I’ve been listening to the talk in the blog-net-o-sphere about “body” issues. Which is a euphemism for fat issues, because when we refer to “body” issues we are rarely talking about being short or tall, well muscled, paraplegic, in chronic pain, or even back pain, except insofar as how our favorite technique – yoga, massage, EFT, tapping, whatever – will “solve” your back/knee/shoulder pain and how you should live so you never have to face such ignominy.
I’ve learned a lot about what our “body” issues say about our practices. Whether or not we relate to fat or size or shape as a limitation says a lot about what we think of our practice. All yogis, since we are all people, will face some limitation whether it’s big boobs falling in the face in shoulder-stand or inability to get into that super cool arm balance the teacher demos. I’ve learned that while techniques can effectively address limitation in many cases, the disciplines have far more to offer than fixes because our bodies are so much more than items in the world waiting to be fixed. They are living, breathing, self-writing and re-writing stories waiting to told, listened and added to.
I once heard a very well known teacher of yoga say to an assembled gathering of other yoga teachers that overweight people have “no business teaching yoga.” At the time this confused and hurt and enraged me. Where did I fit in all this? Where did I want to fit in all this? Was I to embark on a weight loss regimen outside my beloved practice to conform to this mandate more quickly? Or did I even want to be in the same business as this person? I’ve practiced in all my bodies. And I’ve taught in all of them, too.
I “unmuted” myself and asked a question on that webinar that was made into an example of disability. At the time I felt so embarrassed. I wish I would have told that teacher to shut her kombucha hole and stop getting her own disordered feelings all over other people’s experiences. “You got your judgement all over my question!” “No, you got your question all in the way of my judgement!” I guess I did, it was her call after all. Maybe keeping my own coffee-hole shut would have spared the experience for us both – how mortifying to have a fat yoga teacher ask a question right after she said that?!
The labels we use to distance ourselves from various forms of limitation are ways of keeping our essential nature at bay: we are impermanent, breakable, already disintegrating and re-integrating beings whose only hope is to unmute and share in stories and in silence. To bump up against one another and our attitudes, preferences and judgements and to just keep noticing, opening space, taking up space and sharing time and space. I’ve shared space from a fat body, a broken body, a fit body and a tired body. I’ve unmuted my shoulders, hips and heart after a night of answering 911 calls, thumping chests and tubing throats and I’ve listened to those same shoulders, hips and heart on long retreats and luxurious spa vacations.
Here’s the truth: live and you will face some kind of disability or incapacity. While yoga, my own favored discipline, will help you through whatever limitation you do or will face, the most important part of that help won’t be a solution. The way these disciplines, lifestyles and techniques help is not so much to dig out the root; the root is our very vitality which is also the source of dynamism, change, limitation and degradation. My experience with yoga is not that it takes away all pain or fat or incapacity, but allows a particularly present way of being with all these things. A way of being with and being in the world that undermines the ideas we use to create distance and renders a very disarming, gritty, nearly indescribably intimate connection that when experienced, makes all the ideas obsolete. Sometimes this brings a kind of healing that makes the limitation disappear, but not always. Intimate connection, however, always eases, heals and vivifies.
The variety of our possibility and experience is the gift of our impermanence. Whether the variety is experienced through our communities or over a long and rich lifetime, it is our privilege to bear its witness.
- Why I Practice Yoga (meredithrom.wordpress.com)