Yoga allows for a space to reawaken the skill of listening to our inner selves. With practice, we begin to discover how the body and the Self are intertwined, and we become able to gain a more confident, larger-picture understanding of ourselves, beyond the highs and the lows.
If we’re lucky enough, we may even learn that the best way to maneuver through this ballet called life is to cultivate self trust, by listening our way through the judgements and anxious chatter which tend to muddy the waters of our decisions and keep us from our highest potential.
On days like today, my human attempt at keeping vegan requires some extra listening and focused awareness. I woke up with a strong, unyielding craving for an egg. What do eggs have to do with yoga or with listening, you ask? Well, there are times when I can close my eyes, go deep inside to remember why I made the definitive stance to cut out animal products in the first place—the political, ethical, environmental, and even selfish reasons of feeling more in line with my practice and what I stand for.
Other times, I listen to an inner-voice that reminds me that desire is a temporary, human urge. It will pass, as life ebbs and flows, something in me will say, and I trust it. Simple as that. Still other times, though, those judgements, those “supposed-to-be’s,” those hypercritical voices seem to drown out the one that makes sense, and self-love can spiral into quite the opposite.
Simple cravings for things I tell myself I’m not “supposed” to eat, like an egg, can make me feel weak. Sometimes I feel as if I’m doing vegan the “wrong way,” because if I were eating “right” I wouldn’t have the desire for any animal products at all. Sometimes, I also imagine that I’m failing as a person because I’m not setting the exact example I’d like to.
If you have ever gone plant-based, or announced your decision to friends or family, you are familiar with the pressures of maintaining your diet and keeping the vegan “label” in tact, or risk losing your credibility as an “honest” or “strong” character. Even though, deep down, we know these stories and arbitrary assumptions to be untrue, we sometimes fall victim to the voices around us instead of listening to our own internal one. In turn, those other voices can lead us astray from our unique path and true potential. With so much emotional judgment pounding in from the outside world, it is easy to let the voice of the self slip through the cracks.
Perhaps, watching too much Anthony Bourdain and witnessing him gush over the beauty of a well-made omelette sparked this egg-lust. But hearing him explain the craftsmanship, love, and yet simplicity of the process was so akin to a loving meditation, it allowed me dive beyond the self-judging fight of Perfectly Plant-based vs. Failure. In the big span of things, I began to think, was it so wrong to appreciate a dish produced with such care, such regard, such consciousness, even if it wasn’t vegan? Would a bite of egg make me a worse person? Would I be betraying myself, my values, or my attempts of being the best version of myself if I had a bite?
Listening inwards, without judgement, I knew that the answer was no—a bright, screaming no. If the yoga of life is about listening, about loving, and putting the breaks on the all-too-easy trend of self-judgement, adhering to an absolutely perfect diet remains a small detail within the big picture. Am I going to jump off the wagon, drown myself in meat, and call myself a failure? Absolutely not, because that’s not me, and I know myself enough to know I would not be happy living and eating that way.
Through yoga, I’ve learned that both on and off the mat, there is no end-all, be-all lifestyle. If my body is genuinely yearning for something, I should respect that, not push what it is saying down or suppress that energy. If my mind asks for something, I shouldn’t point anger at it or consider myself “bad” for it, but instead acknowledge that I am still the same healthy, loving human. On this moving journey, yoga teaches us to listen in to every moment in order to sense when to act and when to step back, when to push harder and when to take a child’s pose. Often taking a child’s pose in class, having the skill and cultivated trust enough to be self-aware takes more effort. It takes internal investigation, attention, and tenderness, to be in tune with the Self that sits deep-down. Listening inwards can be difficult, but allowing your highest self’s voice to come through can bring forth the most beautiful of opportunities—it knows you best after all!
After listening in today, I chose to indulge in a (cage-free organic, of course) egg breakfast at a local cafe. Along with that decision, I vowed to show up and savor every bite with full awareness, to focus on the pure joy and to let the experience linger in my mouth without guilt. I’m still plant-based and this was not a “cheat.” Instead, it was a step back from the easy path of criticism and a dive into listening to my needs. I let myself be human, and knew that it would all be okay in the big span of things. I watched the egg man at his craft lightly pushing and folding freshly cracked eggs to order, infusing them with care and I smiled from knowing deep down that I had my Self on my side.
Author: Alana Mayer
Editor: Travis May