It feels funny as a yoga teacher to share that growing up, I had trouble breathing.
I still feel short of breath sometimes, but as a kid, the doctors actually thought I had asthma. I don’t. Now, I believe this shortness of breath was a physical manifestation of my fears, a part of what the writer Anaïs Nin would refer to as the “remaining tight in a bud.”
“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anaïs Nin
On a deep level, I must have been afraid things were not going to be okay, that I was not okay. You could say I’m on a lifelong journey to deepen my breathing, inviting others to inhale more fully alongside me, to feel just a little more spacious, supported, and free.
Before yoga became my therapy, I found a pacifier in food. It took me years to understand my mind-body relationship, learning that I do not need to reach outward, and can find comfort from within.
For a long time, I did not know how to listen to my body. Rules were my guide, and I found them everywhere: in women’s magazines, advertisements, and articles on how to look skinny. When overeating or under-exercising caused weight gain, I returned to my latest diet and the pursuit of control—until that inevitably failed.
The relationship with my body became cyclical, hostile, and distant.
It was also the best teacher I ever had.
My drug of choice was not limited to carbs or sugar. At times, I have favored perfectionism, coffee, perceived success, marijuana, guilt, my iPhone, and people-pleasing. I think many of us self-medicate. It can seem easier to hide than to show up, but that hiding comes at a price.
John Muir once said that “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” This describes the essence of my path to greater health. I have come to realize the body is our only home, a place where the mind, heart, and soul reside in equal measure. And by honoring the relationship to our personal real estate, we can find a fuller, more connected, and ultimately richer way into the lives we are meant to live—in body and spirit.
Today, my work is a living example of how to get out of your own way and live authentically in our “body-clothes,” as the poet Mary Oliver calls it.
So on that note, here are four ways to bring more yoga into your summer.
1. When students walk into my yoga and pilates classes around this time of year, they are often returning from vacations or getaways. It is truly amazing to notice how we relate to this summer activity that is meant to provide energy and healing. “I enjoyed the food so much, now I’m going to pay for it,” they will say.
I remind them of Ahimsa, the yogic value of non-violence. Wherever you picked up the idea that you’re a better person if you beat yourself up for living your life, see if there is a way to, how do I say this nicely? Let that sh*t go.
2. One of my coaching clients shared that in the summer, she is hungrier than in the winter. She thought this was “against the rules” because every food blog out there features a light, clean, breezy salad as the perfect summertime recipe.
The poet Rumi famously said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” We get ourselves into so much trouble trying to be the best at everything. I told her to stop the comparison game and simply listen to her body’s needs and rhythms. If yoga cannot help you to make more skillful and intuitive choices, why practice?
3. Remember that self-improvement has to start with self-acceptance. Take it for granted that this society is preoccupied with body image, and double your efforts to practice self-love. Hyper-focusing on your summer bod, whatever shape it is in today, neglects the fact that you are made by intelligent design and you are oh-so-worthy.
4. Fire up your mind-body connection. During the year, we get caught up in the day to day and it is tempting to see the physical body as a vessel carrying the mind from place to place. Instead, respect the power of body intelligence. Fully feel the sensations of swimming in that lake, sun on the skin, ripe peach juice on your tongue and chin. On the mat, practice gratitude for all the reminders of your embodied self: the resource in your core, stability in your feet, and strength in the inner thighs.
Let your body speak!
Author: Babette Dunkelgrun
Image: Author’s own; Daniel Lamb/Flickr
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Travis May