Oh so many moons ago, I discovered yoga. I was also discovering recovery around the same time, and so it didn’t take any time at all to notice how some of my body image issues readily receded the moment I stepped onto my mat.
Although this phenomenon was exceedingly odd, since we spent each entire class positioned in front of….wait for it….a full length MIRROR.
Anyone who has ever experienced even a tremor, a glimmer, of body shame or body hate knows the mirror is generally not your go-to friend during these times. It can be better, smarter, healthier, to give that wide reflective surface an equally wide berth until those feelings have passed.
And yet there I would be, with my wide-feeling self positioned just-so on my skinny mat right smack dab in front of a giant floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall mirror, feeling GRAND.
Even odder – during these sessions I would be wearing my most form-fitting attire (especially during the “hot” yoga courses, which were less like “hot” and more like “fiery pit of hell” temperature-wise).
So there I would be, nearly naked, sweating, dripping even, standing in front of that ginormous mirror, feeling….PROUD. STRONG. EMPOWERED. At home inside my own skin.
Needless to say, these feelings kept me coming back for quite some time. But then life intervened.
It intervened for a time, and then I would “rediscover” yoga again and return to my mat and my body-shame recovery process. And then life would intervene again and then I would rediscover yoga yet again, and so forth and so on.
The last time this cycle found me, it was a little over a year ago and I had just been diagnosed with hypothyroidism – my thyroid had basically absconded with all my energy and muscle tone and didn’t even leave a note. I was bloated (“puffy” is the word my doctor and my mom seem to prefer), exhausted, covered in adult acne, depressed and basically panicked. I was gaining weight like nobody’s business but eating less and less (one doesn’t have lots of time to eat with so much sleeping to do).
Then I found yoga. Again. This time, the yoga was conveniently located online so I could just roll out of bed and be in class. It didn’t matter that none of my yoga pants fit anymore or that I didn’t really think it would work this time. What mattered what my teacher, Adriene, had a new video waiting for me every morning.
Structure really matters in times like these and she had it and I needed it. I completed the first 30-day #yogawithadriene course I discovered on YouTube (“True” if you want to check it out). When I was done with all 30 days I felt better, so I decided to do it all over again.
Then I discovered more 30-day courses with Adriene, so I did those too. Then I found lots of other videos with Adriene, so I did those too. Every morning like clockwork (or afternoon or even evening if I had to) my precious and oh-so-flexible parrot, Pearl, and I would arrive on “our” yoga mat to do our daily session with Adriene.
At the end of the session, Pearl would be wiped from screaming encouragement at his mommy (to this day, after an estimated 365-straight yoga sessions with Adriene, I have come to truly believe he thinks I’m taking flying lessons). And I would be feeling better. Lighter. Stronger. Braver. More hopeful.
During the last year, lots of other unexpected stressful things have occurred – kind of big things too, like my folks’ home being flooded out by hurricane Harvey and the government dam release, plus a heart-breaking breakup (is there any other kind?). And many other things.
Each time, I would return to my mat, power up a yoga lesson with Adriene, and feel better.
At first I just thought it was all the breathing. I tend to hold my breath when I’m stressed, and Adriene reminds me to breathe IN and OUT and I find that really helps me relax.
Then I thought it was the poses themselves. Adriene is an excellent teacher and even though she is on a video and I am in my bedroom, somehow she seems to know all the things I’m doing that are getting in the way of the yoga being able to help me feel better. By following her prompts, I can actually find ways to let the poses help me ease all the chronic aches and pains that come with hypothyroidism and life.
Finally, I have begun to realize that it is more than just the breathing, or the poses, or even my adorable Pearl shrieking encouragement from the cheap seats, complete with raised wings and crest, as I attempt to achieve lift-off yet again.
It is Adriene. It is her – this dear mentor – this inspiring homo sapiens who makes me at least temporarily glad to be a part of my particular species – this person who, to me, looks absolutely perfect in form and face and yet seems to have struggled with all of the same types of body acceptance issues I have struggled with.
In today’s yoga lesson, she talked to us about how the body is already good. We don’t have to “work on it” to make it “good.” It is good. So she asked us to consider working for our body instead of on it.
It took me a minute, I will admit. I had to stop and ponder. “My body is already good.” My body is already good, my body is already good, my body is ALREADY GOOD.
Yes it is. It IS already good. It has always been good. My poor body. Even a certain renegade gland whose name begins with “T” – who is to blame it for wanting to jump ship, after so many years – decades, really – of neglect, blame and abuse?
My body IS good. It is better than me on most days. It shows up every day. It does its best. Some days its best is better than on other days (thank you, Don Miguel Ruiz). But it always gives 100 percent.
Me, on the other hand….well, that is why I need yoga. And not just any yoga, either. I need yoga with Adriene, this precious, kind, honest, humble person, an old soul in a young and lovely yoga body who makes adventures like “forearm plank” look fun instead of death-defying.
Over the last year, I have slowly transformed on the outside. I am back to a weight my doctor and I are content with. I am stronger than I’ve been in decades, and not just in my thighs. My arms can now complete approximately three half-pushups without collapsing…a a real feat.
But most vitally, I am starting to transform on the inside. I tell you, it really makes a difference when I surround myself with people who are determined to love, respect, appreciate and honor their bodies. It lifts me up into a place in my mind and heart where I feel like it is possible for me to love, respect, appreciate and honor my body too.
And it gives me permission to do so. And to fight against influences that tempt me back towards that place of not good enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough, not acceptable enough. I know I don’t want to go there anymore, but it really helps to have mentors holding a place for me far away from that place.
It especially really helps to have it daily. After hating my body basically since I was 10 (so for 38 years now), I need daily reinforcement. I need it multiple times a day. I need to literally surround, cover, fully enclose myself with a circle of mentors and friends who create a world where body love and body acceptance and body respect and body honor and body appreciation is the norm, the standard, the way, the path.
#Yogawithadriene and #findwhatfeelsgood has been a transformative – continues to be a transformative – influence and an essential element in my ability to realize MY BODY IS ALREADY GOOD.
Now I just need to work to get the rest of me in alignment with this truth.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you have a favorite mentor or friend or loved one who just makes you feel awesome about yourself, your body, your presentation of self, your uniqueness as you? I’d love to hear about your mentors and your journey!