Guest post by Yogasteya blogger Alicia Higgison
I’m one of those obnoxiously genetically blessed folks who can eat a row of Oreos in bed at night and never gain a pound. I was never inactive growing up, but I didn’t put much thought into physical activity for body maintenance. I figure skated because my friends did it. I played baseball because my parents paid for it. When I got older and started paying my own bills, I didn’t bother with the gym membership or sports of any kind. I was fine. I thought I was fine.
I give yoga a lot of credit for the physical changes I like in my body. I’m That Girl that posts the occasional “nailed it” pose photo on Instagram. I like how my lines have smoothed out, how the muscles have developed, I like my brand new defined butt. I like it all. I patted myself on the back for taking care of me and acknowledged and thanked the practice of yoga for granting me the power. But somewhere along the line of my journey with yoga, the physical changes stalled…and yet I still enthusiastically return to my mat. Hungry for something. No, not (only) another row of Oreos, I’m hungry for change.
Yoga is responsible for the easy to see changes in my physical body, certainly. But I don’t give it enough credit for the internal, mental changes. In truth, yoga is one of my most powerful mental health tools.
Yoga is not just about asana. It’s also self-reflection. And with reflection, however small, comes self-awareness. We all have moments where we put on the face and look good, when inside something feels off. There are times in my practice where I can’t think of a relevant intention, and I become instantly frustrated with myself. “Oh hell, Alicia, you can’t even focus on an intention?! It’s not that hard, just pull yourself together, you’re so weak.” And that’s not unlike a narrative that runs through my mind off my mat either. It’s also perhaps the narrative happening in my head as my shutter snapped that beautiful side crow I posted on Twitter with the perfect Valencia filter. But you don’t see that, I make sure you don’t.
Yoga is more than the movement, and the poses, and the things we take pictures of. It’s also about the things we carry around with us every day, and never show anyone. It’s giving ourselves the space to acknowledge and change and forgive. It’s in the quiet moments of holding a pose and thinking you’re strong: that’s rebirth, that’s building, that’s self-love. It’s allowing yourself to be with yourself, to take care of you, to think about you, to just notice you without any motive. It’s letting go of the pretty and being beautiful instead.