To make a fine meal, it takes a fine chef. A fine chef is someone who can make this fine meal with the ingredients at hand. Someone who is spiritually evolving doesn’t need any specific conditions, they grow in whatever conditions they find themselves in.
The above quote is from a study on the psychological benefits of practicing yoga, particularly on body image and eating habits. Women with low self-esteem and issues with the way they look often turn to eating disorders. More than five million Americans, mostly women, suffer from body image disturbances and/or eating disorders. Women with these issues value only the way they look, ignoring any other strengths and skills.
I can personally attest to that. When I was only thirteen I associated everything with the way I looked. I thought that if only I was prettier, ergo skinnier, then all my problems would go away. That’s when I started skipping lunch. Three years later I was 5’5 and weighed only 90lbs. It was only then that I admitted to being anorexic and sought help. I have always battled with my appearance in the mirror. That is until recently, until I began practicing yoga.
Body image issues cause a rift between the mind and the body. Yoga seeks to unite the mind and body, mending this spiritual rift. Yoga asanas (poses) help the mind to discover the body and vice-versa. Yoga practice in itself can be a very spiritual experience. Women who participated in the study had an increase in body awareness and were more satisfied with their bodies. They were also more content and spiritual. Some of the reactions are as follows:
“I feel better both in my body and about it.”
“Yoga has been the only thing that has significantly helped me deal with my [body image] issues.”
“Before I found the practice, my body seemed more like a foreign space that I lived in. Now I see my body as a tool, home…”
Ever since I began actively practicing yoga at least three times a week I have felt so much better about my own body. I attribute that very little to the physical changes in my muscles. In fact, I don’t think that my appearance has changed greatly. I believe that the way that I think about my body has changed. I no longer stare into the mirror scrutinizing every flaw and poking at my pouch. This is the way I look. This is my body. I am able to now look into the mirror and see a strong, beautiful woman. Well, most of the time. I still have my moments of doubt and self-criticism, but they are fewer and farther between.
The yoga studio is a place of support and without judgment. People of all body types and strength levels show up with the common goal of improving their own mind and body. The only competition is internal. Every time I go to a yoga class I try to push myself a little bit harder, to make myself a little bit stronger. The energy of the other people is a driving factor. Another quote from the study says it best:
“The women I see in my yoga classes are of various shapes, sizes and ages and you don’t
see the low self-esteem or competitiveness you might find in other activities or social
situations. I learn from it constantly. I will practice the rest of my life.”
As the body gets stronger, the mind gets stronger. The mindfulness of the body in yoga is like no other sport. Throughout the practice the mind thoroughly explores the body. The breath is a big part of the connection. One focuses on the breath as a tool to initiate the movement of the body. When you are practicing yoga, you are practicing yoga; meaning that nothing else seems to exist outside of your practice.
I have learned much, both in my red rocks class as well as my practice at vital roots yoga, over the last couple of months. I have gained a confidence in my body that I have never known before. Not to mention both a physical strength as well as a mental one. Yoga is immensely beneficial in many ways. One of the most important may be helping with body awareness by uniting the mind and body.
Yoga Student RRCC (Fall Semester 2011)
Q: What keeps you involved in your field?
A: I am “living” my yoga, I am passionate about it and have been over 30 years, yoga has never failed me and is a familiar place and practice of comfort and healing for me. I enjoy passing on my knowledge and watch other thrive with it as well.
Q:Over time has your style of work changed, evolved, remained the same?
A: Over time I realized that yoga is more than just the poses, it is about mindfully living in the present, it is about forgiveness, kindness, compassion and I am trying to share that with my students.
Q:How do you promote yourself, or how do you go about attracting clients?
A: I don’t have to promote myself, I am walking my talk and word gets around, the number of students I have increases steadily and students love my classes as this is probably the only class where they don’t have to compete, where they are not judged or criticized and they tell me that is what they needed most: a safe space to just be and being accepted.
Q: What is the best and worst things about being a yoga practitioner? Is there anything you would like to share about your experiences with yoga, or something that is fundamental to how the practice exists?
A: The best thing is that practicing yoga makes me feel at ease, has increased my sense of well-being and happiness (it’s all in my book), there is no “worst” at all. It is fundamental to really “understand yoga”, to move past the physical into the deeper consciousness through meditation, mindfulness, living in the present – the only way to happiness.
….after his confession of love towards me, and we decided to get married. Off we went on a wilderness canoe trip in the Boundary Waters, a longtime dream that both of us had shared. The ceremony took place on a small boat in what we called the “Wedding Cove,” a sheltered cove surrounded by high trees with large boulders jutting out into the water that we had fallen in love with a few days earlier while exploring. It was a beautiful morning in July, and the sun was gracing us with her presence on our special day along with a light breeze. During the ceremony a pair of eagles glided in widening circles above us. It truly was a magical moment and, of course, the highlight of our trip.
The next day we took off on our honeymoon trip into the deep wilderness of the Boundary Waters where no motorized travel is allowed. It was a dreamlike experience. The profound silence brought me in touch with my very soul; I meditated with each paddle stroke in our tandem canoe. The only sound was the gentle splashing of water, the drops dripping off the paddle blade, an occasional faint call of the loon or the song of some other bird. No sign of civilization, just enveloped by pure, ancient, primordial nature. The stillness appeared sacred and I felt closer to the earth and my own deep inner self than I ever had.
We found a tiny little island that we chose to pitch our tent on for the night. Again, the silence was so profound that it made us whisper as to not disturb this extraordinary experience and to honor this special gift that we were receiving. A spectacular sunset was our entertainment for the evening, a dip in the cool waters of the lake before turning in for the night, and then we were lulled to sleep by the sound of gentle waves lapping onto shore. Suddenly the rainstorm came in. Without much warning, gale force winds were ripping on our tent and both of us had to hold onto the poles to keep it on the ground. The entire affair lasted about an hour. Mopping up the tent floor and reorganizing our belongings took another half hour until we finally got back to sleep. Another side of Mother Nature is what we had just experienced, all a part of the whole, yet a little different when there is no way out except by boat.
We had just gotten back to sleep when a loud splashing noise woke us up again, then some growling. A bear?? On our tiny island? It seemed he was trying to upturn our boat; although all our food was stored away in bear proof containers and hung high up in the trees, he might have caught some residue smell of something yummy and was exploring its origin. He was not interested in us at all, just tossed and played with our boat, which was our only way to get out of the wilderness, so yes, it was a little scary. What if he destroyed the boat? Or punched some holes into it? The entire event took about twenty minutes, but we knew there was not much we could do about it other than pray, and besides, it was a pitch dark night so we just sat in the tent, listening and determining if he was leaving or coming towards us. After a while we heard some more splashing and it seemed the bear had lost interest and left. Finally, we went back to sleep.
We woke up early to another beautiful rose and lavender-colored sunrise. But our main focus was to check on the canoe. Thank goodness it was ok, although there were some scratches and he did turn it over, but it still was secured to the tree that we had tied it too and no holes or other devastating damage had been done……..
….My morning meditation took place in the canoe again, breathing in, paddle stroke, breathing out, paddle stroke. The lake was calm as a mirror; the only disturbance being the ripples that our canoe left behind. We glided silently through the deep, dark water, listening to the eerie call of the loons in the distance.
Our vacation continued that way for another week. The beauty of this ancient place was overwhelming and it was hard for us to even think about returning back home, but the day came to start the long four-day journey back to Colorado.
When we got home things had to be figured out about our future together. Up until that time we both had not really lived together, except spending long weekends camping, traveling or being at my house. And we both had lived alone for a very long time….
Copyright © 2011 Sophia Paul
Greetings to the Reader –
I am glad your path has led you to this book and blog. The simple fact that your journey directed you here and our paths crossed is a sign that your soul is telling you to take a look at other possibilities, to open yourself up to living an inspired life full of mindfulness and presence. Please feel free to read this book with a notebook at your side; copy down anything that may inspire you or jot down your own thoughts into your journal. Start your own inspirational writing: do it daily, get in the habit and be ready to experience a blissful journey towards your very own inspired life!