Yoga-What I Didn-t See Coming

written by Maddy K.

I have to admit that the real reason I first took up yoga had nothing to do with mindfulness.  And I don't think I'm alone on this one, either: it was all about the body. I wanted the body of a yogi - or at least yogis like my yoga instructors Angela and Lisa.

However this did not happen.  After several years of regular practice, I still have the same basic body and I'd still like to be leaner and more flexible.  But, as it turns out, my yoga practice brings something else to the table - something I didn't see coming.

Stretch with tape measure

When I practice yoga regularly, I get an increased awareness - mostly of my body.  And when I'm more aware of my body, guess what shows up without fail?  This is not going to sound that great at first, I warn you.  But when I'm living with this awareness, every single one of my body image issues comes at me big and strong.  They hop up from where they've been simmering, just down out of sight, and get right in my face: the internal judgmental, critical, un-loving, "mean girl" thoughts that have put such a tax on so much of life.

What's so great about this?  I'll tell you.  It has something to do with mindfulness, or with one the best things it can do for me. When I face these negative thoughts, without automatically clinching up, without trying to force them to be something different, they can actually change. By having them large and vivid in my life and practicing just being mindful of them, just allowing them to be and watching them from a bigger part of myself, I end up changing my relationship to them and they fade.  Actually it's more like they just move along on their way.  And believe me, this lightens the load and freshens up the air hugely.

Through practicing yoga, I create a space in which my thoughts and feelings about my body - and everything that's bound up with them - can be transformed. I begin to affirm and appreciate my body.  And the attention and energy that I have used berating myself is freed up to do something constructive, like getting a little but more flexible and leaner every week.

Of course, yoga is making my body change.  It's just a very slow, gradual change.   But even more importantly, a daily yoga practice provides me the hope and possibility of turning the same critically judged body into one which is loved, appreciated and accepted…by ME.  I'm not aware of any other way to change.

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