May I Be Happy: January 2014
May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga, and Changing My MInd by Cyndi Lee
This month I have been enjoyably reading Cyndi Lee’s memoir, May I Be Happy. Lee is revered as “one of the most influential yoga teachers in the country” and is the first Western yoga teacher to fully integrate yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhism into her practice and teaching. This book is an authentic account of the unhealthy relationship Lee had with her body thus creating a negative self-image. Cyndi Lee beautifully writes her story with courage and humor, pulling you into her world with compassion, empathy, and love. She also inserts lessons and observations she gives to her yoga students throughout the book, it’s as if you were taking the class with her. It is a book I’d recommend for any female who has/had problems with her body image, as well as young women who may believe what society perceives as beautiful over what it really is-loving the body we have been given with kindness and gratitude.
- While reading this book, I am learning a lot about Buddha in his early years and the journey he took on self-discovery, suffering, and peace. Only during this year, have I become more familiar with the Buddha and his teachings. This book is giving me a deeper understanding and appreciation of his lessons. I have often stopped and contemplated what I had read. For example, Lee shares a Buddha teaching on suffering with a line that says “When we relive the past and worry about the future, we miss out on our life.” I love that!
- I am also learning what Sanskrit words mean and the connection to yoga. During a section that describes one of her yoga classes she talks about the word and meanings of the pose Sukhasana, or Easy Pose. She breaks down the words for her students and the reasons they are created. She explains how sukha is wholesome space, while dukha is suffering and asana means to sit with what comes up when you put your body into this shape and the significance for it in yoga.
- I also learned that the word ahimsa means “non-harming of self and others and how “this is the bottom line of yoga practice, the very first principle.” She goes into how Bodhi means “awakened” and sattva means “existence” therefor the word bodhisattva means “a person who is so awake in the world that they see the suffering of others…” As she continues on with her lesson to her teachers’ in training, I find myself wanting to learn more.
One thing I would like to learn more about is Cyndi’s style of yoga and how she incorporates Tibetan Buddhism into her classes. Since, I have become very interested in Buddhism lately, I think it could take on a whole new level of my love for yoga. I would also like to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism, and how can bring this way of living into my life.
One aspect I would like to apply to my personal life is learning the lessons of the Buddha and incorporating it into my daily life. I can start with practicing the philosophy of non-harming of all beings, particular ourselves. I was able to completely relate and empathize with Cyndi’s hatred of her body. I have had a very unhealthy relationship with food and my body for most of my life. It’s only been in the past couple of years, that I have accepted, appreciated, and began to love my body, thus loving myself. My personal mantra is “Be Kind to Yourself”. I have this saying hung in my room, on my phone, and on my computer as a reminder to be kind to me for almost two years. It has truly helped along with a “1 Put-Down=2 Put-Ups” rule I use with my students. When I put myself down, which to be honest is rare anymore, I have to give myself a compliment. It has made such a difference. By following the lessons of the Buddha and knowing that world renowned yoga instructors such as Cyndi Lee has also felt this way, gives me the compassion I need to continue on this quest.
I can deepen my yoga practice with bringing the lessons in the above paragraph into my practice on my mat. My intention this month has been practicing kindness to all beings and having a non-judgmental attitude. This has been particularly eye-opening while I am practicing yoga. Whether if it’s recognizing, then stopping, my self-criticism if I am not doing a certain pose “right” or bringing kindness to myself if my body is not “cooperating”, I have a greater insight how much I was doing it in the past. I would also like to be more aware of the Sanskrit names of poses and the meaning behind them, so it can become more meaningful. I have already changed my perception about the pose Sukhasana, while practicing it. This book has really helped me have a stronger, beautiful connection with my body and with yoga, yet has made me see how far I have come with my relationship with my body over the past several years, which makes me proud.
Information from this book can greatly impact the community in a positive way. By being aware of how we are not alone in the treatment of our bodies, and then finding a way to love them again, can be a beginning to a wonderful community. I think by reading this book, many people will be inspired to practice yoga and dance. Cyndi was also a professional dancer before she started teaching yoga, so she discusses her experiences and love of movement, and by moving she was living. Perhaps, sharing lessons and advice from the Buddha, or any spiritual being, to the community on a daily basis will form a nurturing, loving, caring sangha.