What does yoga honestly look like?
I’ve been asking this question lately because I’ve been distracted by perfectly sculpted bodies in bikinis doing amazing athletic poses on the beach. They are beautiful, no doubt, but is that an honest representation of what yoga looks like?
Perhaps it’s a part, but not the whole.
I have been teaching yoga for 14 years, and lately I find myself in a comparison trap, trying to keep up with yoga celebs, models, and athletes. I realize this is similar to when I was a kid and my parents were trying to keep up with the Joneses.
It’s a perfect American trap.
My mind starts to trick me and tell me that I can’t succeed if I don’t look them, if I’m not as toned and sexy as they are, or if I can’t do a headstand in a bikini against a tropical backdrop. My mind starts to tell me that I’m not enough, and that I can never rise or be seen as a teacher because I don’t fit that ideal. Of course my higher self (which yoga has taught me to be in tune with) tells me this isn’t true, but the pain of the comparison game is still real.
Lately I’ve started to realize that if I can feel like this—having practiced and taught yoga for many years and can pull off a few good yoga tricks—then what are women feeling who are peeking into the yoga world for the first time? Women of all different backgrounds, shapes, and struggles? I’m guessing that many of them would love to know what yoga’s all about, but the images that represent the culture likely scare them, shame them, and make them think they aren’t enough for this scene.
I would love to start to lift the veil of perfection in our yoga culture. Behind the perfectly put together Instagram feeds, yoga magazines, and beautiful photography, I know that there are the stories and struggles of real people obsessed with perfection.
I want to know what would happen if we started getting real—if we started to share the fears that are holding us back and our deepest desires in order to move deeper into our yoga? What would happen if the true, raw, gritty, curvy, edgy sides of ourselves became the new sexy?
What would happen if lifting that veil became the new ideal?
Because I’ll tell you, as a mom, a business owner, and a yoga teacher, to me yoga honestly is a lot more than asanas, bikinis, and beaches.
For me, yoga looks more like this:
Finding my breath and my own two feet while my mom was dying of breast cancer.
Leaning into my fear and letting out my voice, even when it’s scary as hell.
A messy bun in my hair and a small carved out space in my garage with my mat and my music.
Accepting that the stretch marks on my belly will never go away.
Touching a woman’s shoulders in a yoga class and feeling her melt in my hands, because she knows someone gets it.
Practicing deep breathing in the emergency room with my six-year-old daughter while she got stitches in her forehead.
Continuing to speak up for what I really believe and fighting like hell for it.
Stretching in the sun for 20 minutes between running my business and picking up my kids from school.
Forgiving myself for not being able to practice yoga seven days a week, and accepting that two days a week can be enough for me right now.
Holding space for women to heal and unravel into themselves, because ultimately that’s all we really want.
To me, yoga honestly is about seeing the beauty even when it isn’t pretty, and allowing every pain, challenge and celebration to be a gift that can wake us up.
What does yoga look like to you, honestly?
Author: Iva deMartelly
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: alenka_getman at Flickr