Last week I was in yet another hip-opening yin yoga class. I was seated on the floor with my legs out in front of me and I was folding forward, resisting the urge to yank on my feet to give the illusion of flexibility. I looked down at myself and saw the soft rolls of my belly and the sides of my upper legs splayed out against the floor. Immediately I thought, How ugly, fat, flabby, out of shape, big, unfeminine, and unattractive, too much chocolate, not enough calories burned. The thoughts were uncomfortable and I wished to distract my mind with something else. So I thought about the lunch I was going to have after I left class.
A few minutes later we were doing another pose that was challenging for me. My left leg was folded over the right. We were meant to fold forward over our bent legs, but this was not happening for me. I came into the pose and quickly reached the edge past which I could not comfortably go. As seemingly everyone else was folded over, going deeper into the pose, I sat up and noticed my right knee and upper leg. Automatically I thought, Too big, unacceptable, abnormal.
This time, I stayed with those thoughts a little longer. I realized they were habitual, as was my tendency to compare myself unfavorably with others. I noticed that as real as these thoughts felt, they were a matter of perception. I wondered, what if I looked at this same leg and saw pure and utter beauty.
During the remainder of the class, I played with this new attitude, an unconditional friendliness toward my imperfect body every time I found myself hardening, judging, and rejecting. After all, what was there to lose? Was I in danger of deluding myself, going easy on myself, letting myself off the hook? Or perhaps this is part of practicing imperfection.
Reaching down to touch misshapen feet, I thought, how beautiful.
Big, strong, muscular legs, Gorgeous.
Interesting. I felt light and more spacious.
Leaving class, I took my new attitude with me. Broken out, dry, and fine-lined skin, How lovely. All my physical insecurities, Wonderful, yes.
Widening the circle, I recognized my doubts about my intelligence, uncertainty about my professional and personal future, fears about whether I’m living my life well, and I thought, These are just as they should be.
Each time I found myself criticizing, doubting, or judging, I roused a sense of friendliness and love for this person struggling so, this person who is just fine right now. Applying the same warm welcome I would for anyone coming to my home, I think, How can I care for you? What can I do to show you my love? You are welcome here.