After a long day of work, my tired arms rolled out my yoga mat, ready to honor myself and my practice. Practicing at one of my favorite local yoga studios, I began stretching and adjusting my body for class.
I was expecting to see the regular instructor who leads the class on this particular weeknight. Instead, a different woman entered the space. I kept waiting for her to roll her mat out as well. I became more alert as she began walking back and forth, making little adjustments to temperature, the music, etc.
It occurred to me that she was the instructor for the evening. As she began to address the group, I found myself very put off as I stepped into the realization that this woman I’d never seen before would be guiding our practice.
I wish I could tell you that it was because she was an unpleasant person with a grimace on her face, or that my apprehension was due to her lack of enthusiasm or unfriendliness. It was none of those things; in fact, she was warm and very welcoming to all who entered the class.
My resistance to her being my teacher was simply because she was overweight. She was not muscular with thick thighs from her practice. She was quite simply very overweight. I instantly decided that this would not be a strong class.
I am Not This Body
As class came to a close, my heart open, my self-awareness full, I became quite shocked and angry with myself for being so shallow and judgmental. I didn’t know this woman’s story. I didn’t know her at all. Yoga may have saved her like it did for me. She may have learned self-love in this practice as I have.
I began to question my own heart. I like to think of myself as a compassionate person—one who offers an outstretched hand in acceptance and empathy. However, I was not being compassionate at all. I was being judgmental.
A mantra that I often repeat to myself is ”I am not this body.” It seemed I was not supporting this endeavor in other women. Wasn’t I the person who’d recently shared a poster on social media that read, “Strong Women Lift Each Other Up Instead Of Tearing Each Other Down?”
I began to question what I thought I knew about myself, to dig deeper because I wanted to understand this quick and instant experience inside of my consciousness.
The War Rages On
As I talked the incident through with a supportive friend, I came to realize that my unhealed aspects were all based in feeling out of control. My life has been a struggle with nicotine addiction, severe panic disorder, and hypochondria as a result of those fear-based addictions.
I may not have struggled with my weight, but the confines of my lack of control were clearly still my greatest hurdles. Discovering yoga catapulted me into making healthier, more self-loving choices.
I stopped smoking, and after a long, exhausting dance with shame, I finally released my addiction to cigarettes. As I began a more regular meditation practice, I learned to allow questions and emotions to move through me without taking from me.
In time, the answers come in stillness. I gave myself permission to really listen to my inner voice. I allowed her to speak of the discomfort that weaves its way into her heart. I am reminded that I am here on Earth in human form, and that healing is not linear.
I am still judging myself; therefore I am still judging others. This internal war with myself continues still. My inner voice is at times a whisper, but it is always a mix of who I’m meant to be, caught in the roar of who I once was.
As I take a deep breath, I let out all of the self-loathing judgments that cause me to pause in my path. They too are a gift in this space, between healing and being flung full force into a mirror.
We Are All Mirrors
The yoga class I attended ended up being wonderful. I learned so much. I learned more about asana practice—slowing down my movements from one pose to the next, noticing the pause in my breaths. I learned about my own fears and unhealed aspects.
I learned to stop deciding that I am this or that. I learned to commit to healing, and that as my inner judge takes hold, she reveals how I judge myself. As I exited the space, I thanked the instructor for a wonderful class.
We are all mirrors of our deepest love and our greatest fears.
We are not here to be perfect. We are here to be more aware: less hard on ourselves and others. ~Nicole Markardt
Aware. Awake. Asleep. Repeat. We think we have it all in place—awareness, compassion, empathy, enlightenment…It is then that our dark corners need exploration. The questions come: Is this me? Am I growing? Am I stuck? Am I in alignment with my heart center?
So, I offer you this confession of imperfection. Sometimes, the weight we place on our shoulders is enormous with all of the things we thought we would be by now. My inner voice can still be shallow…judgmental. I am me. This is not a love story, but a real one.
Image Credit/Yogi: @karishma