“When you believe … that you are damaged at your core, you also believe that you need to hide that damage for anyone to love you. You walk around ashamed of being yourself. You try hard to make up for the way you look, walk, feel. Decisions are agonizing because if you, the person who makes the decision, is damaged, then how can you trust what you decide? You doubt your own impulses so you become masterful at looking outside yourself for comfort. You become an expert at finding experts and programs, at striving and trying hard and then harder to change yourself, but this process only reaffirms what you already believe about yourself – that your needs and choices cannot be trusted, and left to your own devices you are out of control.” – Geneen Roth, Women Food and God
I don’t want to admit to you how much this quote resonates with me (see: “… you need to hide that damage …” above). The first part, while poignant, isn’t anything new to me. But I never before saw the connection between that feeling of unworthiness and an inability to trust decisions. The need to find external affirmation and guidance for everything. And most strikingly, how that just reinforces the lack of trust in my own judgment. This belief that without some sort of strict and inviolate rules, I will be unable to make decisions that are in my own best interest. This idea resonates so hard.
Lately, it seems like I can tie absolutely everything back to yoga, and this quote is no exception. Yoga is different from any other activity in which I’ve engaged. In yoga, it’s not only tolerated, it’s encouraged for you to back off and do something different. In yoga, the teachers talk about honoring and listening to your body, and that it takes more strength to back off from a pose that’s causing you trouble than it does to go along with the class and possibly hurt yourself. In yoga, they say things like, “If it’s in your practice, go ahead and move into Wheel pose.” Each student makes a decision about this by listening to the body. Or they may say, “You have several options.” And in almost every class, a teacher will at some point remind us that regardless of what the class is doing, we can move into downward dog or child’s pose if it feels right. Yoga teachers point out that it’s all about the breath; the movement is just window dressing.
There are many powerful things about yoga – the one I’m trying to call out here is that it is teaching me to listen to my body. And what does that mean? That means relying on my own judgment. That means making a decision about what is right for me, right here in this moment. That means unteaching myself this idea that I need an expert in order to tell me what I can and can’t, should or shouldn’t do.
I attended a wonderful yoga alignment class today. At the end of the class, I told the instructor that I was “this” far into my practice, spreading my thumb and forefinger about two inches apart to indicate what a beginner I am. I did this because I was self-conscious of how long I could hold the poses, and how well (or not); I was keenly aware that I spent a lot of the class in child’s pose while others held their form. He told me that all there is to yoga is knowing yourself. I heard that core idea in his words – “You’re okay. You’re better than okay. You’re doing exactly what your body needs you to do, and only you can know what that is.”
There aren’t that many places where you get that message of true, unconditional love of self. Where it is okay to be you, just the way you are, and to trust that you know yourself better than anyone else does. They’re sneaking that message into me, one class at a time. I didn’t even realize it until I read that quote and put it all together in my head.