Impermanence, Opinions, and Body Image
This post follows on from my previous post Impermanence, Non-attachment, and Union - If you haven’t read it, it might be a good idea to read it first.
Sri Swami Satchidananda discusses discriminating between the permanent and the impermanent in his translation and commentary of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali(1), in which he uses the phrases ‘never-changing’ and ‘ever-changing’. These phrases are such a beautifully simple way of describing a very complex doctrine, so I often use them to help my own understanding of the world, my place in it, and my purpose.
Understanding and thinking about the never-changing and ever-changing can give you a new perspective on life. It certainly has for me.
Whenever people ask me what I've gained from yoga I always say a new perspective, but only recently have I actually understood what I meant by that. Doctrines of non-attachment are a recurring part of yoga (and other eastern practice's) philosophy and I think this influence, even without me knowing, is what gave me the new perspective that changed my life.
When you start to discriminate between the ever-changing and the never-changing, you give less energy towards the ever-changing, the things that just don't matter as much. You start to give less power to other's opinions of you, your opinions of yourself, and the changing stresses that life throws at you, because it just doesn't seem as important as the stillness and the peace you can find inside yourself.
This perspective has also translated to my relationship with my body. The relationship you have with your body is a very personal and very delicate one that, I find, needs constant maintenance.
I’ve found that yoga gives me the opportunity to gently build and maintain respect for my body: in every pose you feel how your body works a little more intimately, you start to realise how complex your body is, and that your body does all this amazing stuff just so that you can do the things you enjoy, this has helped me to be in awe of my wonderful body, and once I realised this, it didn’t matter so much what it looked like. As your understanding of the unbelievably intricate and impressive workings of your body, and can even start to feel and notice these processes as they take place, the way your body looks starts to feel less important.
Your body is part of the ever-changing, and if the only thing that truly matters is the never-changing, then my body, especially how it looks, can’t matter so much. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care for and love your body, you absolutely should, I’m saying that you should try not to feel attached to your body because it’s always changing. One day you might be bloated and the next you’re not, one day you might have lots of spots and then they’re gone - if you become attached to your non-bloated pimple free body then you will suffer when your body inevitably changes.
My body is the temple where my light resides. It’s important to care for and respect the temple, but at the end of the day it’s not the temple you’re worshiping.
Impermanence, and non attachment have had a huge impact on my relationship with others and myself. Although these concepts can seem daunting and alien (arguably because I have grown up in the material and ego centered western world), the shift in mindset that understanding them can have is tangible. I know that the relationships we have with ourselves and our bodies is impossibly complex and challenging, and there is not one fix all cure, but learning to distinguish between the ever-changing and the never-changing could help you change your perspective, as it has done for me.
A little disclaimer.... I do not claim to be a yoga guru, or an expert by any means, I just spend a lot of time reading yoga texts and interpretations, reflecting and meditating on these concepts and discussing them with others. My blog/instagram posts are simply my thoughts and reflections (often still in the format they appear in my brain!), I try to reference any sources that aren't my own contemplation but this is hard as these ideas have trickled into my mind over many years of yoga classes. If you have any thoughts/concerns/queries please contact me I'd love to discuss it with you firstname.lastname@example.org or @floga_yoga
(1) Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation and commentary of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Book II-26, 2017