Yoga Guru Cyndi Lee on a Simple Way to Stop Hating Our Bodies
Written by Hannah Sentenac | September 17, 2014
As a renowned yoga teacher and media darling, Cyndi Lee seemed like the poster child for confidence and self-acceptance. Yogis are supposed to be radiant avatars, after all. But beneath the Namastes and Lululemon she was hating her body, just like (most of) the rest of us.
This realization led her on a lengthy journey — to India, to Japan in the midst of the 2011 earthquake, to interviewing notable women, to finally embracing a loving kindness practice that shifted her perspective. She penned the book, May I Be Happy, about her experience, and she’s speaking about it at Books & Books on September 18. We spoke to Lee on self-loathing, new perspectives and how she’s accepted the wrinkles on her knees.
“The original working title for the book was I Hate My Body, which I thought kind of said it all,” says Lee. An editor eventually told her she couldn’t start with such a negative premise however, and needed to let the reader know where the journey led. Hence the final title, May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga and Changing My Mind.
“I’m a yogi, I’m a Buddhist, and one of the teachings is that you have to actually start with where you’re unhappy — where you’re suffering, and look at that as a way to transform it.”
A trip to India led her to identify some skewed priorities.
“I went to India and I was seeing all these people suffering and starving and I’m touching my stomach thinking, ‘Maybe I can lose weight on this trip,'” she recounts.
“That was when I first recognized that i was basically torturing myself all the time by criticizing my body. Some people criticize themselves in other ways but that was my way, probably because I’m a woman and because I was a dancer and a lot of other influences that are familiar to many many women. Basically it’s normal, this is normal. This is not OK, but it’s normal.”
So how did she turn things around? A practice called maitri. Loosely translated …