A Lesson From Yoga: LOVE The Body, Just As It Is.
By Elyse Grossman
One of the biggest and most important lessons I have learned from my yoga practice is to love my body, not if it was 5 pounds lighter, if it had a six pack protruding through my shirt, or if it would only do a certain pose, but just the way it is. Sounds pretty simple. It is not. Finding amazement with my body, and loving it for what it can do and how it can feel rather than the way it looks, has been my life’s work.
At the young age of 12, I developed a serious eating disorder that landed me into a hospital for considerable lengths of time, tubes forced into my nose to drip calories into my depleted figure. While physically, the disorder did heal with a lot of work; adversely, the emotional burden left me scarred and feeling barren, even in moments I should have been able to fill up on joy. What I slowly began to realize is that one of my issues with my body stemmed from a need to control and to grip on to areas of my life that I could not control.
Enter the practice: learning to let go of that which we are unable to control and to be amazed at the shapes my body could take along with the ability to fall in love with the sound of my very breath that moves it.
I found my way to yoga at 17. Having been a soccer player and fairly active my whole life, yoga offered a different , more mindful exercise. Week after week, I would show up on my mat, and after months, my initial transformation and sincere love for the practice began. With each breath and asana, I could notice a shift and a deep sense of awe for the way my body was able to invite in space and take shape. On the mat, I could balance, lose my balance, invert, or even transform into an animal, an embodiment of nature, oreven a child or baby. Each posture offered a life lesson about my body, and how to strengthen, ease and simultaneously surrender into the body. With enough practice, I could take these lessons off the mat and apply them elsewhere. With a committed practice, my heart and hips began to open as did my indefatigable desire to cease control of that which I could not control in life; in other words, I learned to surrender to what is.
The first time I completely lost myself in a posture was during Warrior II. My gaze steady over my front middle finger, legs strong, hips opening and arms spread. I could feel my feet grounded in the earth, my breath loudly audible and my mind present. Wow! This is what strength and presence looks like, this is what my body is capable of. It did not need to grip and force. I was in control and allowed the sensation of the strength of this powerful posture to transform my negative ideals about what I thought I needed to control or look like. Embodying the strong Warrior made my discomfort with my body seem futile; if I could be a warrior, and trust me I was, than that was enough. I drew strength from the very core of my existence.
Yoga is not a punishment for something I ate, for feeling heavy: It is my freedom, my gift, my daily play. It is not meant to be forced, but rather to promote a love for the breath and for the body we have in the present moment. Next time you are on the mat, practice forming an awe for the many beneficial shapes your body is able to form and settle into.