Body Positive Yoga, Our Cultural Obsession with Being Thin, Yoga with Melissa 173 Cultural Conditioning Series

by Melissa West on April 12, 2013

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Yoga with Melissa 173 Cultural Conditioning Series Obsession with Thin Intermediate Class

Cultural Conditioning is the social process in which authority figures such as parents, professors, politicians, religious leaders, peers, and the media define our cultural values, beliefs, ethical systems, and ultimately the way we perceive ourselves in the world. Advertising is a $200 billion industry. We are exposed to three thousand advertisements a day. They are quick, cumulative and they appeal to our subconscious mind. Consciously we believe we are not affected by these media images of the ideal body that tells us who we should be, but they are designed to affect us at a subconscious level thousands of times a day.

We are fish in water swimming in a toxic cultural environment telling us that we need to be extremely thin. The only image offered in the media are young, thin, white and perfectly groomed people. We are told again and again that our worth is dependent upon how we look. Celebrities are mocked in the media for gaining weight in cultural tabloids. The clothing industry celebrates a size zero. Models can’t get any thinner. They are photo shopped to anatomical impossibilities – their heads are often bigger than their pelvises.

The only body type that we see in the media is one that fewer than 5% of the population actually have. The focus on thinness that we are bombarded with all day long, promises weight loss, but make no mistake, they are selling drugs, diets, in short products. They keep you depressed and scared so you keep buying. It is more profitable for them when we have low self esteem and feel terrible about ourselves.

The obsession with thinness affects all of us. Jean Kilbourne of Killing Us Softly says it is a public health problem of in-awareness. It is up to us to disrupt the stories.

Yoga is all about awareness.

Alberto Villoldo author of Yoga Power and Spirit – a translation of the yoga sutras says,
“yoga was developed as a set of tools for releasing one from suffering and achieving a state in which the human and Divine come together.” It is up to us to release ourselves from the suffering we have from being exposed to inaccurate images of bodies in the media. Villoldo says, “All forms of yoga share a common thread, which is to take us out of a profane existence and into a sacred relationship with life. We live a profane life when we simply do what is expected of us, striving to create what is expected of us, striving to create what our culture considers a proper life in the material world, unconscious of our spiritual nature.” We can disrupt this craziness and withdraw to the inner world of spirit and grace. As yogis it is up to us to wake up from the cultural trance.

Book 1 Vs. 2 & 3 of the Yoga Sutras says, “Yoga frees you from the drama, the tragedy, the saga your mind creates and allows you to experience your True Self” It is time to free ourselves from the drama, tragedy, and tyranny of the media and advertising world of ideal bodies. Verses 3, 4, 5, go on to say – “Your True Self knows reality and does not confuse it with the twisted tales your mind spins. Some of these stories bring pleasure; some bring form. All are forms of fiction that distract you from reality and your True Self”

Through awareness we can remove ourselves from the twisted tales of media and advertising and come to know the Truth. Healthy bodies come in many different shapes and sizes. Just look at Ayurveda and Kapha who tend to carry more weight on their body – they are very healthy bodies, Pittas who are athletic and muscular and vattas who are more thin.

Book 2 Vs. 10-11

Weeds in the garden block you from samadhi (loosely translates as peace)
When weeds are merely sprouting, you can uproot them easily,
Enter the stream of timelessness
and observe as the weeds wither and die

When your weeds are thick
and deeply rooted
you must meditate
Only then will they cease to grow
Only then will they turn brown,
decay and return to the earth

We are dealing with a grossly overgrown infestation of weeds in the garden of our mind. It will take withdrawal from the media and advertising and turning inwards with awareness.

Book 2 Vs. 54-55 says,

When your mind no longer darts
from one object to another (the way media and advertising is designed)
a bird alighting on one branch, then
the next
then it is free to turn within
like a turtle withdrawing into its shell
this is pratyahara

Attain mastery of your senses
and they will no longer pull you
this way and that
sights will no longer call you
yearning for your attention
sounds no longer beckon you
Tastes do not fascinate you or make you wince

You experience yourself and the world as it is for the first time.

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