I attended Jessamyn Stanley’s workshops at Barefoot in late February, and she got me thinking about what it means to be big and what it means to be small.
In yoga and mediation, we talk about allowing the mind to become vast. “Expansive” is a word often used. But off the mat, how often to we think of it as a good thing to be “big” in Western society? Do “big” and “small” have different connotations for men and women? Does the circumstance matter?
I think impossible beauty standards in Western society have gotten us all kinds of mixed up. Instead of looking at our big feet, our big bellies or small eyelashes (or if you’re a man, small muscles and small hands) – whatever – and seeing them just as they are, we assign value judgements to all of our qualities.
Likewise, I believe some of us have been taught to shrink ourselves. To be quiet, not express ourselves or be too pushy about our own thoughts or ideas. That can be good – I mean, it’s nice to be polite – but it can also go overboard.
Like so many things, balance and less judgement can help, and I think yoga gives us an opportunity to practice that.
Leader yogis like Jessamyn are breaking new ground in these territories. Dianne Bondy and Anna Guest-Jelley are other personal favorites. I love hearing them subtly challenge society in their yoga classes. Encouraging us to take up space on our mats, really fell ourselves filling up our bodies, and then seeing ourselves getting even bigger – to encompass the whole world.
Because, ultimately, yoga teaches us to become so expansive that we realize our connection with the whole world. And what could be bigger – or better?? – than that.