If there’s anything I’ve learned from the practice of yoga and mindfulness in general it is how incredible the human body is. It will take whatever you put in it and just do it’s best. It is my direct link into this outer world that I’ve grown so fond of. I can use it to taste the most amazing foods, to see the most beautiful sights, to hear the most incredible music. I can use it to smell the Eucalyptus trees I encounter and I can use it to feel the fresh wind brush against my skin. These five senses have drawn me into incredible and memorable experiences that have changed me forever.
Knowing how amazing the body is, and what it actually provides me, why would I ever be so critical on the way it looks?!
The world, even in all it’s beauty, has its dark side. Food has become artificial, consisting mostly of chemicals and refined nutrients. When I look around, I can also see the photoshopped bombshell with the shiniest, slimmest legs and perfectly white teeth. I hear the way people talk and judge celebrities or each other if a friend has gained/lost too much weight. It is during these times that I usually start to notice the flaws in my own body.
When I am surrounded by true friends, when I am in the middle of the mountains and natural beauty, when I am doing something I love to be doing, I feel beautiful. When I’m on my mat and I feel my legs work and my shoulders engage and the sweat starts to seep out of my skin and my breath deepens, I feel strong and powerful. When I do a backbend and I feel a surge of energy rush through me, I feel exhilarated. When I feel focused and present in my mind, I see the beauty in myself and in the world around me.
When I am having a bad day or week, for whatever reason, I can start to feel ugly. I become preoccupied with how I look. It is almost like I am trying to trick myself. I think that if I could at least look beautiful, I might start to feel confident and happy again. So, instead of trying to just sit with a feeling of discomfort or try to find an actual solution to my unhappiness of that moment, I start to obsess about how my legs and hips look, how my skin looks or how my hair looks. I will meticulously scan my body for what appears ‘wrong’ and I will study it so close, twisting my body to see the particular part at a different angle. The more I look at it, the more flawed it becomes. I will go on the search for the right piece of clothing to conceal it, perhaps a flowing shirt or a hat would do? No matter how I try to hide it, the flawed parts of my body seem more and more apparent and obvious.
When I feel distracted and am pulled to the surface- how I look- I tend to be more critical on how others look.
I tend to be bothered more easily by the acts and comments of other people. I tend to see a lot more garbage and misery in the world.
It’s easier for me to think about hiding my stomach than it is to really consider if I am living up to my potential. It’s easier for me to critique how my shoulders are too broad and figure out ways to conceal their shape than it is for me to critique that I said something hurtful to someone I love. It’s easier for me to try and find a good outfit than it is to find a creative way to make a comfortable living as a yoga teacher makings ends meet. It’s definitely easier to focus on how I look than how I can positively impact this world while I’m in it.
When I start to feel hyper-critical on the way I look, it’s a good time for me to consider what is really going on.
The world, myself included, has infinite creativity and also infinite destruction. Light and dark. Beauty and Ugliness.
I don’t expect myself to be totally happy with how I look at all times just like I don’t expect the world to be perfect. What I do hope is that I can use my physical body to keep me engaged in this perfectly imperfect world, on the quest for inner peace.
About the Author: Diana Oppenheim
Diana Oppenheim is an in-it-for-life yogi. The practice of yoga is her grounding force in an ever-changing world. She believes in its power to heal, expand and bring balance to life as she has experienced it first hand. In her class you will find a strong, methodical and balanced sequence that meets each student where they are at. Her main source of inspiration comes from Annie Carpenter, Margo Kellison-Lightburn and Sara Strother.
Diana teaches yoga but will always consider herself a student of life first. She has a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Community Development and for all the plans she’s created, she loves the spontaneous plot twists of life. Learn more about Diana’s teaching style via this video, and catch her on the mat at Yoga Tree 6th Avenue (view her full schedule here).