I was invited to a Yoga 2eXceL class by one of my friends. When I learned that it was a class for bigger bodies I leapt at the chance. I was a fitness yogi eight years ago. I treated yoga then as a nice alternative to kickboxing and spinning class. I was four sizes smaller and worked out for fun. But things changed as I found other things that I wanted to invest my time in: my career, having a baby, ice cream.
I spent so much time in shame during the first few months. I felt like I was trying to keep up with everyone around me. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything right. I felt body-conscious and uncomfortable in my yoga clothes. At the end of every class I felt like crying in savasana. I would settle on my mat and feel the lump rising in my throat.
But I kept coming.
When I met my practice, we were not friends. I had the wrong body, the wrong mentality, the wrong heart on my mat. I compared myself to the people beside me. I assumed my practice and my body would be able to accomplish the same things as the people in class with me. I assumed I should have the same practice as everybody else in the room. I thought I could emotionally badger myself into improving.
“Send it love”
Something that Belinda says in class fairly regularly is “Send it love.” Usually it’s in reference to some group of muscle tissue that is burning in protest. I have heard a number of the other teachers saying some version of this. I take it to mean that when your body is pushing against you, making you uncomfortable, you choose to lean into the discomfort. Instead of forcing your body to your will or relenting and easing the strain, you allow it to burn and are grateful for the fact that you have muscles and strength and the ability to be there in your practice on your mat. As you send your body love, the longer you think positively about your flesh and its capabilities, the more you practice being grateful and loving, the easier it becomes to let go of the mean voice in your head.
I not only had to practice the poses and movements, I had to practice the spirit of generosity; the comfortable seat within my own skin.
I had to spend time practicing love of myself, and not just my physical self; my heart and my brain and my feelings.
I practiced being comfortable with how much I sweat (which is a lot).
I practiced turning my phone off for an hour and a half to just take care of myself.
I practiced being satisfied when I can’t access a pose or I need to give myself a break.
I practiced moving my body around; touching my stomach and thighs to help me sit more deeply in a pose or to allow me more space to stretch.
I practiced prioritizing my own emotional health and calm.
I practice abstaining from self cruelty.
What I have learned so far is that I don’t know very much. I am still so new to my practice. I find myself slipping back into bad habits on my mat just as much as I slip into bad habits off the mat.
I find myself using anger to fuel my poses.
I find myself getting frustrated with the shape of my body and the consistency of my flesh. I find myself trying to force quiet over self-doubt.
But I have also found that the more I practice loving who I am, the easier it is to be nice to myself.
It has become easier to give myself food that nourishes me. I have learned that food that brings only pleasure and not necessarily nourishment (ice cream) is important for other reasons. It has become easier to give myself time to recover from stress. It has become easier to expect to be treated well.
I have learned that I am beautiful and can say it without any qualifiers. And that I am not failing myself when I don’t feel beautiful, I just need to practice.
I have learned to let go of relationships that I tried to control and feelings that I battled constantly. When my brain is in turmoil I remember I just need to “send it love.”
Community happens at each class
I have met so many people who are struggling and fighting and practicing and it is so humbling and satisfying to be a part of community that happens at each class. I have learned to let people like me and not try to talk them out of it. I have learned to let people not like me and not try to talk them out if it.
I have found a space in the studio and on the mat where I can just be. Not all the time mind you. But I am still practicing.