I remember attending my first yoga classes as a tween and thinking there was a good chance that something was wrong with me for not being as ‘spiritual’ as all of the other people at the studio. I recall walking into class, insecure about my large size and lack of luxury-brand yoga pants, immediately unnerved by the unanimous silence in the practice room. A dozen other women, all sharing the willowy body type of a textbook midwestern ‘yogi’, sitting perfectly straight backed on their special, cork yoga blocks, eyes closed… meditating into what I could only assume was pure enlightenment.
I steer myself towards the prop wall to gather my mat, noticing that I’m embarrassed at the sound of my own awkward, surreptitious footsteps. I clamor over to my spot as a thin, graceful woman next to me rises and glides across the floor, making almost no noise at all. I catch myself glancing to the mirrored studio wall to size up my double chin. Class begins.
The instructor spoke in breathy tones, used vague spiritual language, and talked about transcending the everyday ‘low vibrations’ even mentioning that one should aim to evolve their consciousness so that they no longer crave sugar or dairy. Later that night, I would find myself binge eating multiple Alfredo noodle meal kits, thinking about how I wished I could yoga hard enough to achieve the success, purpose, contentment, and external beauty that this woman appeared to portray.
At the time, I idolized this archetype of the “Spiritual Healer,” telling myself that it was the way to my purpose and contentment and I spent the next decade of my personal practice and several years into my teaching career learning how to fake it. Looking back on it now, I realize it was simply the easiest way for me to exert superiority over others. Superiority is one of my favorite (and most used) separation techniques and spiritual superiority is super convenient, because I didn’t have to develop any special athletic ability or demonstrate capacity to produce in the world of commerce. All I had to do was use vague language, deny and obscure my ‘non-spiritual desires,’ and judge other people on how conscious they appeared to be.