Is it possible to think your way into being strong or flexible or healthy or kind or rich? Lord knows, wouldn’t we would like to think our way to being independently wealthy, handsome and adored? Or any number of other wishes to be granted. We might want be immortal or a perfect weight or successful in our careers. In this chapter of Patanjali’s Sutra on the cultivation of exceptional faculties, III-24 says that when one has perfect concentration on an elephant, for instance, one can gain physical strength. T.K.V. Desikachar says:
This does not, of course, mean that we can acquire the same strength as an elephant–But we can acquire comparable strength proportionate to the limits of the human form.
Bernard Bouanchaud teases the aphorism out a little more:
In this way we become like the model [we choose]. Such a phenomenon is related to imitation and its mode of action. Of course we never develop the exact physical qualities of the model but we develop our maximum potential.
And of course that is exactly what we want from doing yoga practice. Balesu hasty-baladini By perfect concentration on the elephant and other models, one gains their corresponding strengths.* *The Essence of Yoga – Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Bernard Bouanchaud.