Many people think of yoga as dealing with the physical realm. To many others it is so much more, engaging your body, mind and spirit. Whatever your view on this, you will still through your yoga practice begin to learn about three very important relationships. Relationships that transcend your yoga practice or any other physical activity. Relationships that greatly impact and even determine your quality of life.
1. Your relationship with your body
There are very few of us who can, without a shadow of hesitation, say: ‘I love my body and wouldn’t change anything about it. It’s perfect as it is.’ Being able to say something like that would be so freeing! No more diets, no more scrambling to find the right outfit because nothing looks good, no more restrictions on where and what we eat, no more poking and prodding ourselves to look and feel better. How much energy do you expend on a daily basis, just trying to do things to yourself and your lifestyle to help you feel better about how you look?
Women spend (over an average lifespan of 67 years) 355 days counting calories and worrying about appearance – that is 21 minutes out of every day dedicated to thinking of diets alone. Those 21 minutes is not including the amount of time spent worrying about what to wear to hide less desirable areas on your body, feeling inferior looking at neighbours, colleagues, or worse yet, models in magazines!
Looking at the amount of time and energy expended one begins to wonder. Is this an obsession? Is this obsession the ‘illness’ of our generation? Do our poor body images border on self-hatred? What is this self-hatred, poor relationship and poor body image based on? Where do these ideas come from? Fair enough the media and ideal body image hype out there would influence most people, but what are the exact messages you have internalised? Do we even know what exactly those beliefs and messages that drive us to the measures we take to try to feel just a tiny little bit better in our bodies every day.
During your yoga practice you begin to become aware of your body in a whole different way. Seeing your body as something other than ‘weight’ and ‘shape’ is probably the biggest breakthrough you will ever make. Becoming aware of the miracle that your body is, how it functions and shows up for you every day, how it heals you/itself, allows you to do all the things you like to do, (despite the things you do to it or the negative feedback it constantly gets) and how it IS YOU – there from the beginning- there till the end – that really is when you unpack what your relationship with your body really is about. Your practice will highlight to you what comes up when you’re invited to connect with how your body is feeling. What goes through your mind when you’re encouraged to ‘listen to your body’ and respond to what your body needs. Do you even know how your body is feeling on any given day in any given moment? Do you know how to be kind to your body?
Yoga will show you up and put you on a different path where it’s no longer about being skinny, but about being healthy…no longer about being beautiful, but about being you.
Think of it this way….once you become free of the obsessions with weight and appearance you free up 355 days of your life to do things that you love.
2. Your relationship with yourself
Closely linked to the relationship with your body is your relationship with yourself. We don’t often stop to think where we are at with ourselves. This is where your yoga practice really gets to the core business. What happens to you when you’re on the mat? Do you find yourself consistently judging yourself for what you can or can’t do? Can you focus on yourself or is it all about what the others are doing and how you compare? Do you quickly resort to feeling inadequate, not good enough and back down from the practice, or do you push yourself even harder with no care or consideration for where you are at and where your body is capable of on that day? Will you hurt yourself to prove something and who are you proving it to? Many, many questions will arise from how you approach your practice and your poses in yoga. Many of them will point to you being kind to yourself and your body or you being violent to yourself and your body. You may be faced with coming to the realization that you don’t feel good enough. You may be faced with the realization that you cut yourself no slack, are your worst critic, deprive yourself of having any fun with being you. Is it time to let go of all the expectations you hold of yourself, expectations from others that you have internalized and just learn to have a lot of fun with yourself, respect and honor your boundaries and going beyond them, and appreciating you for exactly what and who you are. An exciting journey wherever it leads!
3. Your relationship with the journey
Yoga postures will not be what you’ve been playing around with in your free time and so you are bound to be faced with moving your body in a way that is unfamiliar and new. For example: The Handstand: to most it’s posture they embrace or avoid as it represents, possibly – success and failure. In yoga it doesn’t matter whether you can do it or not. What’s important is what happens when you try? How does it make you feel to be in a room with other people trying? Are you happy to explore and play around with where you and your body are at and do you enjoy the opportunity to explore? Or do you wish and hope and pray for it to be over? Does it make you feel annoyed, angry or just uncomfortable? Do you blame the teacher for giving everyone too hard a posture to try out and do you feel out of place? Do you pretend to have something in your eye or a cramp in your third toe? Wherever you choose to go in those moments – is that where you really want to be or would you really want to be the one who is confident about trying…even if it doesn’t translate into what’s perceived to be ‘success’? How much of your life has become about the goal and how little does the journey matter?
Beginning to see where your mind goes in the face of new challenges will show you a lot about your life – your fear of failure, your fear of success. Your inability to enjoy the moments in the journey will tell you a lot about the quality of your life in other areas.
The quality in your life can be restored by simply being like a child again – more observing and less judging. Yoga will teach you that…and then it will teach you to honour your body with acceptance and compassion. It will show you that you’re perfect as you are, and that every part of the journey that you’re on is meaningful and necessary as it adds to a magnificent picture – your life. The only one you have. It’s worth noticing and embracing every part of it.
Author: Tanya Kemp
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