Sometimes my understanding of what it means to do ‘yoga’ gets twisted around.
I see images of celebrity teachers contorted into bendy poses. I wear expensive yoga pants (many of which have been gifted to me through connections I’ve made writing this blog), and students compliment me. I click ‘like’ on all of the Instagram and Facebook posts I see of beautiful, thin women doing arm balances and inversions. When I post a picture of myself doing an arm balance or inversion, I get ‘likes’ on social media.
Somewhere in the back of my head, a little voice starts to creep in.
You need to look sexy. You need to be skinny and strong, and you need to do the advanced poses.
The poses I’m doing are not enough… there’s more I could be doing… especially if I’m a teacher. I need to practice every day. In order to look like her, I need to do more.
We all struggle with body image issues.
And I know I can be so, so hard on myself.
But when I really sit with what it means to be a yogi—and a teacher—I come back to a much less distorted image of yoga. I see the deeper, spiritual, loving practice.
And the truly meaningful questions come to mind:
If what I’m doing is chasing poses, then what am I really practicing?
What if my goal in yoga was not to change my body, but to love my body?
What if the asana practice was about feeling, nourishing my body, and being supported…instead of about looking good?
Photo via article on Yoga Journal.
Today I read a post by a friend about this article by Kino Macgregor where she gives ‘cheats’ (ie tips) for making your crow pose more advanced. In the article, as shown in the photos, she’s actually referring to crane pose, not crow. My friend, the one who had posted the link to that article, wrote this reflection, “Firstly, the idea of "cheating" at yoga by doing a pose or variation that is accessible to you is ridiculous. Secondly, it seems that Yoga Journal's editors/writers don't know the difference between crow pose (kakasana) and crane pose (bakasana). Choose your teachers carefully!”
I nodded my head as soon as I read that. And I loved seeing the comments from other yogis, too:
“[We have this] mentality that we need to change ourselves. And constantly do "challenges." Well. I challenge us to love ourselves and do modifications and practice different versions of poses with joy and no ego. And also to stop using the #yogaeverydamnday hashtag. You don't work in a coal mine. And even if you do…be joyful!”
“Yoga takes different forms than just asana and even the asana doesn't need to be very fancy to be effective. I could post a picture of myself at my desk or cleaning the house or playing with my dogs and tag it #yogaeveryjoyousday.”
I encourage you to liberate yourself today, from the distorted yoga.
Roll out your mat and before you get discouraged or harsh with yourself, say thank you to your body, for all the ways that it serves you so well.
My mantra today is this…
The pose I’m doing is enough. I’m allowed to have a nourishing practice, instead of a harming one (ahimsa).
I AM beautiful… and today, my practice isn’t so much about me being beautiful as it is about me feeling that it’s true.
I will let this yoga be a practice of loving myself.
PS I found it really hard to choose photos for this post. It is often a challenge to choose photos for my blog posts, actually.
There’s a part of me that loves sharing inspiring images of yoga asana on my blog, and there’s a part of me that really struggles with the fact that these images can also contribute to the distorted view of the practice.
Recently, for example, I did an outdoor photo shoot with an incredibly talented photographer and I’m simultaneously thrilled to share the results, and yet also hesitant because of all the issues it raises when we see these types of images. Photos of asana are a beautiful expression of the dedication that goes into the practice, and yet we must be careful not to idolize them.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts… there are a lot of nuances and layers to this conversation.
And I hope you’ll stay tuned – more to come on body image and asana soon!