For some time now I feel like the moon – waxing and waning and waxing again. By this I mean putting on some weight, and then with or without effort losing a bit. Of course, the moon is the moon and consistent in all her phases. If she wore clothes then she would have sections in her wardrobe for each size during the month. She does not need to worry about being overweight at any point because it’s when she is waxing and especially at her fullest that she is at her most beautiful. Of course, I find her utterly beautiful in all her avatars.
It just occurred to me that in the Indian context the moon is masculine and the story goes that eons of years ago, the moon used to always be full – none of this waxing and waning business. He was married to 27 of Daksha’s daughters (Nakshatras) and would spend a night in each of their houses, hopping across the sky each night. But there came a time when the moon, overcome with love for one of his wives, Rohini, began to spend his time only in her house. The other wives became jealous and complained to their Dad. The moon got many warnings but did not change his ways. Then Daksha cursed him and he began to lose his light and lustre with each passing day becoming ill and faded. When he had all but shrunk, the moon went to Lord Shiva and begged for his help. Lord Shiva intervened and put the moon on his head. He told the moon that he cannot take away the curse but he will modify it. And since then, the moon wanes and waxes and then wanes again. This state of affairs continues to this day.
Coming back to me however, there is no curse (I hope!) and I would love to get to a healthy, balanced weight which is right for me and stop yo-yoing. At my fully waxed state my weight is a few kilos more than when I was 9 months pregnant. So, this is not a good place to be and I know I need to lose upwards of 20 kilos. Luckily, I am tall and have a broader frame than most women and so I wear the extra weight fairly proportionately. A friend recently told me that I am not fat. I’m firm. Firm. I like that. My yoga keeps me in good tone and even though I am overweight I am able to do many things on my yoga mat that I could not when I was 20 or 30 years younger. I only learnt to stand on my head when I was nearly forty and now almost a decade later, despite the extra weight, my headstand is steady and feels light. Only yesterday when I was holding the headstand, I was trying to gauge how many kilos it feels like I carry in this pose … and I realised I feel so light and free.
There is a dilemma here because I have been programmed from childhood to feel not too great about my body when it is fat and overweight. This state of the body was made to be unacceptable and not good-looking. Yet I do remember my parents always complimenting me and saying good things to me about myself and how I look, but I would not believe them. It was easier to believe my other critics whom I knew did not have the bias of love. The dilemma now is what I know as an adult and one who inhabits a yoga world. How much should I be caught up with the physical body and have a strong attachment to my external appearance, when I know that it’s wiser to care more about my inner self?
Yoga is concerned with health and being in balance. So, I tell myself being overweight is being out of balance and I need to do something about it. And then I begin to make some changes so that I will lose weight and I manage to lose a few kilos. But then some temptation comes along or some travel or a spate of birthdays and festivals. Then I lose the weight-loss momentum – a few days go by and I find it hard to come back to the changes I had made and soon enough my lost weight is regained.
Yoga is also about being kind to yourself, about positive self-talk, about being accepting of whatever is happening and being willing to surrender. So, when I feel bad about my excess weight, it goes against all of this. Yet, if I accept my body the way it is now, and feel content with myself, then does it mean I have to remain in possession of all the extra kilos? Is this where I have to find my balance?
The other day when I was on the mat, I found myself thinking about how the body takes care of so much within, with so much intelligence and discernment. We are barely aware of the stuff the body does 24/7 – not just all the involuntary functions such as blood circulation, digestion etc., – but also creating defense mechanisms when we get hurt, releasing hormones to take care of us when we are stressed, deciding when our hair should grey or our periods should stop. It made me think that if this same highly intelligent body made me put on weight or stay at a particular weight even when I am being good and not sabotaging my weight loss efforts with extra-large helpings of chocolate cake; then it means that there must be a reason why I have to go through this phase. Perhaps I can be more grateful to my body and just bow down to its wisdom instead of being critical and negative.
I’ve noticed something about myself over the years when I look at old photos. When I look at a photo of a few years or decades ago, I marvel at how lovely I look in it and I remember that at the time the photo was taken, I used to still be unhappy with my body, even then perceiving myself as overweight/awkward/big/ or something other than lovely. Now I think that a few years in the future I will look at photos of today and admire myself – so why don’t I just go ahead and do that now? Why do I let this inner critic rule how I look at myself?
That strong inner critic is habituated to pointing out a protruding bulge or an extra love handle, but thankfully, I have now also found a new friend within me over the last months. This one notices how beautiful I am. She makes me smile at myself every day, claps and cheers as I grow out my greys and tells me how wonderful this new look is. I am nudged to laugh at the things the strict inner critic is saying.
For the last couple of years while I had been at my heaviest, I had been wearing cover-it-all clothes. If I wore jeans, then I would make sure my top covered my hips and I was avoiding sleeveless tops even on those searing hot Delhi days. But ever since I have found this new friend inside who is encouraging me to be myself in a completely unashamed way, the length of my tops has shortened and the sleeveless is in fashion again. Whom do I have to please other than myself after all?
Thinking in this way helps me to relax within and feel in balance regardless of the number on my scale. It also makes me feel like doing all the healthy things that may eventually lead to losing weight. But in the meantime, I am enjoying the phases of the sun and the moon and watching clouds drift by, listening to multiple bird songs and the wind rustle through the leaves on the trees outside. And I feel an affinity towards the full moon as I shine at the fully-waxed version of myself.
Read another moon story here: