Earlier this week I posted a quote from renowned yoga teacher Donna Farhi - “an authentic yoga practice is anything that nourishes an individual so that they can truly befriend themselves.” And I have to be honest, my yoga practice does nourish me - it makes me feel whole and full but I am afraid to admit that I am still not quite there on befriending my body.
So, real talk time: As a yoga teacher, I tend to be pretty tight lipped about my private life. This blog has been mostly focused on asana, technique and philosophy. But lately, I’ve been doing a lot of self inquiry, and as I am always on a quest to be more fully me in my teaching… I think it might be time to open up a bit and allow for some public vulnerability.
I don’t want to fight with myself anymore. I don’t want to shame my body anymore. Ever since I hit puberty, I have spent so much time and energy quietly worrying about my body, its size, the size I wish it was, and the things I should be doing to make my body be the way I want it to be. All the while I claim to be “body positive.” I don’t talk about getting a “bikini body” in my yoga classes, I cheer on friends and strangers alike who are outwardly accepting of their bodies, even enjoying their bodies just as they are. I like their photos, share their articles and say to myself, “How wonderful! That’s so awesome for them!” I have had many a conversation with students who come to me with their own hangups about their physical body, and I with compassion, explain that it’s not about the shape or size of the body but what it is capable of, what makes you feel alive and full and happy that matters.
I was a fraud. I was talking the talk, but not walking the walk. I was faking it, til I made it. While I believed all of these things, I only believed in all of these things for other people… I could never be like that. I could never be happy with the way I look until my waist got down to a certain number or my weight dropped back to my lowest adult weight (which by the way I only got there twice, once after my first major breakup and I couldn’t eat without crying and the second time was when I was going to the gym 5 days a week and on a heavily restrictive diet). I had been asking others to befriend their bodies when I myself had not done so myself.
Although I am not over-weight or unhealthy, I told myself that I don’t belong because I don’t into fit the stereotypical “yoga teacher” mold, I convinced myself that if only I were smaller I’d have more students come to my classes, that it was normal to skip meals and weigh myself everyday and to punish myself by starving or running on the elliptical if the numbers on the scale didn’t adjust to my liking. Publicly I had been teaching my students about self-acceptance, self-care and self-love while internally I had been waging a long held war.
A common theme in my teaching comes from the Bhagavad Gita: “you have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions.” I often paraphrase this idea in my teaching and ask my students to be interested in the actions behind the pose they are doing rather than seduced by the outer shape of the pose. Now, I am trying to take a page our of my own book and am asking myself - can I be more interested in actions of my body, what makes it feel good, how it wants to move, what food fuels it in a pleasing and effective way?
I know this is just one step on my road towards less disordered thinking towards my body (I am an imperfect human after all) but just like yoga, it will have to be a practice. So, here’s my pledge to you and more importantly to myself - I am going to practice yoga in the most authentic way I can and work to be more interested in nourishing and befriending my body just as it is and to be less interested in its outer shape.
ps. If you are struggling with some of these same thoughts and feelings, this book did a lot to help me as I've been working through these issues:
Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight-- and What We Can Do about It
7/19/2017 10:19:40 am
Kate, your beauty shines from a light inside and outside of you. You're so beautiful that it's astounding you can't see it and feel it; but perhaps not really since I know intimately how harsh and severe the self critic is. My roommate adores your yoga teaching. He wouldn't miss it if humanly possible. But you're right: the loving and nurturing and reassuring must come from within before the outward appreciation can carry any conviction. That's the hardest work there is, and like you, I'm struggling with it every day. I played tennis yesterday with a good friend. She's the type who can walk into a group and engage meaningfully and comfortably with everyone there. I was explaining to her how that is very difficult for me, and not because I'm anti-social (far from it), but because I'm not convinced they would want to talk to me or find me at all worth their time. My friend's name is Jeanne, and I've been repeating her response to myself often since yesterday. She said, "I simply say to myself 'What isn't there to like about Jeanne?' " This exchange and your honesty is inspiring me to rethink and recalibrate my own conversations with myself. And in your case, I can easily say "What isn't extraordinary about Kate?" I just hope one day you can say it just as easily. You are extraordinary!
7/19/2017 02:44:21 pm
Thank you for your thoughtful and kind words Pamela - I was so nervous to open up about this, but your response reminds me that we are all so much more alike then we are different and we should be able to be more open and honest about the things that we struggle with. Maybe by holding each other up we will have an easier time holding ourselves up too.
7/19/2017 08:56:47 pm
Beautiful share. So in love with your honesty and what a reminder for myself. Thank you❤
7/20/2017 08:04:20 am
Thank you, dear Caitlyn. It means a lot to me that you'd read this and even more that it moved you in some way. <3
7/20/2017 10:30:53 pm
My sweet Kate. You must know that you're not alone. I went through my share of issues, and it's truly so hard. We are so convinced that we have to be obsessed with the way we look. We don't! I know you will do good work with this and come out so happy and shiny and an even better teacher on the other side. You are going to learn so much about yourself. The book Intuitive Eating really helped me in my most difficult times, if you're interested.
7/21/2017 09:36:14 am
Thanks so much for reading Kat! As nerve wracking as it was to post this, I am happy I did because it has shown me how many of us are dealing or have dealt with these thoughts and illuminating these distorted visions of ourselves is just one step closer to healing. Would LOVE to catch up in person, message/text me save for a few weekends I am around most of the rest of the summer <3
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Yoga Teacher based in Boston, MA. Teacher of Yoga Teachers. Committed to teaching anatomical, alignment & action based yoga asana that is rooted in mindfulness, skillfulness, & specificity.