By guest author Nanditha Ram, author of Blissful Mom, Blissful Baby
I have borrowed the title of one of my favourite novels to serve as title of this article.
It’s a post modern philosophical product of the 1980s, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.
I’ve borrowed it because it brought to my mind, in a round-about sort of way, a connection with yoga and weight… and our modern day crisis of how we view the self.
A truly reliable way to shed excess baggage in all its myriad forms. Yet yoga has morphed into a way of keeping people in a body image prison.
Is yoga contributing to body image depression? The answer is a resounding Yes.
Yoga has now earned the title of “industry”.
There is nothing wrong with industry or with being industrious as long as the ethical grounds for being so are clear. So what’s wrong with the yoga industry?
It is making people obsess with their bodies, and get thrown into a state of non-acceptance of self, body and soul. This body is the vehicle for higher consciousness to emerge as we go through life on earth. It is the temple of the soul. But oh me oh my, how we hate it!
And I say yoga is responsible for this in a big way.
Body image and body acceptance are so much at odds with one another.
There is a crises of the soul here. Why do we love to hate ourselves so much? Because there is a certain pleasure in punishment, the other side of the narcissistic nature of self love.
A friend of mine once admitted to me that whenever she saw sexy looking models advertising yoga clothes, she would feel faint with self-loathing, shamefacedly admitting that yoga ought to have taught her to love her body, and the skin she’s in, at the very least.
I am not alone here and that provides little comfort.
Losing weight or otherwise has little to do with loving the body we’re in.
Losing weight doesn’t make one feel light then, it makes being light feel unbearable because weight loss can put one at odds with oneself, unsafe and scared as one views the change with a grain of doubt – the reluctance to give oneself permission to be accepting of the body or the freedom to love it the way it is.
The infinite loop of discontent.
This is so contrary to everything yoga teaches us.
Yoga teaches us union, it teaches us to delve deep into the body, using awareness to come to the sanctum sanctorum of the true self.
Yoga helps us wade through the underlying morass of emotions and baggage hiding under the flesh to come out onto the other side a little bit more free.
So where’s the missing piece?
Enter post-modern novel: The concept of eternal recurrence or the opposite idea that everything in life occurs but once, both maybe a useful way of looking for the missing piece. Both philosophies are explored in the The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
If events recur ad infinitum, as suggested by philosopher Freiderich Nietzsche, then we are trapped in a pattern of self hatred and anger towards the body for making us feel less than perfect.
If, however, everything ever happens only once, an alternative argument explored by the book through its theme-based contemplations, then there is no choice but to love oneself, body and soul, or be damned into a one-time cycle of self abnegation.
The next time I feel bombarded by images that make me shun my body, I will remember to remind myself that I am perfectly fine the way I am.
I love and accept myself, imperfections and all.
And I am perfectly poised to take on the moment by being content with where I am.
So yoga hype and perfect-body brainwashing be damned, I choose to love the skin I’m in. And so could everyone.
Nanditha Ram is a yoga teacher and has trained for several years in India under astute masters. She is a consumer awareness and health writer, and a qualified holistic therapist. She currently teaches yoga in Karori, Wellington and is the mum of two gorgeous children who started their yoga practice in the womb. Nanditha likes the crazy and the quirky aspects of human nature and loves that yoga brings out everybody’s best wild self.