I never thought that, at 31, I would call myself a professional yoga teacher. The journey has been so upside down, so massively complex that I could and would have never choreographed it this way.
Alas, here I am, peeling away another layer.
When I was ten, I spend a summer at a yoga camp in Ontario. This was my first immersion in the practice of yoga. Suffice it to say that I was confused – what the hell was this blend of calisthenics and religion? What did the satsangs (lecture and prayer gatherings) in the early morning have to do with the exercise classes in the afternoons and evenings? Was I being graded on this?
It was in this camp that I was first bullied for my weight. Having trouble climbing up a rope, one of the more “popular” girls yells from below, “how much do you weigh, anyway?” This question caught me off guard. In my innocent mind, I thought, “well, actually, I don’t know. I’ve never weighed myself.”
Perhaps needless to say, anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphia, binge eating, and decades of generally lacking peace around food followed.
In some ways, I think I blocked that experience – that whole summer – out, as I time I just didn’t want to remember.
But it seems my subconscious mind had a different idea.
Yoga kept falling onto my path – right smack in the middle of it. In the yogis on magazine covers and confidently walking the halls of my university, mat in tow, in their sense of inner peace and confidence I saw something I wanted. Not just wanted, needed. Longed for.
There is a fine line, it seems to me, between being inspired by someone, and comparing myself to them. I noticed this also when I was building my partnership. For years I was looking for love, for that exact right person to be the yang to my yin, and when I would see someone who had what looked to me like perfect love, I would feel a tinge of jealousy and resentment.
Then, one day, with the unraveling of my own inner work and self-examination, something shifted for me. A sort of “letting go” happened and I was able to feel happy for the people I saw who had those perfect relationships. I remember very clearly looking at photos on facebook – photos of couples – and suddenly a happiness and peace glowed inside me. I wished for that same experience of contentment in love for myself, though I was no longer grabby about it. I just let it be and enjoyed the shimmer of inspiration these facebook pictures filled me with.
Fast forward 3 or 4 years, my relationship is one of the things I am most proud of in this life. It’s a source of constant nourishment, healthy challenge and support for me, and I know it grew in the soil of having done the footwork to get here. I look back at those times of navigating the feelings of jealousy and inspiration as a kind of tilling the soil – I had to prepare my inner self to be a healthy environment to attract what I wanted.
Though I found that place of peace in one arena of my life, there are other areas in which I still compare myself. Where, due to my insecurity, I try to be perfect and, when attempts at perfection fail, I feel the hopelessness of an outsider looking in, my nose pressed against the glass of something I want and not sure how to have.
This morning I was browsing (read: anxiously scrutinizing) the website of a yoga instructor I greatly admire. My objective? To find out how old she was. I wanted to know, was I too old to create the career of my dreams teaching the yoga I love? The search felt pretty empty. I knew in my heart of hearts what the answer to that question is, and nevertheless, that old habit of self-comparison took the lead today, that same familiar anxiety of “will I be enough?” sitting in the controller seat.
Soon after that, I recalled the sharp memory of that girl – whose name I still remember – calling to me from below, “So, how much do you weigh, anyway?”
I realized that what I often do to myself is rehash those old wounds by engaging in self-comparison. I treat myself unfairly when there is no need.
So today, my intention is to look upon every yoga instructor – especially those I admire – with my heart open to that feeling of being happy for them, that they’ve achieved what I one day hope to, and to let that glow live.
But more than that, I intend to remember that we are all joined in being human – and humanness entails being vulnerable, vulnerable to falling down, feeling hurt, not being perfect. When I am pushing away my own humanness, can I embrace that of another?