Yoga & Capitalism

Recently, I was approached by an active wear company to promote their products; essentially, they wanted to exploit my yoga practice for their own capitalistic gain and, naturally… I have some thoughts.

Yoga is trendy right now. It’s in. It’s handstands on the beach and intricate backbends performed by a thin white woman in $99 leggings. Because of its current boost in popularity, of course companies want to capitalize on it by feeding into this bogus idea of what yoga is: an elite practice for the exceptionally flexible who practice on a $100 mat in an outfit they bought head-to-toe from whatever company is currently filling their news feed. The market wants you to think that you need this mat or that mat to practice; that you need this brand of active wear to fit in; that you have to appear a certain way if you want to practice yoga. This ideal image that the media and the market have created serves only one purpose: greed.

These companies don’t care if you’ve never practiced yoga before and attempt a backbend in your new active wear leggings because that’s what you saw the model doing online and now you’ve injured yourself in the process. You drank the Kool-aid. They have your money- and your attention (which is, arguably, much more valuable)- and that was their goal all along.

Yoga is not a practice only for the elite. Yoga is not a practice only for those with money to blow. Yoga is not the beach at sunset or a walk in the park.

kahyogaYoga is sweat and tears. Yoga is a reflection into yourself and a slap-in-the-face to who you thought you were. It’s a wake-up call; a release of emotions and a place of solace from the world around you. Yoga is a safe space to heal and to allow light into the darkness within you. It’s a journey to self-awareness and it’s a journey to discovery; clarity of our world and our individual place in it.

A couple of months ago, my friend Alex took me to my first ever yoga class (I had been practicing- self-taught- on my own up until then) and to say it changed my life is an understatement. It was a release of which I’d never before experienced and I was so overwhelmed with a feeling of peace and gratitude that I cried. Not only is my practice forever changed, but my life and my outlook on the world is, too, and I’m never turning back.

Being approached by a company I know is only looking to exploit my practice to feed their greed attempted to cheapen a practice- a discipline- that I hold near to my heart. Furthermore, it drew my attention to a much larger issue: critical thinking. Sometimes it seems as though we’ve stopped thinking critically about the things we consume; the clothes we wear, the food we eat and even the media we chose to expose ourselves to. We mindlessly scroll through our social feeds. We eat whatever’s most readily available. We buy whatever’s trendy for the time being.

The absolute last thing that the market wants you to do is think about what you’re consuming. The second we start to critically assess our choices- ie. thinking about the environmental impact, thinking about the message we’re trying to convey as individuals, thinking about how we want to spend our time- the market is put at risk. People may stop consuming and so money stops coming in and companies fail.

Yes, we need a healthy level of trade to stimulate our economy but please consider the things you’re consuming; are you mindlessly scrolling, purchasing a Spiritual Gangster tank because it’s “cool”, not giving any thought to what it actually means to be a, quote, spiritual gangster? Or are you making conscious decisions to consume media and brands that align with your own ethos and convictions?

We need more of the latter.

 

kahalex

Me and Alex after my first yoga class.  June, 2017.

 


Advertisements

Purpose

Recently I’ve been reflecting on life and the meaning of it all.  As of late I’ve withdrawn from the internet and social medias out of fear.  Fear that I would log onto Twitter only to see news of another terrorist attack or an article informing me of the next moronic decision our incompetent President has made.  Medias and news sites are built to play on our fears because that’s what keeps us engaged; what makes us wonder, Could I be next?

Amidst all the foul news it’s hard to stay positive.  I’ve spent many a day, though more-so recently, contemplating what it all means.  Racking my brain to find an answer or a solution; meditating on the reason why we’re all here; just trying to understand.

But perhaps our purpose isn’t to understand.  Whether you believe in God or the Universe or the Self or the Big Bang, the common theme here is that we all come from something bigger than ourselves.  Take a minute to be humbled by that- each of us plays a small yet vital role in a much, much bigger plan imagined by some higher being of power.  I’ve been trying to understand this plan for years to no avail.

And I think I’ve finally discovered why:  Our reason for being isn’t to understand what this world means.  We were all placed here by some power that I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around, so to think that I would be able to comprehend said power’s plan is absurd.  We weren’t necessarily built to understand the why.  All we’re able to do is take each and every opportunity and experience the Universe grants us and roll with it.

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” –Ben Okri

We are here to discover within us our own ability to love unconditionally, especially when it’s not easy; to forgive and let go of the resentment and hatred that can fester within us like nothing else can; to practice compassion; to live without fear holding us back; to let go of what we think should be and learn to appreciate what is; to grow from our mistakes; to overcome our own ego; to be greater than the greed that our society has prioritized; to experience grief and overcome our sufferings; to come together as a community and stand up for each of our innate rights as a human being; to navigate life mindfully and purposefully.

We are here to create the best and most fulfilled life possible for ourselves.  We are here to live happily and encourage others to do the same.  Not every moment will be easy, but that’s the point.  We are here to learn and grow and rise above and love without limits.

Our purpose isn’t to understand the meaning of life; our purpose is to embody the meaning of life.

~

Flow

As I’m writing this, I’m fresh off a practice session.  I can feel the blood moving throughout my body; my muscles contracting and relaxing as I’m now typing.  For the moment, I have a heightened awareness of my body and the world around me and I understand how my physical body interacts with the physical world.

kahyoga1Now I’ll go about my day and my mind may drift to different places and my hands may busy themselves, but my body will maintain that awareness.  Every movement is calculated and without even realizing it I am mindful of said movements.  Walking my dog, sitting on the couch, preparing lunch- each activity is done with an awareness that, had I not practiced, I would not have.

My sister, my mom and I are big fans of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and so we follow the movements of the cast, which has led us to see (twice now) Derek and Julianne Hough’s MOVE Tour.  They have a mantra that they bring up each show that has really resonated with me:

 Motion equals emotion.

kahyoga2The way we move directly affects how we think and how we feel.  How we respond to others.  How we react to the world around us.  I like to use the analogy of a river: Picture a stagnant river- unmoving, gathering pollutants and foam.  Inhabitants of this river are not likely thriving.  Now imagine a flowing river, crashing over rocks and gathering speed as it does so.  Everything within it is alive and well and nourished as its resources are constantly being replenished.  Equate your body to either of these rivers… Which would you rather be?

It doesn’t matter how you move or at what speed you move.  It doesn’t matter that it may not be perfect.  What matters is that you do move.  That you experience your body and what it can do.  What matters is that you move in a way that positively affects your mind-body-soul connection.  That you reap the rewards of a body in motion; the benefits are endless.

kelseyathome1

~

Beyond the Scale

I wrote this several weeks ago but have been hesitant to share it.  Whilst rereading it, I realize it comes off a little… depressive.  But I’ve decided to leave this post as-is because these are all things that I felt at the time I wrote it.  But I think it’s important to note that I do not only feel this way.  Losing weight has been a struggle, but it’s also helped me to learn more about myself.  And while some days are hard, most days are great and I’m a very happy and grateful human.  This is all a part of my journey and I treat each experience as an integral part of that.


As life would have it, shortly after I posted about my weight loss I realized that I wasn’t healthy. On paper, sure, I was healthy- my weight was the lowest it’s been in years which, of course, has other positive bodily effects. But I didn’t feel good.

I was falling into detrimental habits that I am unfortunately all too familiar with. I was obsessing over the number on the scale. People noticed my weight loss and told me how great I looked and congratulated me on such a feat. This should have motivated me but instead it tore me apart. My weight directly affected my self-worth, and as the number on the scale went down my esteem went up- and vice-versa. Suddenly, I only saw myself as a number on the scale.

Feeling like I had no purpose other than to be skinny, I turned to food for comfort and started gaining weight… Again. My mind began to fog. Those around me noticed my weight loss, so surely they would notice my gain. My face isn’t as thin as it was only four weeks ago; my waist not as slim. In my mind, everything I was eating was “bad”. I felt guilty eating anything. When I was home alone with only my dog I would actually put food back because JEEZ terriers are so judgmental!

In hindsight, I can tell that my behavior over the past month has been destructive. But I didn’t realize how bad things had actually gotten until two weekends ago when Jeff and I went away. On our mini-vacation, the hotel we stayed at offered a buffet breakfast. I could have eaten every single item lined up there and even if I felt like I was about to burst I would keep eating just because it was there. While I was eating delicious pancakes all I could think about was the next thing I was going to eat. It was here that I realized just how much of what I was eating was being eaten just because it was there. Starving or stuffed, food was my life whether I even enjoyed it or not. I always had to be eating. I felt ashamed.

In the beginning, I was determined to lose weight to look “good” in a bikini. I didn’t want to look back on my wedding photos and hate what I saw. I wanted to feel good about myself. But as people began to notice my weight loss, my reasons why morphed into just one reason: I wanted people to think that I was skinny; and if they didn’t, it meant I was nothing. (I realize that this has everything to do with me and NOTHING to do with my family and peers who only saw how hard I was working to reach my goal and were graciously congratulating me for it.)

But at the time, I couldn’t see what was happening. I was losing weight and so my self-worth and esteem were high and that was all that mattered. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t stop thinking about the leftovers in the fridge. It didn’t matter that no matter how much I lost it would never be enough. It didn’t matter that if I felt I’d indulged too much I would degrade myself with words like “fat” or “pig” or “ugly” or “dumb”. It didn’t matter because every day I was getting skinnier.

My mind wasn’t healthy;  I was so detached from my body and what it truly needed.  For some, like myself, there is so much more to losing weight than eating less.  For me, it’s a lifestyle change, and as I’m adjusting my whole life I’m having to deal with stuff from every part of my life that has brought me here.

A lifestyle change isn’t always just about eating less, but may include changing how we handle problems or learning to eat mindfully instead of eating just because it’s there.  Everyone’s journey is different, and this is a part of mine.  I’m having to realize why I feel compelled to eat a whole bag of chips instead of a healthy-sized serving.  I need to recognize when my body feels satisfied instead of just eating until I can’t breathe.

I wanted to share this because this is honestly where I’m at.  It’s certainly not pretty, but I promised to share the good, the bad and the ugly parts of my journey.  Going through this has been difficult, but I think it’s also made me a better person.  Writing this has helped me learn more about myself and by sharing it here, I hope to shed light on an issue not often discussed when people talk about losing weight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mental and emotional health are just as important as physical health.  I’m taking some time to reevaluate and prioritize my long-term goals.  Bodily health means nothing to me if my mind and soul aren’t also healthy.  My personal journey is about finding balance in my body and in life, and my blog is a direct extension of that.  Holistic health considers all parts of the body and though for the moment I’ve lost sight of that, I’m hopeful and know that each struggle only makes me stronger.

~

Learning Not to Compare

Up until recently, I was an avid follower of Instagram-famous folk such as Iskra Lawrence, a woman with large hips and a flat tummy whose body-positive movement has gained her millions of followers.  She posts pictures of herself working out at the gym or wearing a bra and panties while eating a slice of pizza to encourage her followers not to restrict their diets and to promote a balanced lifestyle.

But here’s the thing: I exercise and eat pizza just like she does, but I do not look like her.  While I was drawn to her because of her curves and I felt I could relate, my stomach has never been flat and may never be flat.  But I would scroll through her Insta feed in an attempt to mimic her lifestyle and would only find myself discouraged and disappointed.

The truth is, Iskra is a model first and foremost.  She lives by parameters that are just not attainable for me.  Her body holds weight differently than mine, which is something that was determined at birth.  No matter how much I will myself to look like her, I never will.  Everything she eats, does and lives by is different from my own lifestyle, so why would I believe I could ever look like her?  I even see my friends and peers moving up in the world and getting healthier and I compare my own live to theirs and then feel saddened by the fact that I am not where they are.

LearningNottoCompareWhat I try to remember is that we are born to be different.  Every human’s thoughts and ideas- every human’s life– is different.  This is what has caused our society to grow and progress over time.  Imagine if we celebrated the differences in our bodies like we do our ideologies.  Each of us has experienced different things and has struggled through various situations to get to where we are.  Our lifestyles are all vastly different and so our bodies should all be equally as different.

Nobody wins when we compare ourselves to others; it only distracts us from our own journey.  No amount of progress that we make in our own lives will ever be enough if we continue to compare our individual journeys to those of our peers.  It is so important to discover what the parameters are for your life and to live by those.  Turning to others for inspiration may seem like a positive motivator but in many cases it only veers us away from our own path.

Focus on what you can do to better yourself instead of what you can do to be more like this person or that person.  Doing so allows you to recognize your own successes and that makes your life so much sweeter.

~