Do you love your body?
Has yoga changed the way you feel about your body?
I’m a yoga teacher. I’m also, usually, the biggest person in class. A few weeks ago I shared a photograph of my son and I in tree pose. Me in a costume.We also took the cover photo, in a costume to share right here! This is a pretty big deal for a woman who has struggled most of her life with body issues and didn’t want to be seen in a costume by her family let alone anyone logging onto this article!
Body image issues are not new. I have them, you probably have them, your Mom probably had them, maybe even your Dad.
Ever since I can remember I have been ashamed of my body. I carried my puppy fat with shame. I carried my puppy fat with fear that I’d never have a boyfriend. I carried my puppy fat believing that everyone was pointing and staring.
Then I lost weight.
And the world was wonderful. Only it wasn’t. It was the same. All the things I didn’t like when I was heavier I was still ashamed of. People constantly complimented me on how slim I was, how good I looked. I wore short skirts and tight tops but still I wanted to lose a little more. I’d be happy after I’d lost the last stubborn 1kg that denied me my happiness.
I was ashamed when I was slim.
I was ashamed when I was fat.
Finally I did my yoga teacher training and I lost a lot of weight again. No diets this time just a change in mindset and simple eating changes. I felt good. I did not feel ashamed for the first time in my life. People complimented me and commented that I was glowing and I believed them. I felt it deep within me and it felt good.
It was short lived and after a series of miscarriages, IVF’s and a challenging adoption I gained 20kg. I was the biggest I’d ever been. I felt ashamed. I didn’t ask myself why I had reached this point in my life. I didn’t consider why I had gained so much weight. I slunk into a corner and continued to grow my body and grow my shame. I stopped teaching yoga because ow could a big fat girl teach yoga? It was a challenging year because I was consumed by shame.
It began to affect every part of my life, from my yoga practice to my parenting and my marriage. I knew that something had to be done and slowly I began to force myself to stop the thoughts. Every time I had a negative thought about my body I acknowledged it for what it was. I made a mental note to stop berating myself. I wrote a letter to my slim self and one to my heavy self. Most importantly I stopped saying out loud that I was fat, didn’t like this or that and as I stopped saying it out loud it became easier to quiet the voice in my head. It was a slow and painful recovery.
Yoga, specifically my Kundalini practice, has helped me to embrace my body as it is. The good, the bad and the ugly. I’m still usually the largest person in the studio but I’ve realised that it doesn’t matter so much anymore. I know now that we come in many shapes and sizes and that I can teach, parent and be the person I want to be right now. Not in 5kg or 10kg time, now. I started buying clothes that fitted me rather than ones I’d fit into if I lost just a few kg’s. I started putting on my costume and swimming with my son. I let go of the shame and I began to practice ahimsa (non-harming) by being kind to myself and realising that my thoughts were hurting me.
I refuse to be held back by my body. It may be bigger than some other bodies but it does so much for me. I am strong from my practice, flexible in my body, fit and healthy. I very, very rarely get sick.
It’s a long path to recovery and I am not sure that it would be possible without my Kundalini practice. My practice teaches me to love myself, respect myself and nurture myself. My practice teaches me that I am perfect, in this moment, I am absolutely perfect exactly as I am.
My practice takes me out of the past, prevents me from living in the future and holds me in the present. This space in the present where I am exactly as I am meant to be.
I wish I could end this article by saying that I am healed and I never, ever berate myself but that is not the truth. The truth is that a lifetime of self-inflicted shame does not disappear overnight. It is a constant awareness, a constant coming back to the present, a constant reminder that I am more than this body. Hopefully one day I will write that I am healed but until then I will continue to remind myself that in this moment, I am absolutely perfect, exactly as I am.
And so are you.