I’d never realized how much ego I had about my body until I got mono.
(You may be asking yourself how a married woman gets mono…but that’s beside the point.)
I talk a lot in my yoga classes about slowing down and listening to what your body is asking of you in the present moment. Every day, she needs something new—and try as we might to push her, our body may not be entirely game for it.
There is a fine line between being disciplined and indulging our ego.
With mono, I am relearning what that actually means. I am extremely fatigued—like all the time! I was diagnosed prior to Christmas, and thought I could muscle my way through it by continuing to work the way I do and keep up with my practice. Two weeks later, my schedule has been sliced in half, and I haven’t moved in weeks.
As a yoga teacher and educator, I understand the importance of movement, but what I am realizing is that there needs to be a clear distinction between using the body and believing we are the body. B.K.S. Iyengar helps us to understand this: “It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”
While we need to take care of the body, we must understand that we are not the body. Though we use the body as a gateway to enlightenment, we recognize it’s not a machine capable of achieving perfection, whatever that is.
Why then do we place such a high standard on our body? If it doesn’t operate the way we want it to, why do we chastise it for not being good enough, if it isn’t who we are? Is it the Western cultural inheritance that cultivates such a relationship between us and our physicality?
Other modalities of movement encourage a version of perfection; for instance, in weightlifting, we strive for a specific aesthetic goal. The same could be said of calisthenics. However, what has always separated yoga from these other modalities is its depth. It is deeper than the superficial, which is why so many of us come to it when nothing else has worked.
I found yoga in the midst of heartbreak. Up until that point, my relationship to my body was not based on anything more than looking good in a bathing suit, and though I’ll admit yoga also helped me look good in a bikini, it was how I felt more than how I looked that kept me on this path for 10 years.
Habits, however, are hard to break—and if someone has lived 25 years chasing an ideal or believing that their worthiness is based on how their body looks, there is a lot to unlearn. In being forced to do nothing, I have realized how much I continue to cling to untrue beliefs about my body, old beliefs that are rooted in a sense of unworthiness and a deeply ingrained belief that I am this body.
If we begin yoga to achieve a certain aesthetic, that’s fine. Ideally though, if we commit to a deep practice, our intentions will morph over the years and we will practice for other reasons: to be quiet, to find our heart, to indulge in self-care. If we look back and see that we are still using asana in pursuit of a certain aesthetic, it might be time to reflect upon our own deep beliefs about our body.
“Your body is the child of the soul. You must nourish and train that child.” ~ B.K.S. Iyengar
The practice is a guide to help us understand that though we use the body, we are much more than it.
Even if we practice with the best of intentions, it’s very easy for the habitual belief of unworthiness to poke its way into our consciousness, especially when we have so many external forces telling us that if we do “x” or weigh “y,” we will finally live the life of our dreams. We’re bombarded daily with the belief that worthiness is quantifiable, and it won’t go anywhere on its own, no matter how many hours we spend on the yoga mat or how many push-ups we can do at once. The practice then, needs to be an inside job.
In seeking to quantify our value as people based upon the bodies we inhabit, whether in a yoga practice or in life in general, we move from a disciplined spiritual practice into ego indulgence. So, keep checking in. Why are you practicing? What do you hope to achieve? What is it that keeps you coming to your mat?
Yoga is a tool to discover our true essence, and in the thick of exhaustion, I am being schooled as to how often I think my essence is my body. How can we be aware but not attached? Disciplined but not indulgent? How can we foster a kind relationship to ourselves while being told daily that we aren’t enough? Is a shift in intention toward our practice enough?
Maybe through continuous reflection we can catch ourselves when we veer too far toward indulgence and kindly bring ourselves back to our “why.”
“What we shall discover is that the practice is the reward. The moment we sit in quiet self-reflection, slowly stretch out limbs, or enter deep relaxation, we become the thing that we are seeking, and in doing so it is possible to experience the end result from the very beginning.” ~ Donna Farhi
Author: Sammy Hart
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina