During the close of each yoga class I teach, I ask the students to take a moment to feel gratitude for their bodies, what their bodies do for them during their yoga practice and what their bodies do for them each day. I do this at the end of my own practice, and I do my best to bring such gratitude to mind periodically throughout my day. This week I decided to share some background on this with the students in my classes.
Many years ago -- I think it was very early in the Iraq war -- I read an article about some veterans who had just returned home. One thing that struck me (and continues to knock me off balance on a regular basis) was how incredibly young these veterans were. The men I was reading about in this particular article were around 20 years old.
One of them had returned home without either of his legs. When asked by the interviewer how he was handling his new life and dealing with such a tragedy, he responded that he had never taken his legs for granted. He had appreciated them constantly while he had them. When he ran, he marveled at how amazing his legs were. Knowing he hadn't taken his legs for granted was helping him deal with his loss. I don't remember where I read this or even what all the details were, but I clearly remember how wise this man was and how moved I was by what he said.
I carefully considered whether to share this story with my classes because the story is in so many ways a sad one, but I decided the message was too important (and, for me, life-changing) to keep to myself. My hope is that I'm able to share this story in such a way that listeners recognize it as a celebration of the body and an opportunity to practice gratitude.
So often we spend our time focused on what we don't like about our physical bodies. My hope is that the next time you are inclined to pick yourself apart and worry about your looks, your weight, or how you compare to others, you will instead take a moment to marvel at your body. Revel in your body. Wiggle your fingers and toes, lift your arms above your head, take a deep breath, blink your eyes. Everything can change in an instant. Please don't take what you have for granted.