Whenever I am thinking about buying a book, I tend to read the reviews about it on Amazon.com. If there are 1 or 2 star reviews, I check those out first. It amuses me to read these, because you can often really feel the vibe of the author. Sometimes, they’re just malicious spammer types, and it stands out that they are simply slandering the book, probably without reading it. Other times, they didn’t appreciate the author’s style of writing or were distracted by typos in the book. If I’m lucky, I get an insight from a reviewer that really resonates with me and gives me a grain of truth that helps me decide to buy or to move on.
Last week, I came across someone’s list of “10 Best Yoga Books”, and I was looking at reviews to further evaluate them for myself. I got to one book, I don’t even recall the title, but the book was personal stories of how yoga had helped people with their body image and overall sense of wholeness. The negative review was rather long and spoke a lot about how “if you are anorexic, bulemic, obese, or have serious body image and self esteem issues, this book is for you. If you are a regular person, this book isn’t for you.” The reviewer also seemed to suggest that if this book resonated with you, you probably needed professional help.
This assessment really made me think. You see, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t have some issue with their self-image. Listen to the most fabulous woman you know, and you are likely to hear at least a whiff of self-criticism.
That doesn’t mean I hate myself or that I have a deep, gnawing self-loathing. It means that like most human beings, I tend to be more critical of myself than I am of others. I mean, after all, it IS my body, I live in it 24/7, so I have plenty of time to notice things.
Here’s where yoga comes in.
It didn’t really hit me until I had finished teaching my yoga class last night. As I instructed my student to lie down for relaxation, I came down into a crouch-sitting position. In that moment, I felt invincible, strong, whole, complete. It didn’t matter what the facts of my body composition might be. Sitting there, I was perfect, content, and full of the wonder of all creation.
This is what makes yoga such a powerful experience. You don’t have to be flexible. You don’t have to be thin. You can be any size or ability. You can even be broken–achy joints, sore back, bound up from surgery, weak from chemotherapy, or stuck in a negative emotional place. I have been all of these things along my yoga journey.
Yoga helps me explore the boundaries of my discomfort. Sometimes, that discomfort is soreness around surgical scars. Sometimes, it’s anger at the events of my life. Sometimes, it is an aching back from sitting at the office too much. I might even be an emotional wreck.
Yoga helps me focus on the present moment. I hold or move mindfully in a pose. I focus my attention on my balance. I notice the quality and depth and feel of my breathing. Sometimes, I am instructed to draw to mind anyone I am angry at and to use the fire of that emotion to provide the fuel to hold a difficult pose. I am reminded not to push beyond my limits, to a place where I might be injuring myself, yet I am encouraged to seek that place of challenge or tension.
Each yoga session is about MY challenge, MY body, and MY experience. It isn’t about anyone else. I do my best with wherever my I am in that particular moment, and that is all that matters. I face my fears, I honor my body, I allow emotion to pass through me. I bring discipline and grit to the mat that goes with me into the big wide world.
And I enjoy that moment afterwards where I feel whole, complete, invincible, powerful, courageous and at one with all things. I have not one morsel of criticism in my being for myself. Yoga helps many of us transcend the chatter of whatever nags us, no matter how big or small the concern.
I’m not sure what my dear Amazon reviewer gets out of their class, but I sure as heck get more than stretching and bending in mine, and I would not trade that for anything in the world.