Yoga Helped Me Love Myself, Just As I Am
Recently I went on a trip to the beach where my family has had a modest time-share since before I was born. The ocean is beyond therapeutic for me, its natural order providing soothing sounds, cleansing salty baths and simply the largest metaphor for breath and release I can pinpoint. I was more than excited to take my pranayama, asana, dhyana and all other aspects of yoga to one of the most still yet rhythmic places on earth. Various aspects of nature provide a gateway into presence, into yoga, into the love of self, because through their stillness, you see your own. It was while galavanting by the ocean, searching endlessly for shells, smiling ‘til my cheeks hurt and absorbing as much vitamin D as I healthily could that I recognized how far yoga has brought me and how thrilled I am to keep going.
What I love about teaching and practicing yoga is I’m never finished. Just like life, there is always more to discover, more to improve upon, more ways to weave this ever-evolving web that is being human. And the beautiful paradox that is bestowed upon you as you practice is the freedom to accept yourself, fully, as you are, right fricken now, while still in the hunt to explore and improve your external reality for the future. Loving the life that you are and that you have now will only better the experience tomorrow, in every aspect you can conceive. This love and acceptance begins within and blossoms without.
For years, I felt inadequate, mediocre, stuck, scared, and dissatisfied. I saw myself for everything I wasn’t, everything I hadn’t achieved, and everything I’d never be. It didn’t matter how others saw me, my vision was skewed, I saw myself this way and it required me changing my view. I think many of us waste time in our heads admiring the attractiveness, success, and love others had while neglecting to recognize all that we already carried. I grew up with frizzy, curly hair. I hated it. I straightened it to the point where chunks fell off, growing back again from the root. I am fairly hippy, meaning I have thighs, butt and hips that are substantial compared to the rest (in my vision). I hid my legs, rarely wearing shorts, never wearing bathing suit bottoms without a cover up, and finding myself unhappy whenever I’d catch glimpses of my body in the mirror. In truth, my body is curvy, my hair is curly, my eyes are brown, I have cellulite, freakishly long toes, small calves, long limbs, and a slightly crooked but sincere smile.
What’s imperative that I learned and am still learning, is I am so much more than all those attributes. My body is pretty damn strong and capable and there’s a vast network of complicated science going on every second of the day to ensure that I breathe, digest, sleep, walk, laugh and perceive. It deserves much more appreciation than I’ve been giving it. And well beyond the superficial aspects, which I’ve come to accept and even enjoy, I am also much more than my body itself. My mind is an intriguing juggernaut and my heart is kind and compassionate but my essence is greater than all of that combined. My essence is good, still, open, loving and alive. So is yours. We are the same.
So it is in this vein that I allowed my mother, a woman who has always believed strongly in me, seen the best in me and who would get upset when I ever negated myself, to take some fun pictures of me in yoga poses at the beach, in my bathing suit, without a cover up. Big whoop, I know. There are many I’ve seen, including the gorgeous and fierce Kathryn Budig in her bold ToeSox photo shoot, who’ve fearlessly posed in next to nothing to express some part of themselves in hopes to capture and inspire. This was not professional and it wasn’t even intended to be shared. They were taken on my iPhone. The sand was wonderfully uneven, the winds were strong and the sun was bright. The point is and was that I love how I feel now that I’ve adopted yoga as my way of life. How I feel rather than how I look. I look fine. I feel fantastic. I love breathing and moving and eating and laughing every second of every day, and I feel my inner joy is finally emanating the way it never could when I tried so hard to fit myself into someone else’s mold.
Your journey on the mat will not come without challenges. I didn’t start practicing and magically woke up feeling this way. It was a path that began in darkness and emerged into light. There are a myriad of poses my body still can’t do. Oh well. I’ll keep falling out of them and laughing on the way down. My hair is still frizzy. I still carry some junk, albeit some stronger junk, but that jiggle hasn’t gone anywhere. I am still the same me I ever was. I just like her better now, appreciate the healthy body and mind I’ve been given, and enjoy the fruits of this existence. I don’t have a large income yet, maybe I never will, but I wake up everyday now feeling full, whole, enthusiastic and grateful for all that I am and the possibility of all that I’ll be. I recognize the reality that it matters little how others think of us, and it matters most how we think of ourselves. We’re thinking of ourselves regardless but when we obsess on what others may perceive us to be, we neglect our own authenticity, our own unique being. And quite frankly, that’s bullshit. How I feel inside out matters. You deserve to recognize this same truth within yourself. Give yourself the gift.