I know we yoginis probably all struggle with some form of this. It's pervasive, influences our everyday actions whether we're conscious of that little voice or not. We've been indoctrinated from such an early age by our culture and society that it's difficult to even recognize that it's there.
Our image of how we perceive our "Self".
With this I mean our internal and external Self. I know the two are separate entities, but I feel personally that it's naive to assume we can realistically separate something so intertwined with how we're taught to view who we are- our image. When asked to describe ourselves, how many of us automatically include age, hair colour, eye colour and perhaps under our breath weight, to the mix? In a time when obesity is becoming the topic of the day, the challenge of fighting unhealthy body image and "diet industry" mores has become more complex.
I was reminded recently about the connection and at this time apparent disconnect, of yoga and health and our expectations of what a yoga instructor "should" look like. I was reminded that I have that cookie cutter type mold that I measure yoga instructors by- an unconscious little mold that I was unaware existed until I thought "hmph, how can she be a yoga instructor when she looks too thin to be healthy?"
Trying to live a planet compassionate life includes a lot of thinking about food. Where it comes from, how it's processed (or preferably not processed). Often the level of processing involved will dictate the amount of "eco-guilt" I feel. It's something I work on as my personal growth, letting go of the eco-guilt while still trying to accomplish a level of environmental responsibility.
Trying to live a yoga-compassionate life also includes quite a bit of talk around eating and food. We talk about practicing yoga to improve the health of muscles, bones and organs. We talk about when to eat (not two hours before practice!), which postures to help with our digestive system and weight loss. There's talk about treating our bodies like a "temple", putting certain food types in to nourish a healthy body and mind. This includes cleanses that sound pretty darn scary (only drinking smoothies for a week) and analyzing our diet through the lens of our dosha constitution. Then there's the whole discussion around meat and vegetarianism-veganism and ahimsa. I've found that compared to other disciplines or physical/spiritual practices, yoga has quite a large portion that is dedicated to food and eating.
Speaking strictly for myself, and my personal struggles with body image and weight, all this focus on food and eating can spiral into something destructive and harmful. Research has shown that simply the act of talking and analyzing food and eating can bring about symptoms of disordered eating. I can recognize that this is an extremely personal thing.
As my practice increases I notice that my body changes, muscles grown in my arms and my back, my legs and belly get stronger and leaner and I *know* that I am stronger and healthier. With this comes more exposure to "yoga food speak"; I attend more classes, read more about yoga and am exposed more to "proper healthy" yoga eating. Appropriate food for my dosha. I become more aware of my physical body which in turn leads to increased awareness on what I do to my body. What I eat. I get caught up in the vortex of yogic-food speak and cleanses start to sound almost appealing.
Add in a good dose of eco-food speak and you get some pretty disordered thoughts about my body and my eating habits.
I'm not writing all this as a means of judgment on Yoga as a practice, nor as a "feel bad for me" post. It's more of an observation and an overshare. I can't be alone in experiencing this.... can I?
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