I’ve never worn much makeup nor do I know what to do with most of the products and gadgets on the market. Since high school, though, I’ve worn a pretty standard daily mask of poorly applied and poorly matched concealer, powder, blush and mascara, but I still look pretty undone at all times. Even for special events when I try really hard to make it look like I’ve been done up, I always look exactly the same. (Video makeup tutorials be damned; I will never successfully apply the “smokey eye” look.) Despite my minimalist approach, for a long time I never left the house without my makeup crutch, never worked out without it on, never let boyfriends see me without it on. (That last one is particularly cringe-worthy when I think about it now, but I would seriously go to bed without washing my face to avoid the dreaded reveal–a terribly distorted way to fall in love if you ask me. Also: terrible for your skin.)
All of that changed when I started practicing yoga. Beyond the extreme impracticality of wearing makeup in a hundred-degree room at 6 o’clock in the morning (although I did that for a while… idiotic) was the fact that yoga, I think, revealed me as my very best and truest self by allowing me a space to feel strong and capable and beautiful when I was at my very worst. I remember very vividly a moment early on in the first two or three years of my practice where I came into up dog, met my own gaze in the mirror and thought, “Who is that?” My shock at seeing myself stripped down, sweaty, makeup-less and exposed and liking what I saw had nothing to do with some kind of miraculous overnight physical transformation. I was looking at the same person I’d always been, but this time I actually saw her.
For someone viewing herself through the extremely distorted lens of an eating disorder, depression or society’s unattainable beauty ideal, this can be an earth-shattering realization. In A Course in Miracles it is called “the holy instant,” a moment when you choose to see things differently. In yoga it is pramana (correct perception). It might take years of struggle and exploration and distraction to get there, but when you finally commit to choosing love over fear, that moment is available to you instantly and without hesitation because it was always there and will never leave. You just have to choose to see it.
Yoga doesn’t give you anything you don’t have already or make you anyone you’re not already. It just gives you the space and time to finally see it. That day I decided that I am my most beautiful self when I am practicing yoga, and that realization gave my the confidence to stop wearing makeup all the damn time.
There’s nothing wrong with wearing makeup. Even now I’ll catch myself swiping on mascara in the car on my way to teach a class. But there is incredible freedom in knowing it makes me no better or more beautiful than I am without it on.