As I contemplated the continuation of the list of reasons I started in Why Do I Love Yoga, Part I, my mind went in so many different directions. At first. It always came back to one single idea, though: I love yoga because Yoga is not about my body.
That statement probably doesn't make any sense, so let me explain. First, you have to know some backstory.
When I was about 10 years old, I was told I had scoliosis (curvature of the spine). At about the same time, I was told I was a likely candidate for Marfan Syndrome, a potentially deadly disorder of the aortic valve. I was pulled from daily gym class and spent that hour each day in the library with the "special" kids. I was required to have echocardiograms and EKGs every 6 months for the foreseeable future, if not the rest of my life. I don't remember if it was a few months or a year later, but sometime after that initial diagnostic period, I was fitted for a back brace. I was expected to wear it 23 hours a day until I stopped growing--approximately 6 years. Yeah, right.
Needless to say, I was in clinics, hospitals, doctors' offices, medical imaging suites, and medical device offices far more than the average kid. And, to keep the story short, let's just say I did not wear that damn brace 23 hours a day, especially not to high school. But every single day of my young life, from age 10 onward, I was acutely aware of my body. How I sat, how I stood, what I did. Would it hurt me? Was it bad for me? Was I in danger? When would I have surgery? Would I survive? Would I never be able to play sports?
This trip down memory lane is meant to illustrate just how obsessed about my body I was forced to become as a kid. My body was always there, tormenting me in some way, making me "different." It also felt like public property, being poked and prodded and measured and discussed by so many adults (e.g., doctors, nurses, attendings, surgeons, and on and on and on) that I don't ever remember just having my body be my own. Imagine that for a minute. The only people whose bodies get analyzed that much are supermodels, and they at least make boatloads of money.
So when I say that I love yoga because Yoga (with the capital "Y") is not about my body, that's exactly what I mean. When I practice Yoga--which includes intentional pranayama, meditation, and carefully selected asana based on what feels good and "right" that day--my body is purely happy going along for the ride, following the suggestions of my breath, my mind, my imagination, and my joy. My body has no limitations when I am in Yoga, but I also am not actively trying to "change" or "fix" anything about it when I practice. I don't apologize for it, I don't care what it looks like, and I don't let anyone tell me that what it's doing is wrong. My body just is. Finally, while on that mat (or on that beach or in that park), judgments against my body cease. No one can tell me it's damaged or different or wrong or bad, because it's not: It just is, and it's finally mine.
And that's why I love Yoga. At the end of it all, it's a spiritual practice designed to unite body and mind and spirit and breath. And that's exactly what it does for me. And you know if you've taken my classes, that's the space I hold for my students, too. I'm still working on having other parts of my life "not be about my body," too. I find it hard when so much of our society is concerned with analyzing women's bodies to death. Maybe if you and I keep on practicing together, we can all embody the truth of Yoga every day, with every breath, and the world will be a little bit better, less judgmental, and more loving for it. What do you think?
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