Shambhala Sun | July 2013
Body and Me
Body was 375 pounds. IRA SUKRUNGRUANG bares his soul about
their complicated relationship.
Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit
the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense. —Henry Miller
Outside winter rages. The wind is a guttural animal against
this old upstate building. I swear I feel the sway of this place, feel the cold
invading the fissures of the structure. I know after this session I will have
to put on my heavy boots and double-thick coat and enter the storm. I know I
will have to scrape and re-scrape the snow and ice and slush off my car. And I
know that every warm muscle I have worked hard to stretch will shrink and
tighten as soon as I step outside. Yet, right now I and 375-pound Body occupy
this space that is free of judgment, free of ridicule, free of self-loathing.
Peace pervades this yoga studio in Oswego, New York. Incense
permeates the space, candles flicker on windowsill ledges, and Buddha presides
at the front of the rectangular room. Played over speakers is the sound of
bells, like the ones that tinkle at temples in Thailand.
Today, I am learning to walk.
We go from one end of the studio to the other, twelve of us
in varying speeds and strides. Our instructor, Howard, tells us to feel the
floor. “You are connected,” he says.
I usually bristle at anything touchy-feely. Such sayings
strike me as melodramatic and unnecessarily deep, like bad fortune- cookie
slogans. But I let Howard’s words sink in because I like Howard. I like his
patience with me and Body, like his words of encouragement when I do positions
that Body is unaccustomed to. Plus, Howard’s gray beard is glorious.
I fixate on the word “connected.” I try to merge my mind and
Body. I say, step. I say, walk. I say, gentle. The opposite happens. My feet
slap the floor, startling my glassy-eyed neighbor, who flinches at the sound.
The floor creaks and cracks. I am painfully aware of how clumsy Body is, and
when that happens I turn on myself. I say, fat. I say, ugly. I say, stupid.
“Walking is difficult,” says Howard. “We never think about
I take another step. Lift the foot. Place pad of foot on
floor. Follow with heel. Shift weight forward. Again.
“This is how we are meant to walk,” Howard says. “No shoes,
no socks. Feel it. Skin against earth. Let that sensation spread from the
bottom of your body to the top.”
I lose my balance. I stagger. I sigh.
“It’s okay, Ira,” Howard says. He moves behind me, watching
I’m conscious of my loud walking, of my audible breaths,
thick and hot. The others are like stealthy ninjas, gliding over the surface of
the floor, absent of thought, just doing.
“What are you thinking?” Howard says.
I don’t tell him the truth. I don’t tell him how much I hate
myself, how much I hate Body. I don’t tell him how much I hate that I can’t
“I’m thinking heel then toe,” I say.
Howard doesn’t buy it. He tilts his head and puts a hand to
his bearded chin. It is the look Santa might give when he’s deciphering whether
you’ve been naughty or nice. “It seems you are disconnecting. Am I right?”
I shrug, but he is. Body and I are not one, have never been
one. I have disconnected from Body, allowed him to do what he wants, when he
wants. I have lost control, and I started yoga to get it back. To connect to
Body. But this exercise of walking— fucking walking—has depleted hope that this
will ever happen.
“You can do it,” Howard says. “Give it time.”
Being large and diabetic, time is something I may have
Ira Sukrungruang is the author of the memoir Talk Thai: The
Adventures of Buddhist Boy and the co-editor of What Are You Looking At? The
First Fat Fiction Anthology and Scoot Over, Skinny: The Fat Nonfiction
Illustration: Tomi Um