I’m not the thickest or the most toned but dammit I love being me! Yoga has me all in my feelings in different ways. When I walked into my first Bikram class at Bikram Yoga Andersonville I was nervous, mostly I was nervous because it was a hot class and I was going to be 1/2 dressed and my fragile ego was about to be exposed and reflected back to everyone else in that space. I was consumed with looking acceptable in a class where I was attending it to accept myself.
I had never realized how uncomfortable I was in my own body. I mean I was healthy but def out of shape…I was in a shape though LOL many shapes. It wasn’t as bad as I feared. There were people of all shapes, ages and body abilities surrounding me. I’ve practiced next to pregnant bodies, bodies with missing limbs and even a circus professional at one time (he was quite bendy); at no time did I feel the yoga community around me was condemning me for what I had characterized as a “mishapen” body.
I practiced in that studio for a couple of years, I loved every minute of it; slowly I learned to love every inch of myself. For the most part I began to take my practice a little more emotionally serious, I had an entire 90 minutes to focus on me and I could just go through the motions or I could feel them in my heart and mind. I began to dismiss stereotypes and lies I told myself, I also began to affirm who I was and not what I wasn’t.
You can type in the #curvyyoga and get back tons of options for following yogis with curves and lots of heart. Jasmine Stanley is one of my absolute favorite yogis with her inspirational posts of her poses and her yogi lifestyle ( IG @mynameisjessamyn) as well as Anna Guest-Jelley who is the founder of Curvy Yoga.
I practiced in that studio for a couple of years, I loved every minute of it; slowly I learned to love every inch of myself.
These ladies continuously make moves to help refocus the practice of yoga from the type of body that we believe is worthy of such a lovely gift. It isn’t just thin people who get to love themselves and it isn’t as though yoga in this sense is being promoted to help women or men loose weight at least not weight in a physical sense. What yoga instructors do is hold a space for students to drop emotional weight. People walk through those doors everyday carrying all sorts of crap in their heads and hearts not just their midsections.
It wasn’t untilI developed a strong sense of body awareness that I was able to discern what I needed to address in my life that was leading me to dislike myself. It is hard to love and hate at the same time and my yoga practice which includes meditation and mindfulness began to help me see the truth in myself. The truth was that I was hurting myself, I was lying to myself and I was unhappy with my life. The truth was that I felt confused, I felt unworthy and I felt disgusting, yet I woke up everyday with the mantra “fake it till you make it” playing on repeat in my head. Fake that happiness until it becomes real we are told! That so isn’t true.
Slowly I began to see that it wasn’t my physical body that was the problem, my body was a reflection of my lack of sleep, my poor diet and from dehydration. I had bad habits that turned into patterns. These patterns all seemed so impossible to address, I didn’t know where to begin so I just let myself go because it was easier to fake it than tease apart this web of complex life stuff. I have three things that helped me swerve my ego accept my curves and love both my practice and myself that I will share.
Give yourself permission to be comfortable
Yoga isn’t something that has too many requirements. If you have breath and a beating heart well then that is all you need. However physically that can be daunting for a woman with curves considering movement. My breasts are large for my body at a size 10, so there are pieces of clothing that are essential for me to have a comfortable practice. Sometimes I have to wear a super tight sports bra other times I wear nothing at all, or I will wrap a scarf around the girls and tie it in the back. The beauty of an at home practice is no one is there to see a boob show!
LOL But in all seriousness discomfort can be distracting. I get it, I go through it. When I bend over things fall out, or maybe my leggings are good to walk in but not to bend. Don’t feel too obligated to look a certain way but I do encourage looking good to feel good though. Be mindful of what you wear and make sure you feel supported and comfortable during your practice as well as off the mat.
Use props to make poses accessible
Yoga can be a little intimidating regardless of curves. A tight body sometimes needs a little help from a friendly prop. There are yoga blocks, yoga straps, yoga wheels, dowels and then there is the trusty old wall and my favorite which are bolsters. Anything actually can be a prop around you and there are many ways that props can support you. There are some ways to engage a prop that will help make poses accessible and others that will offer you to do more work. Besides, playing with toys is fun and it gives you a chance to experiment and have fun.
Yoga isn’t always this serious thing we do…loving is easy and its carefree and it doesn’t judge. So instead of damn near dying splitting yourself in 1/2 to accomplish a split use some yoga blocks for a variation or use the wall to do chair pose, whatever
you do you don’t have to hurt yourself to feel good. Oh and pillows are yummy for evening practices as well.
Move things out the way
I giggled so hard when my instructor said “soft tissue issues” because I had never thought of moving my body out the way to get into or out of a pose. All the videos you see of yoga online shows a thin woman with no fat and no worries finding zen and flowing so gracefully. But in reality some of us have hips and butts for days, some of us have large breasts or waistlines that seem to be barriers for finding internal emotional balance. Well ladies all you have to do is move things around. Sometimes I have to shift the girls apart or lift them out the way even to get into folds. It is your body and you get to help make it feel fabulous. If you are in a pose and recognize there are some soft tissue issues, check in with it and play around with moving your body in ways that give you your work and make you feel well.
Overall your body shape or size shouldn’t discourage you from practicing yoga. I have had the most amazing moments in my life from this experience and I don’t know where I would be emotionally or mentally without it. My size isn’t so much an issue anymore as my attention is more focused on learning about how to exist as myself; which includes loving myself fully and accepting myself and offering that to the world. You don’t have to go around faking you love yourself….true self love begins when you believe it and its real and you practice it so you know its real. There are no gimmicks, there are no time limits, there is you, your intention and your practice of self love.