Spring Beautiful: Inside and Out

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Oh, to be beautiful! Beauty is that ephemeral little nymph that has inspired artists and poets, and sold countless products. It may be one of the most common of human experiences to seek out beauty, and this time of year, when the Earth is bursting with its own showcase of beauty, is a natural moment for preening and connecting to your own lusciousness.

But what does our seemingly quenchless desire for more beauty have to do with yoga?

Well, the Tantric yogis were just as enraptured with beauty as we are. They called it shri, a Sanskrit word that roughly translates as radiance. This concept of beauty was a little different than our L’Oreal version. The ancients saw that the more we enliven our prana, or life force, through the practices of yoga and Ayurveda, the more we actually become the living embodiment of “the most beautiful one.”

And the yogi wanted deep-down beauty, not just the superficial lipstick, six-pack-abs version. My teacher, Rod Stryker, says that deep beauty comes from being burned in the fire of life. Over time, if we allow life itself to soften our rough edges, a melting of our superficial layers occurs, and not only are we seen as beautiful, we also begin to see the outside world as a manifestation of something deeply beautiful.

Life burns us to humble us, and humility is the healing salve for the wounds of the heart. These wounds, however, keep us from total radiance. So, we can work with the natural world to enhance our outer beauty, but ultimate beauty can only be achieved by doing the practices that builds the fire that melts the small self’s old hurts and limitations. The quieter the mind becomes, the easier, Stryker says, it is to “rest in the presence of [your] own spirit, the wise and most compassionate one, the infinitely beautiful one.” In this sense, things like prayer, meditation, and yoga are some of the best tools for growing your own true beauty.

But enough of the philosophy. Let’s get beautiful!

For beautiful eyes, get outside. That verdant hue of the baby leaves will be reflected in your face. People will ask you, “Are you in love? Your eyes are gleaming green!”

For beautiful skin, drink sunlight. Sunbathing at sunrise or sunset for 10-15 minutes gently gives the skin a gilded hue, without the harshness of the midday rays. Plus, our winter white epidermis is hungry for golden light, so soak it up at the appropriate time this spring.

For a beautiful body, loosen the rivers of your lymph system. More Sun Salutes are ideal this time of year. Spring asks us for a more vigorous exercise routine, as it is a time when the body naturally wants to shed excess winter weight. Your lymphatic system will love you to jump rope, swim in the ocean, or bounce on a trampoline.

For a beautiful world, foster new growth. Traditionally, spring was the time for planning (or having!) marriages, babies, new projects, and new purchases. Ride the energy of new beginnings, rebirth, and renewal by putting your creative pursuits into high gear at this time.

For a beautiful spirit, breathe consciously. Pranayama, such as bhastrika, agni sara and kapalabhati are all good spring practices for moving excess winter mucous and lethargy of the mind.

For a beautiful future, clean out your closets. Spring is the season par excellence for resetting priorities and simplifying your life. You can’t receive more of what you want if your basement is already full of old junk. Spring is also a good time to let go of unhealthy habits, clothes you will never wear, and even relationships that are not serving you.

For a beautiful belly, look to the Earth’s belly.  In general, good spring vittles are whatever is popping up seasonally and locally. Emphasize foods that are lighter and bitter in taste; sprouts, turmeric, arugula, asparagus, cilantro, and other bitter greens will serve your best spring-self.

For a beautiful heart, meditate on what beauty means to you. The teachings of Tantra say that if you want more goddess qualities (i.e., super powers like delight, financial abundance, sensuality, fierceness, intelligence, will power, and beauty), then become more like the Goddess herself. Sit down everyday and meditate on what you want to become as if it already were true. If you want to be more beautiful, see and feel yourself as beauty embodied.

This article was originally published in the Yoga Journal Blog on April 13, 2012.

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