Warning: naughty language ahead!
I fell in love with yoga through chanting at the Chelsea Hotel in NYC.
I loved the incense, the Sanskrit, the soft lighting, hushed voices, welcoming hugs and especially the gentle, seemingly unconditional acceptance. I just wanted to be there, chant, breathe and be in service to my Guru.
Asana came later. In fact, I looked down on asana as an external practice that was only the threshold to the “real” thing: bhakti (devotion) yoga—love, devotion, seva (selfless service).
I was a yoga snob.
This snobbery followed me for years. I secretly believed that the only way to practice yoga was with a Guru, devoted and committed to a bhakti path.
Asana (yoga pose practice) became my life saver. I stumbled onto it as a way to find connection after fleeing NYC and leaving my beloved yoga community behind. I was restarting life and missed the daily chanting and meditation. And I was lucky to find, in rural Vermont, a bhakti yogi who also happened to teach Kripalu-style yoga. She gave me just the right amount of ego-boosting encouragement to keep me interested and showed me how the body can be the spiritual path.
Cue screeching halt. Avoidance + Asana = WTF???
I came face to face with the reality that I had been ignoring: I hated my body. I was using the idea of “transcending the form” to deny a fundamental relationship that was deeply flawed. In asana, I was forced to be IN that vessel.
I can’t say exactly how my asana practice healed me over time. And, FYI, that healing is still a work in progress. I continue to make massive mistakes, get weird and insecure and have the impulse to manage things in an unhealthy way. But as long as I get to my mat, as long as I’m looking at yoga, reading about yoga and talking about yoga—it keeps working.
And that, my friends, is why I started MRYB.
Looking at yoga was leaving me feeling alienated. I wanted so badly to be that girl on the cover of the yoga magazine. To be the model in the (name your fave/most hated yoga store) ad. And I started to find myself at odds with my body again.
I was pretty whiny about this: “Why are there only curvy ladies in yoga magazines in articles about yoga for weight loss?,” “What about the dudes? The middle age mamas? People of color?”
And when I did see a representation of myself, it was usually in reference to being accepted into yoga. As in, “We embrace you, curvy, middle age, yoga practitioner!”
Who the hell was this ”We?”
We are the we. The newbies and the flexy-bendies, the dilettantes and the devoted, the health nuts and the junk-food lovers. The breathing. And we can be part of celebrating and diversifying this mysterious, blessed, joyful practice by participating in the conversation.
I don’t want to beat ‘em. I want to join ‘em.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Sarah Qureshi/ Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: model Camille Moses-Allen via Dave Rosenblum at Flickr