More often than not, today’s yoga culture encourages us to “purify” the pieces of ourselves that don’t serve. From food cleanses to chakra clearing to detox asana, maybe it’s time we said enough to the perfection and allow ourselves to just practice.
What if the next time you stepped onto the yoga mat you arrived without one ounce of wishing away your full self?
That means showing up with your tight hamstrings, that tummy roll and those wrinkles creeping around your eyes. It also means showing up with that sweet text from your friend and that jerk who cut you off in traffic. It’s easy to practice with the light and love of yoga, but the wisdom of the practice is in embodying all that we are including the parts we struggle with and ignore. The shadow can inform our practice just as much as the light.
Particularly over the past decade, body image and yoga have become intrinsically linked. As a yoga teacher I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “I’m not flexible” or “I don’t look like a yogi.” And there’s no shortage of imagery embedding a specific body type and shape into our minds. Yet the essence of the yoga practice isn’t about the asana and it certainly isn’t about what you look like. It’s so much more.
Refer to any of the ancient yogic texts and it’s clear the practice of yoga is broad and expansive. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali don’t open with a description of the perfect headstand but instead offers that yoga begins with the mind. Tantric texts like the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra offers an experiential meditation practice that unfolds as a conversation between Shiva and Shakti. At the heart of most ancient texts is a journey to connect with the universal love.
Rather than cleansing or shedding who we are, what if we all stepped onto our mats with our full, authentic selves?
The joy and the practice of yoga is to work with all of it — the shadow and the light. Having a really awful day? Let that BE the practice. Rather than shoving down or clearing away that awful day can you acknowledge it and feel it? A little breath paired with the simplest movement will likely shift that awful day into something different. If it doesn’t shift, the practice teaches us to work with that too.
These bodies we inhabit are built perfectly. From tight hamstrings to cellulite to wrinkles we are just as we should be despite what we may see in media or our culture. So instead of fighting and resisting and purifying our way to something else consider a mind-shift to practice in your own skin as it is. That doesn’t mean change doesn’t happen – in fact our bodies ARE in a constant state of change. Life is just too short to be anything other than your perfect self.
Photo by Love Roots Photography