It’s time for some REAL TALK. Like, get to know me better kind of real talk.
It took a hella long time for me to write this and almost even longer to hit that “publish” button. First of all, because its DAMN SCARY putting yourself out there. Like, real scary. Who wants to be an open book? Who wants to feel so raw and vulnerable? (Answer: NO ONE. That’s who). Let’s face it, it’s much more comfortable to just pretend that we all have our shit together.
Secondly, I hesitated because I didn’t want this to be taken the wrong way. Let’s be real clear here: my focus never has been, or ever will be, weight loss. This isn’t about looking good or having muscles in the right places or fitting into those size 4 Lululemons. This is about LOVING YOURSELF. The focus here is STRENGTH and POWER and CONTENTMENT. Ways of living and being and consuming that are sustainable and satisfying and nourishing to the body and the soul. Choices we can make to bring us to a better and more comfortable version of ourselves. So if this sounds interesting, hear me out.
My first yoga class was when I was in kindergarten. I took classes through my elementary, high school, and college years. But I was far from an enlightened child, by any stretch of the word. I struggled to find my identity, like really struggled. I had some crap friends who treated me like crap because I didn’t know how to find my own voice. I tried on many different personas because I never quite felt at home in my own skin. I was a quiet person, bottled up my feelings, pushed away the emotional experiences. I wished I was someone else more times than I can remember. I started down the dark path of disordered eating from the age of 15. Starving myself? Check. Bingeing? Check. Purging? Check. Calorie counting, low fat, low carb, low whatever? Check. Felt ashamed and uncomfortable and unhealthy? Check, check, check. Yoga was nothing more than another form of exercise. It would be fun to teach yoga, I thought. Someday. Maybe. But I probably would suck at it. And nursing school? I didn’t love it. About halfway through college I decided I didn’t want to be a nurse after all. But I’d already come this far…what would people think? Hello ego! So I soldiered on.
Fast forward, post college. I had great friends, a steady relationship, a solid job that paid the bills. I had fun, went out, got another (bigger) beer belly, life was good. After doing drive bys of a local yoga studio for months (feeling too fat and out of shape to actually show my face there), I finally mustered up the courage to start up classes. Okay – they were awesome. I forgot how much I loved this. I started to go religiously a couple times a week, and some of those uncomfortable pounds began to melt off. I loved this new part of me so much, I even started a basic teacher training course there. I said, heck yeah, I got this. I’ve always kind of wanted to do this, let’s grab life by the balls. But wait– you mean that I have to study and read and practice at home and LIVE my yoga outside of the studio? It’s not something I can show up to for an hour a week? I have to cancel margarita night to go learn about Trikonasana (triangle pose, friends)…..ummm maybe this isn’t for me after all.
So I quit. I just stopped going to my trainings one day. I stopped going to classes there, too, because I felt dumb about quitting the trainings. And then it got to be so long that I was ashamed to go back in, so I never went back to that studio again.
Hello fear. Helllooooo EGO.
I was at my highest weight ever, uncomfortable and self-conscious, hated pictures of myself. My now new husband loved me, so that was good enough for me.
Fast forward again, we moved to Maine. It was here, after my son was born, that I finally mustered up the courage to go back to yoga – because, well, this damn yoga thing buries itself into your very soul and never quite leaves you, no matter how far back it may be or how many times you may stray from it. I tried a couple studies, didn’t love them. (In case you’ve been in this situation before…this is normal. Trying out the right studio/teacher is kind of like finding the right pair of jeans, keep at it until you slip seamlessly in. Don’t give up!) Finally, I found a sweet local studio, and the moment I walked in, it felt like home. I was greeted like I was the most important person in the world, and took a class with a teacher who moved me to my core (literally and figuratively). The music was like soul food, her voice was meditative, the sunlight streaming through the window warmed my skin, and I left with that yoga high.
I was hooked. Again. A drop-in turned into a 10-class punch card, and that turned into unlimited passes, and, well, I think you know where I am going with this.
Yes, this is where I completed my training. I worked with this very same teacher who moved me so deeply during my first class. Under her guidance I learned about poses and phoilosophy, how to construct a class, cue poses, provide hands on assists, use my voice to keep the flow of energy. I practiced and moved and breathed and journaled and practiced some more, and then something crazy happened. A profound shift. I started to listen to myself. I started to notice how my body felt when I put this into it, versus that. How both of those things affected not just how I felt physically, but mentally and emotionally and spiritually. I worked on my poses, which was a lot easier when my body felt light and my mind clear (soooo, you mean I shouldn’t eat that ENTIRE pizza?) I found strength within I never knew I had, I stretched my body (and mind) to places it had never been before.
I took pictures of my poses and posted them on Instagram because hell, I was proud.
So one day, I tried compass pose, stretched that knee alllll the way up to my face like I saw in the pictures…and snapped my hamstring attachment. Holy ouch. That put some of my physical practice on hold for a while. But as my teacher guided me through this experience, her wise words to me were: injuries can be great teachers. And damn if this wasn’t quite a lesson. NOTE TO SELF: YOGA DOESN’T GIVE A DAMN IF YOU CAN GET YOUR KNEE TO YOUR FACE. (more on strength vs. flexibility later).
So the takeway: not only did I learn all the technicalities of being a yoga teacher. I learned, for the first time in almost 30 years, what it meant to truly love….
MYSELF. What a concept. The muscles and bones that support me and have carried me through my practice. The strength of my core, and the softness of my belly that has grown two lives. The curve of my hips, which have helped birth two babies. My body’s ability to always tell me when I am doing something wrong – as long as my mind agrees to listen.
Yoga. It’s all about balance. Turns out, so is life. A balance between strength and flexibility. A balance between enough dedication to make progress, but not so much to inflate the pride. Strengthening one side of the body, while opening the other. Stacking the bones and muscles so that you can keep both feet planted firmly on the ground. Or maybe, one foot. Saying yes when you mean yes, but more importantly, no when you mean no. Drinking your hot lemon water in the morning, a glass of wine at night, and being okay with eating that pint of ice cream once in a while.
Celebrating YOU and this body where you live. It’s ability to sweat and lift weights, and also lift babies and give hugs. The heart that beats for you tirelessly, speeding up faster when you move and run, and also faster when you feel in love. It’s ability to rejuvenate itself and heal it’s own wounds. This body serves you tirelessly. It is the only house we will ever truly live in. It took me a damn long time to appreciate it, but there is no going back now.
So like I said, this is not about weight loss or fitness. It’s about moving from a place of choosing what works for you. It is about listening to that little voice inside. What makes your heart sing and your body smile. What makes you a slightly better version of yourself the next day (and the next, and the next). Yoga helps us unpeel those layers, first by making us aware of all those things that DON’T make us smile, sing, grow, so we can maybe start to discover those things that DO.
Loving yourself and wanting good things for yourself comes first. Treat yourself like you would your kids, your mom, your best friend. How about even saying “I love you,” to YOU, every once in a while? That comes first. The rest follows.
Okay you have stuck with me for long enough. I write this for two reasons:
1. The practice of surrender and vulnerability is so freaking hard, but beautiful things can come of it.
2. I hope this can reach someone, in any little way. I hope it gives you an idea of who I am, what my journey has been to the place I am now. NEWS FLASH: I DO NOT HAVE MY SHIT TOGETHER. I still struggle with negative self-talk, with those days when nothing feels good on my body and I fall back into those thoughts of “not good enough.” REMEMBER: YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Always. I say this, because I myself need to hear it the most. This all is just my honest attempt to continue getting closer and closer to shit-togetherness, a continual work in progress. The best kind of work there is.
I have talked enough. Feel free to ask me anything, comment, share, let’s start a conversation.
Namaste friends, peace and love.
“You are beautifully enough. Your stories of ‘not good enough’ are fictional novels written by a culture still hiding its light under another bushel of shame. The REAL story, your TRUE autobiography, is one of inherent magnificence, courage, and divinity flowing through your soul-veins. So you decide which book to read – the fictional novel written by those who do not SEE you, or the HOLY BOOK written by your glorious spirit.” –Jeff Brown