The “yoga-body” barrier

Yoga is more than a very trendy way to work out while sporting our new LuLu. It can be a very powerful mechanism for experiencing our own body. For many years when I heard yoga I looked the other way. It just didn’t seem like it could possibly be for a heavy, uncoordinated body like mine. It didn’t even come close to the quintessential ‘yoga body’. Then about twelve years ago, in the height of my ‘get fit or die trying’ phase I came across a woman who swore by hot yoga for weight loss. I took a deep breath, bought a mat and stretched and balanced and sweat amongst a room full of people whose bodies I envied. During every class my mind oscillated between criticizing my lack of technique, fantasizing about getting a body like the bendy women in front of me, calculating the calories I was burning or planning for something going on in my life that had nothing to do with yoga. I was there, but I was really not there. In fact, for so much of my life I realize that I was there, but not really there.

Many of us get the concept of presence but don’t quite know how to do it. One of the reasons it is such an elusive prospect is because being fully present to the moment requires arriving within the body. There is no other way to access the present moment but through the body. We spend most of our lives with little connection to our own body and therefore to our present moment experience. If we struggle with our weight our body can come to represent failure and embarrassment. It is seen as an annoying encumbrance; a problem that we have had to ‘deal’ with. It becomes a very one-sided and disappointing relationship. When our attempts to manipulate our body into conforming to our mental image don’t work we shift into living primarily within the boundary of our mind and personality.  It is this disconnection from our bodies that results in the unending battle with our weight.

I once heard, and now often quote, the expression ‘if you don’t love something it is because you don’t know it well enough’. How can we develop love for our bodies if we have no knowledge of them?  The practice of mindfulness requires us to inhabit our bodies. When we become really present we experience the feeling in our limbs, our breath, our belly, our vitality. We discover there is a whole world there, an entire part of our being that has been denied expression. After a while we become able to carry that experience of being in the body into other areas of our life.

An incredible way to truly experience the body is yoga. When we step on our mat and choose to be in our body, willingly and purposefully it truly becomes a beautiful moving meditation. In the Deeper Cravings course we learn that by bringing all of our attention to the sensations in our body during yoga we release our mental notions of ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ instead we are able to celebrate our body.  When we are returned to our bodies we find that not only is it comfortable, but it becomes the only place we want to be. Everything about the experience of being in our body is different. We feel free, alive, and awake: we feel the life pulsing through our veins and we love it.