I want to write because lately I have been feeling judgmental of my own body. I am so thankful though, to have strong self awareness to know that I don’t dislike how my body looks, but how it feels. That is what’s on my mind: how Yoga has helped me accept and love how my body looks.
I feel yuck because my practice has been irregular for months. But when I do make the time to practice it feels SO AMAZING. That is one blessing of having an irregular practice, you walk out feeling that beginner-like bliss because your body has missed feeling that way. Anyway, I am still settling into a rhythm after months of being sick, working through depression, and giving a strong focus to rewiring some of my tendencies towards self-mutilating thoughts. This is why I don’t like how my body FEELS right now, but that is easily remedied, compared to the battle with body image.
I grew up in an environment where appearance was very important, and I felt extra pressure to be thin because my older sister has always had a thinner body type than I. I was also tormented for being “fat” every day of my 5th grade year by almost all 25 kids in my class. Lastly, I believe now that I used food as a substitute for the expression of love, acceptance and affection that was lacking in my life.
I always hated my body. Hated how broad my shoulders were, my belly, my arms and forearms especially. Although I wore tank tops and short shorts when I was younger, I always felt self conscious in them, but felt if I wore anything baggier it would make me look bigger. So I wore the tight clothes and SUCKED my belly in at all times.
Which brings me to yoga, specifically Forrest Yoga. My friend Margaret once pointed out to me that Forrest Yoga teachers have a particular gait. I think this is true. We step with an intentionality, and structural integrity. I used to scuffle my feet when I walked, barely picking up my leg to step forward. That’s very representational about how Forrest Yoga and teaching has changed how I live in my body. We don’t look like the hard Ashtanga or Power yoga folks, our muscles are supple: strong but flexible and sensitive to feeling. I mention this because I used to be self conscious about not having that body: as a teacher I felt like I had to represent a “perfect” muscular and toned physique. Here’s why I don’t give a fuck about that nonsense: I can do some crazy shit with my body.
I can balance on my arms. I can hold poses for a long time without feeling close to giving up. I can stay in Warrior 2 for a wicked long time and my legs don’t care! They love it. I mean, it’s still hard, but I’ve practiced enough to know how to use my breath and body to support it. In my Advanced Teacher Training, the classes were 3.5 hours of intense sweatiness and advanced postures and my body could do it! Who cares what your body looks like if it is strong enough to carry you through a 3 hour yoga practice?!
So, what I’m trying to say is this: don’t try to force your body to change and look different. Beauty isn’t dependent on the shape of your body, but the glow in your face when you smile, how your eyes reflect your soul, and how your posture communicates “I love this body of mine.” If you don’t like how you look, try a physical practice. Maybe swimming, or pilates, or YOGA. And instead of doing that activity in order to get thinner, do it to feed your spirit, do it to make you strong INSIDE.