Ahimsa: A Harm-Free Life Is An Inside Job

Leah Murtagh
Ahimsa: A Harm-Free Life Is An Inside Job

Today I’d like to begin with some numbers. 137. 145. 195. 150. 134. 184. 153. 160.

Gosh, when I write them this way, they seem neutral, insignificant, and ho-hum. In fact, these numbers carry a lot of, ahem, weight... Because that’s what they refer to—my weight.

All of the numbers listed reflect the weight of my body from ages 18 through 38. I look at each number and there is a memory attached—and a corresponding picture of myself.

Every Number Tells a Story

137 was my weight on my high school driver’s license, and the picture I have is one of an excited almost-college student who knew she had great legs and was ready to take campus by storm in short shorts and a micro t-shirt. (That was back when bare midriffs were, like, bangin’.).

195 was my weight just before I delivered my daughter—I wore her all over my body and all the pictures I see of myself at this time are of a pretty, glowing, enormous whale. I sure felt like one there at the end (Holla, every pregnant mama in week #38!).

I weighed 134 during a very depressing, addictive, and doomed relationship after my divorce. Did I mention I’m 5 ft. 9½ in. tall? Everyone said I looked amazing. A couple of close friends, however, were very concerned about me back then. Many people wanted to know my secret for the dramatic slim-down.

I very desperately wanted to tell them all exactly where to go, and that it was easy; just feel like absolute shit for six months or so, and you simply lose the desire to eat.

184 was me before I delivered my son—all belly and still doing yoga. I have several pictures of me in workout clothes, and even a fun video teaching a dance class with my tummy in plain sight, shimmying my shoulders and rocking an awkward kind of grace.

How Numbers Affect Us

Finally, 160 is me right now, after opening my studio and working out more per week than I have since my 20s. I can lift, bend, stretch, and RUN better than, well, maybe EVER. This is also the heaviest I’ve ever been without being pregnant. About that, I feel… Nervous. Righteous. Strong. Pressured. Insecure.

Also, I think this list is sad. Frankly, I don’t like that I associate all these memories with a number on a scale.

What is that about? All this time (as a TRAINER and YOGA TEACHER, no less), I have loudly professed that I love my curves and my strength. I have a healthy relationship with food (80 percent what I should eat, and 20 percent whatever the hell I want to eat). My clients who train this way get stronger and lose weight if that is their goal, expunging dependence on the scale and learning to value how they are feeling, how their clothes fit, etc.

Connecting Intimately with Our Bodies

So, what is the point here? I guess the point is that I think we ALL need a reminder to connect intimately with our bodies, rather than with a scale or some kind of antiquated standard to determine our wellness and the best path toward self-acceptance.

Our bodies change over time. I know that a 40-year-old metabolism is different than a 20-year-old’s. I know that we should exercise differently in different decades—allowing for more recovery and perhaps more variety of exercise as we age.

So, instead of judging myself against my healthiest weight at age 30 (148—of course I know right where that is!), it would be in my best interest to try to keep fitting into my current wardrobe. I like and feel comfortable in these clothes, and I know I feel fit and toned and healthy and pretty when these clothes fit me (Plus, most of them include at least some spandex, so small fluctuations in size are no big deal—ha, ha.).

Avoiding Harmful Comparisons

It sure is eye-opening to me that I am no more immune to negative comparisons—with my former selves or with other people, than any other person out there (“Wow, I’m not as thin as her, but at least I’m not as big as she is!”). And, tell the truth, you know you do this too.

So, I am working deliberately, in the yogic spirit of Ahimsa, to not harm myself or others with comparisons. This may be the hardest internal, deliberate-thinking exercise I have tried. My hope is that after a few weeks of good practice, I will notice that my memories and experiences can stand on their own and that I will look at others as they are—without needing to compare appearances.

Maybe I can ultimately trust that my care for and connection with my body and my acceptance of others will ensure a richly enjoyed life until the day I die—no numbers necessary!

I don’t want to do this alone...Will you join me?