Monday, September 6, 2010

Thoughts on Yoga and Body Love

Have I mentioned that I LOVE yoga?  I do, I love it.  It makes me feel human, brings me back down to earth, and generally puts the kibosh on any internalized self-hate or crazy diet talk going on in my head.

I have a membership at a yoga studio, which I have used sporadically enough to make it not quite worth the $100 a month fee.  I have been going back and forth about keeping it, not because I don't do enough yoga, but because I can do yoga at home with relatively similar results, and without the scheduling issues.  Plus, when I do yoga at home, I really have to listen to my body.  There aren't any other bodies with me, no teacher, no other students, no nothing.  Just me, myself and I.  Uh-Oh.

When it is just me, I am really left with just me. That means that I am faced with the reality of myself, both on the mat and in life.  Whatever I do or don't do in my life is what tends to show up while attempting to do yoga at home.  Avoidance, fear, self-doubt?  There they are.  Joy, happiness, and exuberance?  They are there, too, thank goodness, but those aren't the things that need so much work. It's easy to hang out with joy when it comes up, but self-doubt? Not so much.

As I am writing this, I realize why I have been hemming and hawing about letting go of the yoga membership.  If I really just do it on my own, I have to take responsibility for my crap.  I can't blame a difficult session on the teacher, or on the distractions of other people.  The "blame" rests squarely with me.  If I don't push myself, it's because I am not pushing myself.  If I don't rest when it's appropriate, or practice as long or as often as I would like to, it's because of me.  These are things I have to look at, and respond to, in myself.

Yesterday morning I went to a meditation class, and the teacher was talking about how we have to become "warriors" by summoning the courage to truly see ourselves as we are.  It is an act of bravery to look at our own stuff, and like warriors, we have to go into battle for the higher good.  For me, this is a life and death battle. If I don't engage with myself, on the yoga mat, or on the meditation cushion, or just in life, I risk dying to the beauty of living fully, in the moment.  I risk living (or dying) under the constant tyranny of my mind - with all of the shame, blame, judgment, avoidance, anger, fear, and doubt that that entails.  That is not living!  That stinks.  It leaves me feeling confused and isolated and worn out.

It is not just that I love yoga, or mediation, it's that I have to practice these things in order to live a sane life.  I need them just to create some space between me and my crazy-ass mind!  I have to learn to listen to my body.  I have to learn when to be still, and when to move.  I have to engage with the good and the terrible in me, every day, because if I don't, I am left with no me at all.  I am left with that girl who worries about feeling fat all of the the time, who can't make sense of her life, and is stuck repeating all kinds of negative, addictive, self-harming patterns.  I can't do that anymore, so here I am.  Going in to battle, over and over again, every day. And it is worth it.

I would still like to hit a few yoga classes occasionally, but mostly I think I just need them as support for my home practice.  Classes are definitely a source of inspiration as well.  Maybe I need both, and will just have to find a balance.  Honestly, though, I love yoga whenever, and wherever, I can get it.  I feel very grateful for having yoga in my life.  Yoga allows me to appreciate and love my body, while simultaneously healing mind and spirit - which I can tell you is exactly what I need.


ila said...

I am still learning my yoga abcs, so to speak, but I want to mention what I think is an invaluable resource for fat women: Megan García's MegaYoga program, specifically designed for fat bodies. I had always wanted to practice yoga, but I could not afford the classes, and I wasn't sure I would find a fat-positive yoga studio in my town anyway. I was assured that I could learn yoga at home with a book or dvd, but most yoga books feature extremely thin women in extremely tight clothing – looking at those pictures for an hour triggered all my body anxieties in a way that canceled out the benefits of the practice. Megan Garcia's book is great in this respect because her body looks much more similar to mine (she is a plus size model and professional yoga instructor). With regular books, I was always wondering "Why does my butt stick out like this? Am I doing the pose wrong? My belly seems to be in the way, should I do the pose in a different way, or just try to suck my belly in? Maybe I am too fat to practice yoga..." And so on and so forth. García takes all these problems into consideration and explains how to modify the poses to accomodate big bellies, butts or boobs. And, unlike some other plus-size yoga programs, it is not geared toward weight loss: she is extremely body-positive and great for those who want a FA-HAES oriented practice.

Rachel said...

Thanks, ila! I am all about fat positive yoga! Yay! I used Rodney Yee's book "Moving Toward Balance." It has 8 weeks worth of daily practice that helps you start a home practice. It starts out easy, and gets harder as it goes. It doesn't have super-skinny "yoga-fairy" ladies, as my husband calls them. :) I get triggered by that,too, and then start thinking I "ought" to be skinny to do yoga, which we all know is total crap.

Heidi G. said...

You could try There aren't any fat instructors, but they aren't all young and thin, either. I like that some of the sessions are short, you can even search by length.

I get the part about listening to yourself. I don't go to classes anymore because I can so easily lose track of myself and get injured.

First time here, via the fat-o-sphere.

Rachel said...

Glad you're here, Heidi! I have injured myself in classes, too. I think there is just more "group think" going on, and less awareness of what actually feels right to one's own body.