I’m coming down from that post-workshop/conference high after the A Weekend with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. It was a breath of fresh air and a huge weight was lifted off of me: I finally got to be a part of a discussion revolving race, the Yoga Industrial Complex and spiritual activism. I’m buzzing with the intense desire to contribute, to dismantle the constructs that keep women stuck, to inspire and incite the social change that a personal embodied spiritual practice inevitably brings about.
So what is it about body image that is so important? Why does this work matter to me so much? I, like every other woman in our society, deals with body image issues on the regular. And it used to be worse: I would spend debilitating hours in front of mirrors pinching and tugging and sighing and screaming and crying. Running to the scale to weigh myself, the back to the mirror to pinch and prod regardless of whether the scale had judged me worthy or not. Because whatever I weighed, it wasn’t good enough. A combination of my obsessive compulsive disorder, the media fodder I had internalized and my own struggle with my weight had culminated in a hellish, paralyzing cycle of self-hatred.
Paralyzing being the key word here. Debilitating in that it kept me from going out, having a life. All of the emotional effort, all of the hours spent scrutinizing, getting worked up into hysterics, tallying up what I had eaten that day, the extra hours of punishing exercise–what if it had gone to something else?
We are the subjects of billions of dollars of advertising telling us we’re not good enough. Sure, we buy the makeup and the clothes and the supplements because of it, but what aren’t we doing because of this influence? Maybe the same messages that tells us our asses need to be higher and firmer are the same ones that insidiously keep us from having the confidence to write a book, or ask for a raise, or pursue a degree.
Or ask for love, or help.
Or say no.
Maybe these same messages pit woman against woman, competing with our sisters that otherwise would help us rise. And what would we do if we banded together? If we supported each other’s goals and questioned the system that keeps numerical majorities considered minorities? What would happen if we shared instead of coveted? If we supported instead of competed? If we were unashamed to feel every ounce or righteous anger and rage at the suffering we’ve allowed to happen?
The paradigm is shifting. Things aren’t working–economically and socially–and we’re pissed that we’ve been lied to. In order to do that work, to create something functioning instead of flailing to stay afloat in a failing system, we are required to educate ourselves, ask questions and stay divinely inspired and acutely aware. Enter yoga, meditation, or whatever else you use to keep you attuned and awake. Ditch the drugs, ditch the mindless Netflix binges, ditch the shopping and consuming to fill a deeper hunger. That hunger will be satiated with action, with awareness, with committing to showing up.
With the confidence that your work matters, that your experience must be heard, that you are powerful beyond your dreams.
When you hate your body, you are distracting yourself from being great.
By buying into the message you are unworthy, you play small, play weak, and play into the destructive system. Loving your body is deviant. Mindfulness practices are subversive. They empower you to awaken and take action. The true work begins when your body is no longer the issue, when you surrender to the wisdom of your body and nourish yourself with good food, good movement, and good love.
The true work begins when your mind is on ending the suffering of others instead of sculpting a six-pack.
And it all begins with the breath.