RYS 200, 500 - Yoga Alliance, USA
"Excuse me, ma’am… if you have a scarf, could you please cover yourself? This is an ashram and we have a dress commandment here” the plump woman in her mid-forties looks me up and down, obviously very content with herself for reprimanding a sinner in a sleeveless top in front of her two virtuous colleagues. I was in a joyful mood, so I just shrugged and said: ”Sure! I’m just passing through here, but next time I will keep it in mind…” but as I walked off I asked myself: ”What the hell just happened?!” and I was tempted to run back after her and ask her to back it up. If you want me to cover my arms and decolletage when it’s 30 degrees hot outside, then at the least you owe it to explain it to me just exactly what is so provocative about these body parts. It wasn’t as if I was strolling through Parmarth Niketan in a g-string bikini, but even if… so what?!
Most religions keep preaching that the body is nothing but a vehicle, but are so intimidated by the sight of skin that it causes a complete hick-up. The reason I switched to sleeveless tops as soon as it was warm enough is certainly not to arouse swamis (not a very exciting task, is it?), but because it’s easier to build muscles when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Muscles goes well with asanas, right? I also wanted to charge up on vitamin D… this is my explanation, but what is theirs?
How can a body, no matter how beautiful or ugly, be provocative? We are born naked and designed by the infinite intelligence of the universe. It is complete human arrogance when this creation is labeled as provocative or inappropriate. Once, when I lived in Barcelona, a male nudist walked down the street. Tanned, wearing nothing but sandals and a back-pack, the elder man walked confidently for about half an hour before the police caught up with him.
On my part, he could’ve kept walking till he ended up in China… it is of zero interest to me and neither shocks me, nor arouses me. It is just a human body; bones, muscles, tissue, fat, blood, skin… millions of cells, DNA. Cows, dogs and monkeys are all naked on the streets here, but a yogini needs to cover her arms or the yogis will have problem concentrating, or what…? How can you reach enlightenment if an ankle or a shoulder can knock you off balance!? One of my friends told me that during the 18th century in Europe, even the legs of chairs were considered provocative, encouraging sexual fantasies, that they were therefore covered with cloth. One can only laugh…
If you’re a true yogi/yogini, then even if the most beautiful woman/man in the world stood naked in front of you, your balance should be intact. If you can only meditate once all temptations are removed, then you are not a yogi but a suppressed pervert. Blame it on culture, on religious commandments, traditions… whatever makes you happy… but it is nothing but fear of your own desires. Just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean cakes should be banned. Control yourself instead of others!
My body is not a vehicle, but the sacred temple of my soul. I nurture it, I decorate it, I tone it… all with love and devotion, because it is my loyal friend who has carried me these 32 years. It is not to be ashamed of but to celebrate and enjoy, for my body gives me pleasure through the food I eat, the water I drink, the strength I build by asanas, the sensuous pleasure... the body is the door to experiencing humanity through the five senses and that alone is enough to make it sacred. Sacred – not secret.
We are in physical form for a brief moment in time… from the perspective of stars our lives are not even the length of a heartbeat. Believe me, the day will inevitably come when you must leave your body, but why hurry? You’re in your body for a purpose. The divine can create you to be whatever. If it had wanted you to be non-physical, then that is what you would’ve been. Guaranteed!
Many here take pride in neglecting the physical body. Eating poor food, not exercising enough, allowing the body to age faster than it should…
But the soul is like a bird with one wing in the inner world and another in the outer world and unless there is balance between these two, it can’t fly and certainly not soar.