be more beneficial to get to know and settle into the true strength which is always guiding us towards well-being.
It can be a challenging concept to grasp, and especially for those who have relied on willpower for so long, its sounds like an impossible task. But just as there are challenging poses in yoga we work to get there one day, class, breath at a time. With so much patience and so much compassion and so much trust, one day we may suddenly find ourselves in that pose or state of heath we always desired.