Namaste: the light within me honors the light within you.
As yoga instructors, we often make references to various forms of light, acknowledging the beauty we each hold within us. Breathing in the light, being the light, sharing the light.
Throughout history, however, women have been conditioned to believe they are beautiful only in their “lightness” – through their speech, their actions, their bodies, their skin. We are to reach for our light like a delicate branch reaching for the sun, silent and still.
We are taught to take up as little space as possible, to be seen and not heard. And for a period of time, we believed these commandments to be true, and we attempted to berate and poison and starve our bodies into submission. All in the name of someone else’s definition of light.
But what is light without the dark? One cannot exist without the other, and to know our own light, we must first experience and embrace our darkness. We must know that below the surface of our branches is a dense, tangled webbing of roots. We must understand that even though the light of the day warms our existence, it’s within the cool of the night that we find restoration. This is where beauty begins.
As eating disorder survivors, our concept of beauty was always just out of reach – an unobtainable moving target fueled by social media images and a cultural glorification of thinness. And the lighter we made our bodies, the further we fell into darkness.
Yoga found us at various phases of personal darkness, and we embarked on our own journeys in the practice to repair the relationships with ourselves and our bodies, uncovering and defining our own beauty. Instead of seeing the body as something to be fixed, we began to see the body for what it is: an incredible miracle that is working in every moment for our highest good. These bodies that had carried us through our darkest days were always there, loyal and begging for us to celebrate them once again.
Our mats became a safe space to rediscover the bodies we had spent years abusing. Yoga gave us the ability to sense into our breath, to fill our lungs with life, and to feel our feet being safely supported by the earth. In this space we began to heal and find our light again. We would learn to shine.
We discovered on our mats that beauty is not found on the cover of a magazine or by depriving our bodies the nutrients they so desperately need and deserve. It can’t be found in a version of ourselves that is 10 pounds lighter, or achieved when we can touch our toes.
But instead, beauty is found in accepting ourselves as we are in this very moment. Accepting the darkest corners of our being and creating space for the emotions we have been taught to push aside. Beauty is discovering what has been quietly hidden in the dark all along: our strength and resilience and grace and softness.
Beauty is breathing deeply and allowing yourself to experience and honor a spectrum of emotions at full volume, without apology. Beauty is finding gratitude for your body and this journey you’ve traveled together, no matter how dark the path. And, like the breath, beauty is both accepting and letting go, giving yourself permission to heal in the space between. Allow yourself to settle into that space between and embrace your darkness, illuminating it with the breath to unveil all the hidden parts of your beauty.
Tune in to the first ever episode of our What Is A Woman? podcast, What Is Beauty? Listen here.