Because I have been a yoga student for over six years and yoga teacher for over a year, yoga has played many roles in my life. It has been a form of therapy and an outlet to cultivate love in my body. Before I truly dedicated myself to my yoga practice, my mind was filled with negative thoughts on my body and its curves. I thought my thighs were too thick, my hips were too big, and my sides were too wide. However, over time, these thoughts have transformed into ones of self-love and body positivity throughout the course of my practice.
Yoga has helped me realize I am fortunate to have an able body.
First and foremost, yoga allowed me to look at the bigger picture. When I enrolled in yoga teacher training in the fall of 2016, I had no idea how much I would learn about anatomy and the way the body moves. Looking at the bigger picture of how beautiful the body is as a system showed me how grateful I should be for even having one, especially a healthy and able-bodied one.
In that fall, I practiced almost two to three times a day to study human anatomy, to observe my body in poses, and to practice yoga sequences. I started to meditate on my mat and say "thank you" to my body. I even began to whisper kind things to my body after physically and mentally challenging flows. I began to feel safer in my body than ever before.
I feel more secure in my body.
There was a time that I didn’t feel secure in my body. I felt insecure about its shape. Once I committed to a daily practice, I unknowingly opened up a key energy center that helped me feel more secure in my body.
Every day, I began to incorporate hip-opening poses into my practice classes and personal practice. I practiced sequences with a variety of poses—child pose, squat pose, triangle pose, warrior 2, and many more hip openers. It wasn't until we had a class on chakras that I realized I was unknowingly paying attention to my muladhara, my root chakra.
The root chakra is located at the base of the spine and is associated with security, confidence, and comfort. To balance this chakra, one must practice hip-opening poses, such as child’s pose, extended side angle, warrior 2, squat pose, triangle pose, and many others. In retrospect, I realize that the hip openers reshaped my relationship with my insecurities about shape.
I recognize that my body type and curves are not limitations to advanced poses.
As a black woman with a naturally curvy body and distinctly round booty, I held the belief that I wouldn’t be able to achieve advanced, weight-bearing poses, such as wheel pose, crow pose, and headstand.
My thoughts stemmed from yoga as a mainstream and Westernized practice in which yoga practitioners were not depicted with curves. From the early 2000s to mid-2010, I saw only one body type: long and lean. There was no sort of inclusivity of other bodies.
In a post, I didn’t see the extra cushion I had in the back. I didn’t see the extra meat I had on my lower sides. I didn’t see the extra flesh on the bottom of my arms. Thus, I always thought that I couldn’t achieve advanced poses that mainstream yoga depicted on the long and lean practitioners.
From looking at my body as a system and building more security in my body, I challenged myself to advance my practice—regardless of the lack of representation in the wellness spaces I occupied. I started to dedicate time to practicing those advanced poses I thought my body could never express. I began carving out time during yoga sequencing to strengthen my upper body without trying to change how my arms looked.
Within months, I noticed my body still looked the same with its curves, but I had become stronger. I could hold crow pose and lift into wheel pose. It wasn’t the destination of the poses but the journey toward them that gave me the confidence I needed to fully love my body.
Yoga taught me to embrace my curves and become kinder to my body in all its glory.
If it weren’t for practicing yoga, committing to daily practice, opening my root chakra, and committing to advance poses, I wouldn’t have arrived at my current love for my body.
Before yoga, I didn’t love my curves. I used to engage in restrictive dieting to alter my shape and destructive thinking to keep me on that path. However, yoga helped me to deepen my connection and love for my body as it is now.
Today, I see my body as a physical structure made up of joints, muscles, ligaments, and more. I see my body as a chakra hub that allows me to challenge my own insecurities in my body. I see my body as a curvaceous figure with the same ability to advance in my yoga practice. I see my body in all its glory.
Now, I encourage others to love their curves and embrace their shape.
Since graduating with my yoga teacher training certificate in December of 2016, I’ve dedicated myself to teaching an inclusive yoga class for all levels and all body types. You’ll see many different body types in my classes, from the long and lean to the built and curvy.
I commit to teaching a class that will make every single body and body type feel accepted. I use terms like "booty meat" and "love handles" to guide my students. I encourage dancing after balancing and weight-bearing poses that can often leave us with destructive self-talk. I encourage taking it easy in child’s pose if your body is just not feeling another vinyasa flow. I encourage saying kind words to your body during resting poses like downward-facing dog or the last pose of savasana.
Though each day is not perfect and I have my own stumbles with self-talk, getting on the mat or teaching a class always gets me back in the right mindset. I love and appreciate my body for what it does, how it moves, and what it looks like. Yoga helped me get there and will help me stay there.
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