I listened empathetically as she described the way the morning “should have gone.” Those were…
It was a certain kind of shock. A definite re-calibration occurred.
And, sometimes it still does.
No one had to tell me explicitly as a young woman. I knew it implicitly.
My body should look like THIS, and not like THAT.
Also, it should be thinner.
And not get hungry so often.
And not have scars on my face, even small ones. (A dog bit me in the face when I was 7 years old)
Nor should I be clumsy.
Nor should my body not know how to do things already (like eka pada galabasana).
Yoga came to me on a mountaintop, not in a classroom. (Yoga studios didn’t really exist much back then.)
A tremendous relief came over me.
(There were no mirrors. There weren’t yet images of what a yogi looks like. There were no branded clothes.)
Years later when I would walk into my first formal yoga teacher training (auspiciously it was on a mountain top), I would see that women’s bodies came in many shapes.
Though I was symptom free with my food and exercise behaviors, my mind was still prone to comparison/competition with other women’s bodies.
(This had never turned out well for me.)
My comparison and competition mind tried to get an edge over my curiosity. It weaseled its way into checking if I was going to be okay in this yoga teacher training. Into checking if somehow this “okayness” was going to be granted to me if I wasn’t the worst, nor the biggest, nor smallest, nor the most dimpled, nor the clumsiest.
(I realized I had spent years waiting for “okayness” to be granted.)
And yet, the beauty of all those different bodies in motion exploring yoga with curiosity… My comparison/competition mind got shut down!
I was amazed at how many variations of bodies could all be so beautiful!
It was an altered state of being! My comparison and competition mind was drifting away…
And, I couldn’t stop it. (This was truly weird!!!)
Having succumbed to vast amounts of conditioning for what it means to look like a woman (which, by the way, wasn’t how my body was “turning out” at 29 years old, at this yoga teacher training), I had struggled with body acceptance for years. It was an ongoing source of disappointment and confusion.
The confusion? Why didn’t I have more control over how my body would be “turning out” if I had “control” over what I ate, how I exercised, and how I thought? (Note that this all tells you how deeply conditioned my eating disorder thoughts were.)
In this luminous moment at the top of a different mountain, I was dumbfounded that beauty was actually something so diverse and arising from within!
Just to be clear, the shock was really two-fold. One was a whole new vision of beauty emerging in my view of self and others; and second was that my comparison and competition mind was NOT winning!!
Years later, when I was introduced to Ayurveda, I would come to understand myself and my mental habits SO MUCH BETTER!
In earlier life, I had no idea that body types and doshas and genetics were even important. (Didn’t even know what they were.)
It all just seemed like “YOU should be THIN!”
No matter what.
I was not fond of the muscular nature of my body (even as a top athlete).
Why were my thighs so strong? And, good lord, why did they touch each other?!
Why were my arms so “buff”? It might have helped me on the uneven parallel bars, but weren’t arms supposed to be thin and shapely?
I was also not fond of being short, unless I agreed to be called “Cute”.
Though, I wasn’t fond of that all the time either.
It didn’t match up with another deep desire I had – to feel Empowered.
Somehow Cute didn’t collaborate with Empowered, unless you consider the false sense of power that can come from cute flirtatiousness.
It was a circular mind pattern of self-dissatisfaction.
And, then Ayurveda told me this:
With your primary dosha being pitta, you will have a medium body type with a muscular build.
When out of balance, you will also be prone to competitiveness, and fury (aka self-hatred in my inner world).
You will also have a fiery appetite. (No wonder I was not able to “succeed” in long-term restriction patterns, aka anorexia.)
When you’re in balance, you’ll be capable of keen insight, integration of concepts into action, and leadership qualities will emerge in you.
Yikes! This would only be available when I am in balance?!
I was already a seeker. I already wanted to know and to have insight! I wanted to “get it all figured out”! (By yesterday.)
I also had a furious appetite, which often led to painful binges after excessive restricting and compulsively exercising.
I hated my appetite.
I thought of it as a fire that consumed me. It was not me consuming food. It was food consuming me.
I hated it deeply. And, I did not feel empowered. Nor did I feel cute.
Yet, my Ayurveda teacher was so kind, and present with me. I heard his teachings and I considered it loving, wise and genuine.
I became willing.
It was the first step.
Self-acceptance led to self-appreciation, to self-nurturance, and beyond.
In fact, my relationships to my body design and to my appetite were deeply transformed by my inherent Pitta nature, when I welcomed his genuine care and kindness. (I have since cultivated Ayurveda as the foundation for my health. I recommend Ayurveda as a guiding force in our recovery processes, and I would rally for us to incorporate Ayurveda into treatment centers, schools, prisons, and everywhere!)