This book is about real people who happen to practice yoga, and not about yogins whose lives are as extraordinary as their execution of the asanas. The models are so very real:
Their issues, too, are as real as mine and are presented very candidly. Here is an example:
When the instructor says to use the mirror to assess your alignment, you notice the cellulite on your thighs and decide to skip dinner. When the instructor directs you to look at your feet, you look at your worn out pedicure and think how horrible you feet look, mentally reviewing your schedule for when you could get to the salon. While the example is extreme…. (50-51)
Thought bubble: Ey, what’s so extreme about that? Now that you mention it, I think I already need to go to the salon….
Seriously, most part of the book talks about a person’s self-image and his/her relationship with his/her body. Cases of bulimia and anorexia are not as prevalent in the Philippines as they are in the West but poor acceptance of one’s self comes out in our society in different forms. Have you ever wondered why whitening solutions are a big business in the country? And why the Calayans and Belos are making money?
Our whole society tells us that although you can be uniquely beautiful, the most beautiful women are Barbie dolls. (31)
Thought bubble: Someone once said that Barbie is so disproportionately thin that if she were a real woman, it would be impossible for her to menstruate. I’d like to believe so. No sour grapes.
But the author continues:
Yoga helps because the practitioners all have different body types and are all amazing. I love this aspect. The philosophy of yoga teaches me to let go of my attachment to the way my body looks. What I celebrate most about my body is that it is a temple for my soul. I love that it stores and releases the most amazing current of energy. I like how joyous it becomes. (31)
In the face of real suffering we can see how silly these preoccupations with the body really are. When a child is really hurting, does it really matter what the shape of our ass is like? (36)
To surrender one’s attachment to an image in our yoga practice…creates a practice that moves from the inside out, a practice of peace. Making peace with the body is a process. This process involves freeing our attention from the war entirely, so that we are able to see… “what is wanted and needed” in every situation. With this insight we are able to serve the people in our lives effectively and to deepen our connection with the Divine. Offering ourselves to this type of selfless service, we often find that the war on the body has realized a cease-fire. (33-34)
In its entirety, the book presents how the body, mind, emotions, and spirit of a person are interconnected and how yoga could enhance this link.
Here are some of my favorite texts:
Learning to back off…is important…(and so is learning) to work on our bodies to continue to create opening…to grow. You learn to cultivate contentment and peace with yourself and then in your relationship with others. (43)
With each inhalation you practice expanding your heart and with each exhalation you offer out your prayers and gifts. You allow the poses to shine with heartfelt qualities of the spirit. (51)
Unpleasant emotions often arise that are linked to our body-history…or perhaps the body is simply releasing feelings and stored emotions. (63)
Alignment can be philosophical, emotional, physical, and/or intentional. Proper alignment can mean the difference between the breakdown and the breakthrough of a practitioner. Proper alignment (of the mind) can help serve a transformational purpose rather than create the havoc of undisciplined thought. Breakthrough! To practice yoga that is harsh, critical, violent, and motivated by vanity, striving, and competition, we are…at war. Breakdown! (68-69)
The small act of altering what I wore to practice yoga shifted my relationship with my body. Making peace happens by…taking small steps that align with an intention greater than my conditioning. (88 )
When we attend yoga classes where there is a primary emphasis on toning, shaping, losing weight, criticizing or changing the body’s appearance rather than accepting the body as it is, we are at war. When we practice yoga and indulge in self-talk that is negative, discouraging, comparative and judgmental, then we have broken the treaty of peace. (103)
Happiness sings through the cells of the body and the communication is undeniable. (35)
Indeed, there is more to yoga than just doing the asanas. And some more thoughts:
- Yoga is about transformation, not perfection.
- Yogins are not perfect people, only surrendered.
- Everyone is fighting a battle and needs a “hero.”
This book is a good read for those who want to explore yoga beyond its physical dimension.
(Thanks FGM for lending me this book!)