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The divine in me sees the divine in you. How can we see the divine in anyone when we so aggressively focus on the “not good enough” in ourselves?
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST JESSICA LESLEY
This weekend I had the opportunity to work a booth at a huge fitness convention. I was so excited to attend my first fitness convention; the crowd was predominantly women, and because we were selling women’s clothing we saw quite a few of them throughout the weekend. I could not wait to see all of the new workouts and products, and look for ways to add variety to my own workouts. I also looked forward to seeing all of the fit bodies walking around.
Let’s pause for a moment so I can clarify what kind of bodies I was looking forward to seeing – not fitness model/body builder 10% body fat, magazine cover bodies, just healthy bodies. I was correct in my expectations and there was no shortage of healthy bodies, but one thing I did not expect was to hear the way these women talked about their own bodies.
The fear of a flaw that blinds us to ourselves
It would start off innocently, coming to the booth, many claiming to be unsure what size they were, and usually suggesting much smaller than what would actually fit comfortably. Then came the cringe if the size I suggested by looking at them did not fit their ideal body image. What was shocking was that they cringed at the idea of being a 6 instead of a 4!
I am not sure what my expectations were – but I certainly was not prepared for the amount of self-loathing that took place. Women would emerge from behind the dressing curtain explaining how their butt looked horrible. (I had no idea how rude we are to our derrière.) There were moments of painful comparisons watching other women across the room demonstrate new workouts/ products.
The “if I looked like her” or “if only I had her [insert body part here]” comments were overwhelming. If I had a friend who went shopping with me and every time I left the fitting room to show my new cute outfit – she ripped me apart from head to toe, our friendship would end. If a stranger walked up and said that my “ass looks horrible in these yoga pants and that I need to get back in the gym” – I would be appalled. Yet we do it to ourselves without a second thought!
Aversion and the cloud of false identity
We often take this same behavior onto the mat. It shows up differently than in my experience at the convention. But the comparisons and denial/shame of the reality of our bodies is still there. Forcing poses that may not be right for you all in the name of keeping up with the room, kicking up into inversions to the point of exhaustion. Sound familiar?
In my search to improve my ability to hold the space for these negative emotions and be there for my students one word continues to pop up – Vairagya.
Vairagya (non-attachment) is “the mental stance of freedom from the colorings of attractions, aversion, fears & false identities that cloud the true Self.” The things that I see remind me how important it is to bring non-attachment into my teaching. I see too many come into class (my own class or just observing them in another teachers class) and do mean things to their bodies.
If you are exhausted, why not skip that vinyasa and go right to Downdog? Better than doing a half-assed vinyasa and potentially injuring yourself right? When watching this happen in the room I begin to wonder why are we so attached to the poses? You don’t have to do every variation of the pose, you don’t have to bind & gosh darnnit it’s ok to have knees on the mat in plank/chaturunga! So attached to seeking the legendary myth of perfection that we lose sight of why we even came to class.
Why are you on your mat today?
So, why are you on your mat today? To punish yourself, to look around the room and wonder if your asana looks better than someone else’s? I’m still struggling with what my role as a teacher is to combat the negativity.
I just have a really hard time trying to understand – why are we so mean to ourselves? In examining this, it becomes easier to see why we tend lack kindness in dealing with others.
When did we decide to declare ourselves broken or “less than”? Yoga is a community and an industry that leans so heavily on referring to women as “Goddesses,” and on ending classes by saying that the divine in me sees the divine in you. I’m a little confused as to how we can see anyone’s divine when we so bluntly point out the “not good enough” in ourselves.
Super sweet and super smart, Jessica is quadruple certified in yoga and in fitness! Trained in anatomy, asana and positive practice, she’s experienced in supporting her students as they get present to their challenges with compassion and courage. When you visit her website jessicalesley.com be sure to read her surprising and powerful personal journey. Watch for Jessica’s adventures in teaching column monthly in The Magazine of Yoga!
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.