I slowed the car and looked again at the acrylic sign out­side the gas sta­tion. What the hell is a position5? It took a sec­ond to real­ize that they had run out of the let­ter S and used a num­ber 5 instead. Oh, I thought. Speedway is hir­ing. I won­dered if the invert­ed excla­ma­tion mark was inten­tion­al or acci­den­tal. Either way, it was pret­ty charm­ing for a gas sta­tion sign.

All posi­tions, inquire with­in. A per­fect metaphor for a yoga prac­tice. As a yoga ther­a­pist, I don’t actu­al­ly teach peo­ple to touch their toes. I teach them to feel their toes and notice the expe­ri­ence of reach­ing for them. The dif­fer­ence is crucial. 

It’s frus­trat­ing when peo­ple say that they aren’t flex­i­ble enough to do yoga. That’s like say­ing they’re too dirty to take a bath. Or that they can’t do enough push-ups to join a gym. You needn’t attain a goal to start work­ing towards one. Flexibility def­i­nite­ly improves with com­mit­ment and patience, but even that isn’t the point. Yoga isn’t just some grown-up ver­sion of Simon Says. It’s self-study. After all, the word inquire comes from the Latin inquirere, mean­ing to seek, or search for. 

It’s called a yoga prac­tice for a rea­son. No one mas­ters it. Ever. It’s a prac­tice of mov­ing and then becom­ing qui­et­ly recep­tive. An inter­play of mobil­i­ty and sta­bil­i­ty as an inte­ro­cep­tive means of under­stand­ing where our phys­i­cal forms start and end. We make shapes and breathe. We notice when our world is spin­ning off its axis and come back to feel­ing sol­id ground beneath our feet. No mat­ter the posi­tion, the answers lie within. 

I have a friend who has been at war with her body for as long as I’ve known her. I’ve nev­er heard her speak about her body with grat­i­tude or love. She looks in the mir­ror and only sees flaws. She’s too fat. She has too many wrin­kles. Too many freck­les. Her nose is the wrong shape. She’s con­stant­ly on one diet or anoth­er, shells out thou­sands of dol­lars for facial fillers, and recent­ly start­ed sav­ing for a nose job. Last time I saw her, she men­tioned that she was think­ing of hav­ing her eyes done at the same time. “In for a pen­ny, in for a pound,” she trilled, as she dra­mat­i­cal­ly pulled the skin around her eyes taut to show me what she was going for. 

We live in a cul­ture that tells women we can­not be young enough, thin enough, or beau­ti­ful enough. We’ve been con­di­tioned to hate our bod­ies and to avoid aging at every cost, as if there is any alter­na­tive. I’m cer­tain­ly not immune to it. I’m fair­ly at peace with my body, but if I told you I didn’t grieve my pre-menopausal neck, I’d be lying. 

Of course we care about our appear­ance. If plas­tic surgery, strict diets, and pun­ish­ing exer­cise reg­i­mens are your thing, I won’t argue with your right to do you. 

Here’s what I’m say­ing. Most women are at war with their bod­ies. That is an unwinnable war until we make peace with what lies on the inside. We put off wear­ing the biki­ni until we’ve lost weight. We don’t sing loud­ly enough nor dance wild­ly enough because we don’t yet want to call atten­tion to our­selves. We say we’re not young enough to wear that skirt, not pret­ty enough to post the pic­ture with­out edit­ing it first. Unless we get qui­et and start lis­ten­ing to what our minds and bod­ies real­ly need, we will nev­er feel enough. We can diet and inject until we look like a cat­fish fil­ter, but as long as our sense of val­ue is direct­ly tied to our reflec­tion, as long as we ignore the whis­pers of our innate ani­mal intel­li­gence, we’re not liv­ing a ful­ly expe­ri­enced life. 

The prac­tice helps us pay atten­tion in grat­i­tude and with joy, skews us away from judg­ment and com­par­i­son. I grew real­ly tired of liv­ing an arrival fan­ta­sy, putting off those moments of spon­ta­neous, unguard­ed joy until I was clos­er to the whol­ly unat­tain­able ver­sion of per­fec­tion I had set for myself. Now I live a more embod­ied life, one that has more room for loud bel­ly laughs and pur­ple eye­shad­ow and embrac­ing the com­plete chaos of my some­times wavy, some­times curly, always frizzy mane. I wear the biki­ni and order the pas­ta, focused more on how things feel and (most­ly) dis­re­gard­ing how it all looks. And this rad­i­cal accep­tance arose direct­ly from the prac­tice of notic­ing, of search­ing inside. 

And the more we love and accept our­selves, the more love and accep­tance we have to bring to the world. 

All posi­tions, inquire within.

  • Erin Skinner Smith

    Erin Skinner Smith wants every­one to slow down, eat real food, move their bod­ies, go out­side, and hit the pil­low a lit­tle ear­li­er for a more pur­pose­ful exis­tence. She is a pub­lished writer, yoga teacher, and mind­ful­ness coach. When she’s not stand­ing on her head or typ­ing on her trusty lap­top, you’ll find her read­ing, play­ing gui­tar, enjoy­ing a glass of bour­bon, or snug­gling on the couch with her peo­ple and pets. Send her a dig­i­tal high five at erintheomplace.net.