I talk a lot in my classes about slowing down and listening to what your body is asking of you in the present moment. Every day she needs something new and try as we may to push her, our body may not be entirely game for it. There is a fine line between being disciplined and indulging our ego.
I never realized how much ego I had in relation to my body until I got mono. Thats not true, I always knew, but this mono has magnified my blindspots. You may be asking yourself how does a married woman get mono? But that’s besides the point…
So now with mono I am relearning what that actually means. I am extremely fatigued all the time! I was diagnosed prior to Christmas and thought I could muscle my way through it by continuing to work the way I do and keep up with my practice. Two weeks later, my schedule has been sliced in half and I haven’t moved in weeks.
As a yoga teacher and educator, I understand the importance of movement, but what I am realizing is that there needs to be a clear distinction between using the body and believing you are the body. Sir BKS Iyengar helps us to understand this by stating “It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.” So though we need to take care of the body we understand that we are not the body. Though we use the body as a gateway towards enlightenment, we recognize it’s not a machine to achieve perfection.
Why then do we place such high standards on our body? If it doesn't operate the way we want it to why do we chastise it for not being good enough if it isn’t who we are? Is it the Western inheritance that cultivates such a relationship? I understand perfectionist tendencies in other modalities of movement perfectly; in weightlifting we are going for an aesthetic goal and in calisthenics it can be looked at in the same light. However, what has always separated yoga from these other modalities is its depth. It is deeper than the superficial which is why so many of us come to it when nothing else has worked.
I found yoga in the midst of heartbreak. Up until that point, my relationship to my body was not based on anything more than her looking good in a bathing suit, and though I’ll admit yoga also helped me look good in a bikini, it was how I felt more than how I looked that has kept me on this path for ten years.
Habits, however, are hard to break and if someone has lived 25 years chasing an ideal that their worthiness is based on how their body looks than that belief is going to stick around until you get to the bottom of it. In being able to do nothing I have realized how much I continue to cling to untrue beliefs about my body. Old beliefs that at their root stem from unworthiness and a deeply engrained thought that I am this body.
If we begin yoga to achieve a certain aesthetic that’s fine, but hopefully ten years down the line our intentions morph and we practice for other reasons: to be quiet, to find our heart, to indulge in self-care. If we look back and see that we are still using asana to achieve a certain body than maybe it is time to review and understand our own deep seated beliefs about our body. “Your body is the child of the soul. You must nourish and train that child.” The practice is a guide to help us understand that though we use the body we are much more than that.
It is a slippery slope and even though we may practice with the best of intentions it is very easy for the habitual belief of unworthiness to perk its way in, especially when you have so much external factors constantly telling you that if you do x or weigh y you will finally live the life you’ve dreamt of for so long. We’re bombarded daily with the belief that worthiness is quantifiable but those deep seated beliefs will still be there regardless of how many hours are spent on the yoga mat or how many pushups we can do in a single session. The practice then, needs to be an inside job.
Maybe through the continuous reflection we can catch ourselves when we veer to far to indulgence and kindly bring ourselves back to our why. “What we shall discover is that the practice is the reward. The moment we sit in quiet self-reflection, slowly stretch out limbs, or enter deep relaxation, we become the thing that we are seeking, and in doing so it is possible to experience the end result from the very beginning.” [Donna Farhi]
To be honest I don’t know.