Sometimes I look in the mirror and think I am fat. I know I am not, but I am a woman, and that is how most women feel. Not that all women have body dysmorphic disorder, but the photoshopped world of fashion models and movie stars that have been lifted, tucked and Botoxed can make a girl feel inferior, less than perfect. In my Bikram yoga practice, for 90 minutes, I look at myself in the mirror, my sweaty, less than perfect self, and have learned over time to be kind to my mirrored reflection. Perhaps looking at my worst, but this practice makes me feels my strongest, calmest and fiercest, dealing with each challenging posture. It is difficult sometimes not to compare myself to the bendy person whose mat is in my peripheral vision. I am not supposed to be focusing on anyone else but myself, but eyes wander.
My eyes did wander yesterday when I practiced in a studio in New York while on vacation. I noticed a few of the women in the room had plastic surgery. No wrinkles, no lines, there were a few size zeros with DD breasts. That is not an act of nature. The woman behind me had the most flawless skin I have ever seen, she must have been in her mid 60’s, her body as Tom Wolfe would describe such a woman was an xray. Lips were puffy with collagen and she had that pulled back cat-eye like face with not a line on her forehead. I think that removing wrinkles from one’s face takes away our experiences. Our lines represent the life we have led, the pain, joy and sorrow. Creating this neutral canvas, void of feeling. What struck me and distracted me from my practice was her sadness. Her lack of expression and her avoidance of looking at her flawless face in the mirror. Her gaze was down toward the floor. Maybe she was having a bad day. But I know many women like this, they are never happy, they have a lot of money, they spend their day working out, getting plucked, coiffed, dressed to the nines, but do not like themselves. Happiness really starts from the inside.
Beautiful images are everywhere. Beautiful faces, beautiful bodies. I think the human body should be celebrated, and as an artist, I can’t get enough beauty. I honestly find the most beauty in the things about people that are flawed. Because we all are flawed, that is what makes us human. But we are a culture that strives to be perfect, in particular woman. The perfect body, face, hair, etc. One of my favorite actresses, Cate Blanchette recently was on the cover on a British magazine, Intelligent Life, and made some waves by not having any part of her 43 years old face photoshopped. In my opinion, her face is luminous. But in this photo, she looks REAL… she looks that way she is… yes a few, very few lines in her face, that are easily photoshopped out of the picture, to give her a flawless look. But who is flawless? After looking at this photo, I looked in the mirror at my own 42 year old face, and thought, not bad… yes a few wrinkles and lines, but that means I smile, use my face to show my emotion, I’m alive! I didn’t see “I am old.”
No one has a perfect face or body, and no one has a perfect yoga practice. Isn’t the point of yoga, to be in the moment? Accept where you are. There is no ideal yoga pose, it’s not the final expression of the pose, that matters, but the journey of getting there. It is so inspiring to see a photo, or practice next to a yogi that has that almost perfect final expression of a pose. But it can also be frustrating, may seem almost impossible. Everyone is on a journey in their life and in their yoga practice. You may have no idea where they began, how they struggled to get there.
So the next time you place your mat next to super flexible bendy girl, appreciate her grace and beauty, then bring your focus back to yourself. Your beautiful self in the mirror in front of you and smile! Smiling may give you lines over time, but I think those are the most beautiful lines of all.