June 1, 2011

The Yoga Body is…Disgusting!

I’ve seen a lot of discussion here about the “yoga body” lately. There’s been a wide range of reactions to this phrase:

–   The yoga body is beautiful and reasons are given why: fit, healthy, glistening, sexy,etc.

–   The yoga body “is what it is” – i.e. if you’re not in shape but comfortable with your body and really into yoga then that’s ok also because beauty is in the mind, etc.

Nothing wrong with either of these philosophies but it seems to me from my beginner’s mind and very meager experience that the reality is the yoga body is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever encountered.

(not all specific yoga bodies are disgusting of course)

A)     Sweating. The yoga body, particularly in the first stages (and how long does that last? Years?) Why does it sweat? Because the body is being purified. It needs to sweat toxins that have been there for years. So the toxins come out. Maybe this is better than the “non-yoga body” but I’m not comparing the two. In the non-yoga body  the toxins are hidden. In the yoga body, those toxins are out full force. And the sweat is everywhere. The sweat comes out of your eyeballs. It drips all over your mat. All of those glistening yoga bodies around you are disgustingly sweating out of places that have never in 20-40 years sweated before. By definition, because that’s what yoga is doing.

B)      The air. The average person takes a breath every 2 seconds or so. The yoga body gets into these contorted positions and breathes deeply and holds the position while breathing deeply. So what happens? Just like in sweat, “stale air” (as one yoga practitioner referred to it) starts coming to the surface and you start exhaling it. Again, I get it. You’re purifying your body. But during the 28 years you’re doing it its pretty disgusting to breathe up all that stale air.

C)      Vomiting. When I first met Claudia she told me about her teacher training in Thailand. One of the things she mentioned was how they would drink warm salty water in the morning until they threw it up. Part of their morning cleansing.  I’m a believer. I would like to do this myself. All I’m saying is: vomiting is disgusting. To me personally. I love the idea of purification and eventually hope I get there. But the process seems repulsive.

D)     Enemas. It’s not just vomiting. I have vague memories (note to self: bring up with therapist) of being held down as a constipated three year old while screaming and being forcibly applied an enema  by my parents. My sister told me it was horrible to watch. Why was she watching?

But now I hear it’s also part of the yoga purification process. So the yoga body is sticking stuff up themselves all the time. For me, I have feelings of disgust around this. But ok. Again, nothing wrong with it. But sticking something up your ass is often disgusting.

E)      Neti-pot. Perhaps the least invasive of these techiques but the yoga body sticks a pot of warm water again up your nose while you tilt your head and you pour until the water comes out the other nostril, draining all the snot out of your nose and whatever else has been up there for decades. But this is not just once. The yoga body is doing all of these things. Every day. Forever. Throw in the things that come across your tongue scraper and you’ve got a whole heap of disgusting. Nice.

And finally, philosophy. Is yoga really about exercise or looking good? Claudia and I just got back from Ramaswami’s 20 hour course on the yoga sutras. Much of it was above my head. I’m no expert.

But on day one he describes the roots of “yoga” (in terms of the yoga sutras where Ashtanga, Iyengar, Power Yoga, etc are all descended from) as not “union” (as in Bhakti Yoga) but “separation” of mind from pure consciousness. And later he relates this to the niyama for “Cleanliness” in that you realize how repulsive the body is through the act of cleansing it. In other words, the feelings of repulsion you learn towards your body during the process of yoga (and everything underneath that massive umbrella) help you separate your mind from it. Which in turn helps your mind separate from pure consciousness.

So, I’m just a beginner. I know nothing. But I’m curious what other people think of this.

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