In a world obsessed with physical perfection and flawless facades, it’s easy to forget that true beauty comes from within. Yoga teacher Emma Palmer helps us connect to our inner light.
A few years ago I had a new student attend one of my yoga classes for the first time. At the end of the class, as I always do with new students, we discussed how she worked through the challenges, the heat, attempting new postures, the bliss from savasana, and the usual yogi highs that come from a first-time practice. She was remarkably open, sharing personal stories and challenges, and then suddenly, with an unexpectedly precipitous familiarity, said to me, “Emma, I’m just really surprised that as a yoga teacher you wear makeup.”
My instant reaction, of course, with its usual wry timing, came direct from the ego. It was telling me that wearing makeup was somehow wrong; that I wasn’t being authentic in some way, that I didn’t meet her expectations of a yoga teacher and that I hadn’t measured up to her idea of what a yoga teacher should look like.
The truth is, my morning makeup ritual is a habit from many moons ago when I was a qualified beauty therapist, where it was natural to be externally scrutinised before we entered the beauty salon to ensure physical perfection was the only order of the day. Not a hair was out of place. Bright red lips were applied within the fine lines of a perfected lip liner and finished with rouged cheekbones, lashings of mascara and impeccably pencilled brows. I cannot deny that being presented to the world in this way didn’t impact how I felt on the inside, because it did. I felt it gave me confidence to face the world with ‘my face on’. I also understood, almost paradoxically, that my connection with how I looked only brought me momentary, stilted happiness and I couldn’t understand why.
This lesson was so significant for me because, in that moment, I realised lasting happiness could not be sustained if the search was on the outside. And so, I am eternally grateful that in my late teens the exquisite path of yoga found me, and my journey to find deeper meaning and purpose began through this ancient practice.
In Kahlil Gibran’s famous book The Prophet, he writes, “beauty is not in the face, it is a light in the heart”. The path of yoga is a blissful practice that not only reveals the inner light, but gradually removes all the blocks we have created throughout our lives that prevent us from seeing all the magnificence within. Yoga guides us to our truest state, beyond the voice of the ego, beyond restriction and beyond the false illusion of the external. This is a challenging concept to come to terms with when our society is so invested in everything that is external and actively takes us away from the maps to go inward.
This doesn’t mean that we should no longer care for the external (or feel that wearing makeup is wrong for that matter), but it does mean we can free ourselves from being attached to how we look, simply by accepting that the external is forever changing.
Renowned yogi Paramahansa Yogananda asks, “Is a diamond less valuable because it is covered in mud?” Yoga is a practice that aims to clear the mud from the diamond so we can connect to that inner light of peace. In this way we become aware of the true self. The more we journey towards the true self, the more we realise that what we are searching for is also trying to find us.
So go find that light of yours. Find your path. Find that inner diamond and let it shine, because the world really needs that light right now. In the words of Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?’”