Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yoga: From the Inside Out

                Something that really resonated with me about the book “Yoga: From the inside out” was this old sage saying: we are spiritual beings having a human experience. That in all the eternal that is us confined within this limited capacity this is just a moment, and however limited we are – there are still many things that we can, and should experience with this vessel. I found that to be enlightening. It colored not only the way I read the rest of the book but the way I examine my life, the people in it and my relation to them. How differently we would treat others if we really felt as though we were in contact with The Divine itself. I guess that is part of release from the sleeping world.
                                The chronicle of the author’s journey into war to find peace, her awakening from the sleep state was interesting to observe. The war that she waged with herself, her body was one of epic proportions and one that I think is worth having. I would bet money I don’t have that every person I’ve ever come into contact with at some point fell victim to the “body-image game” as the author puts it. It is a rather insidious cultural happenstance.  
Sell touches on this in the book, but the African American community notoriously has been relatively unaffected by issues of “bad body-image” and weight consciousness than other cultural groups. That is heavier weight; curvier and bigger frames are not stigmatized or disapproved of the way they are in other ethnicities. In fact those aspects of women are particularly prized within the community. However, more and more the incidence of African American woman dieting, having “poor body images,” developing eating disorders is slowly rising. Typically African American women are among those to have the highest levels of positive body images. Growing up in that community I was indeed taught to love the skin and shape that I was in. Many of the women in my family (role models) were fuller formed and exuded confidence. For most of my life I have held the same sentiment.
However, l I too have struggled with body image issues in the past. Most people would have never known it. I hid that fact well. Still the comments and attitude of many time peers outside my own cultural group affected me. It took a lot of self-examination and insight to reach a place where I could look in the mirror and feel okay about what I saw looking back at me. I had positive body image. I believed I had made significant enough progress to say that I have a positive body image. Sell mentioned a commentary on the notion of body image from a guru. He states that the very idea of body image be it positive or negative, needs to be obliterated.  It by definition places a dichotomous statement of satisfaction and worth. Even though one may have a positive body image the fact remains that body image denotes either approval or disapproval. That in and of itself is a destructive construct.
 After reading this book, that fact was made irrelevant and ignorant.  However as stated above that is an incredibly misguided way of thinking characterized by vanity and commercial exploitation from the “sleeping world.” Health, vitality, connection to the Divine – these are the type things our bodily awareness should cultivate. It’s not about how positive I feel about the way I look. That idea is not important in the grand scheme. It has no place in the “real world.” It’s merely a superficial expression meant to mask our pain of our current condition in the “Sleeping world.” This was an enlightening aspect of tantric yoga that Sell discussed. Abandoning the notion of body image is to abandon one of the notions that has succeeded in keeping us fettered to the “Sleeping World.” This really resonated  with me.
Still, the awakening to the Sleeping world is a process that occurs over time. All things are a process. Her journey illustrates this beautifully. As I read I was surprised to find that as an instructor she was still struggling with body image issues. I don’t know why. This probably shouldn’t have struck me as odd because instructors , though they teach, are students of yoga as well. A particular passage that struck me was when she discusses when she overhears someone tell her friend not to wear black pants when she is teaching because it hinders the students from seeing what the legs are truly doing in a pose. To which she responds that she wears black pants for that very reason. This awareness, realization and recognition of superficiality prompted her to examine why she does that. The purpose of yoga is not for show but for union with the divine, ascension to new spiritual heights. She eventually removes the pants for something less flattering. Yet this change provides better vantage for students and better range of motion and ease of asana. The mere act of changing clothes (stripping away the influence of the Sleeping World) better facilitated Yoga.
Powerful. Realness. Experiencing the here and now, taking life for what it is – this is what tantric yoga is designed to do. Within the book Sell comments on what that means, how to respond to this world. I am by nature a very passionate person. I’ve always understood that to mean that this life, and the people in it matter to me. I am expressive and emotionally available because it matters to me. Nonchalance and apathy is not something that analogous with caring, loving and living this life. So when I first read the section on becoming un-phased by things I was immediately reserved to that notion. I realize that it does not mean stoicism but tantric acceptance for the way things are and making peace with that. However, I do believe ourselves to be an integral aspect in the equation of change. I guess I need to read more on the subject but I do not think that I would want to dispassionately move through this human experience.
This was a good book filled with passages that quick literally rocked my world and the way I think of it. Great read.

No comments:

Post a Comment