There’s no shaming in Ayurveda!
That’s right! And just for fun, imagine those words said in Tom Hanks’ voice as he played Jimmy Dugan in the movie A League of Their Own back in 1992. Only there he declared, “There’s no crying in baseball!” and while that may not be true, there really is no shaming in Ayurveda — body shaming, that is.
If you are alive and living in a body, you’ve likely experienced some type of body shaming at one time or another, whether from another person, advertising, life filtered through social media, or even your own internal thoughts.
Unlike what popular culture would have us believe, thin does not always equal healthy. Over a decade ago, when I smoked cigarettes and didn’t pay attention to what foods I was consuming, I was told by a colleague that I was healthy because I was “so skinny.” I knew that wasn’t true because I felt tired and anxious most of the time and had migraines often. Also, both my parents are skinny, and they each suffered (and thankfully survived) heart attacks at the young age of 46. My experience didn’t align with the messages about what appearance meant for health. In recent times, some have caught onto this phenomenon of thin not always equaling healthy and created the term “skinny-fat” for it, which is yet another way of body shaming.
Fast forward 12+ years from that “skinny-fat” girl, through dedication to constant growth and transformation by practicing and teaching yoga, and incorporating Ayurveda in my life, I am finally starting to feel like a strong and healthy skinny woman. Then I started working at a local gym. To hardcore gym patrons I’m weak and unhealthy because I am not “thicc.” Thankfully I’ve learned through Ayurveda that I have a vata-pitta constitution and the naturally slim build to match. This is what my body looks like when in balance, and a much larger build or curvier shape would be a sign of imbalance for me. On the other hand, those with more pitta or kapha would look strong, shapely, and built when in balance, while a smaller, thinner shape might indicate imbalance.
It’s refreshing to see new cultural icons hitting the mainstream with body positive messages that don’t have the body types we’ve been trained to view as “ideal” – people with larger bodies and bodies of differing ages and abilities are becoming more visible. This wave of body positivity is not without its own flaws, with some reverseshaming towards the stereotypical “ideal” bodies, and how we need to get them out of the mainstream.
Our bodies will never look the ideal way because there is no ideal way to look. Instead of focusing on looks alone, we must direct our focus toward how we feel, and know that what we see is one way our bodies communicate the presence of balance or imbalance. Ayurveda teaches us to respect and honor the unique strength and wisdom held in the tissues of our own and each others’ physical bodies. By understanding our constitutions, we understand that what we see in the mirror are clues we can explore, in order to find deeper rhythm with our unique needs.
When we respect and honor our bodies wisdom, we can look at ANY ailment with a curious rather than critical eye, whether digestive, skin, weight gain/loss, mood, hormones, pain, etc. Rather than feeling ashamed for experiencing the ailment, we can instead thank our bodies for giving us these signs to find more balance in our systems. It’s pretty brilliant when you stop and think about it. The fact that all of our bodies are working in unique ways to point us toward homeostasis and a more harmonious existence! When we recognize that, how can we possibly feel ashamed of our bodies or shame anyone else’s?
When we understand Ayurveda and our constitutions, we learn to receive all the unique messages from our bodies, rather than getting hung up on appearance while letting the ailment take over our lives and well-being. We can thank our bodies for giving us these messages, no matter how big or small. We can trust the process we need to go through to feel more balanced. These messages might be the gentle whisper of adult acne, the stern voice of obesity, or perhaps the loud scream of a life-altering disease. Whatever it is, we trust it and are willing to commit to whatever path it takes us on.
Let’s end the body shaming of ourselves and others, as we spread the knowledge of Ayurveda and continue to find power through our unique constitutions. While I love that my vata-pitta constitution keeps me moving efficiently in many directions throughout life, I am envious and celebrate my pitta-kapha friends who move at the most steady and productive pace. I go to them when I need to find nurturance and grounding and they come to me when they need to be inspired and uplifted. It’s through self-care and understanding how to live optimally in our unique constitutions, that then translates to living harmoniously within our communities.