What yoga means to me
I’m often asked why I do yoga, but that’s actually different from the meaning it holds for me. As an extension of my last post, I used to think about healing all the time. There was a point, years ago, when I really just wanted to give up. I had made so many bargains with myself, swearing that it’d be last time I’d engage in my eating disorder. I just wanted refuge from it all.
Many times, I’ve said said that the answer lies in love and though I do agree with this wholeheartedly, I know its not that easy. Too much self love can lead to an obsession with oneself. Someone struggling with an eating disorder, drug addiction, or even an attachment to the physical form of the body is still an attachment. For years, many have told me that I can use my experience with my addictions to help others, but I’ve never understood how other than with my ability to relate. Getting someone to share their problem, might help marginally, but the steps towards wholesomeness are a decision that’s left solely up to the individual.
It wasn’t until my last post when I finally realized that a lot of my own personal healing has spawned from my ashtanga yoga practice.
However, let me be clear about one thing: I hear people talk about the wonders of yoga, how it healed them, and brought them inner peace – this did not happen to me. Yoga has definitely caused me to make great lifestyle changes, which have helped me see a bigger picture, but I wasn’t awakened after my first or second, or 500th class. I was more hooked on the potential to contort my body into weird postures. In fact, I’ve often felt like a bit of a sham doing yoga and then going home and sticking my head down the toilet.
While yoga has helped me to generate more body awareness, it has also highlighted my body dysmorphia issues. With all the various poses, I often can’t stop thinking how much easier my practice would be if I was 5 kg lighter. A lot of advanced floaty practitioners in ashtanga are either small or really thin (there are of course exceptions). Basically, yoga has only maintained some of my negative mind-body issues. However, unlike before yoga, my awareness has been heightened to the fact that I’m needing and wanting to transcend this.
What about healing?
Perhaps, yoga hasn’t healed me personally, but it has brought many healing people into my life. Prior to yoga, I had never been surrounded by so many people who really cared wholeheartedly for others, themselves, and their environments. I’m lucky to have met so many yoga practitioners, from various practices, who haven’t been trying to convert me. Many are really solid, authentic, and truly leading by example, which has been a great motivation for me. It’s important to walk the walk.
So, what’s the key to making a life change? I’ve heard it time and time again, but now I really hear it. It’s about choosing to surround yourself with people who are seeking a way to be something greater than who they are. I don’t mean an overachiever who’s climbing the scaffold to get on top either, I’m talking about sangha.
Sangha basically means community, company. Within this community are also those that have attained a higher realization, or those who you might essentially look up to. From the Buddhist perspective, the qualities of sangha involve practicing the good, upright, and knowledgable way. It’s the people who are genuinely interested in their harmony in the world, the people who you talk to or who when they smile have the ability to light up the room, or the world. It has been unconsciously surrounding myself with people like this who have caused me to not envy, but instead want to emulate them.
I remember years ago my sister wrote me a letter when I was a teenager and said to be careful with my choice of friends, “‘show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.’” Quite a warning to read as a teen, but its true. The people around you and their values, will only be more emphasized in yourself. Become aware of your surroundings and the types of people you spend a lot of time with, how do they make you feel? How do you feel about yourself when you’re with them? Do they accept you for you? Do you accept them?
It’s not just people, its also environments as well. All the films we watch, books we read, stories we hear will impact our thoughts and nature. If something doesn’t feel right, develops feelings of anger, jealousy, insecurity, then its probably best to change the situation or, if able, your mind.
To someone struggling with an addiction, its not as easy as immediately diving into a completely new environment, the person obviously has to want to do something different. Forcing a person to do something, comes from a place of fear, and will only further propel them in the opposite direction. I think once an individual starts to be surrounded grounded people, environments and love, its only a matter of time before an internal evolution starts to occur. It’s all about the small changes, staying committed, and believing that there is a greater potential within. Gradually with time and patience, I believe, healing is possible.