yoga + body image
I've been teaching yoga full time for 9 months now. I'm learning about myself on a whole new level as this role called 'yoga teacher' is now my career defined self. There are so many pangs of guilt and insecurity surrounding this role as I struggle with my relationship to my eating disorder, body image and how close knit this all is to my yoga practice.
Scroll through Instagram, check out local studios websites and banners on their front doors - how yoga is portrayed is not what yoga IS. I know this, I believe this, I have experienced this - but I still want to look like those bodies on Instagram, on signage and become who my teachers have. A healthy person wouldn't see a problem in wanting to progress or become more like their teachers as they grow, practicepracticepractice, change and learn more about asana. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about skinny, thin, strong, lean, hyper flexible, a show off for a snapshot. I don't want to practice to become that list of things, but I have a burning desire to be thin and show the world how cool I am.
Where did this come from?
After all I've been through, how is skinny still a burning desire in my mind and throughout my everyday?
I would not define myself with an eating disorder anymore. I would say I struggle with my body image - but I think that's a (sad) normal, and I am working towards acceptance. If I cannot accept this body size, then I have to change this body size in a healthy way with nourishing, fueling foods and workouts that suit my constitution and motivation. I know myself and this body well. It's the mind, it's the thoughts, it's the haunting dreams that stump me. They cut off all chance of positivity and dangle these awful, yet beautiful forms of comfort in the depression, struggle and starving that I've become accustomed to. These things so tangible and within my reach. It's very easy to go back and to give in to the life that was toxic. The fear of becoming what and who you really want to be disappears because there is nothing but pain. Pain is very easy to console and to hide. My pain prescription was seeking comfort in food, alcohol, sex, codependent relationships, working nonstop ... Sound familiar?
But happiness, fulfillment and contentment come with a lot of fear to push through. Can I really be an authentic yoga teacher? Can I truly live and practice what I preach to others? How can I afford life? Will people take me seriously when I feel as though I'm 20 pounds overweight? How can I have a daily yoga practice when it's not Ashtanga Yoga? I wonder what my teacher thinks of me being a 'teacher'? I'm ashamed I can't go back to that space. I'm ashamed I want to.
I'm so fearful of my past experience with a hardcore Ashtanga practice that I want to dive back in. I want to go back to the source and fix it. I'm a fixer, I'm a doer, I'm a people pleaser. I can do it better this time around! I won't let the teachers get the best of me, I will practice for myself, for my body, I will listen to pain and say 'no, do not touch me today'. I will honor the lineage, never skip the pranayama and feel utterly amazing (insert vision of skinny me on Instagram). You see, when I was a 6 day a week Ashtangi, I was skinny, I was strong, I was terrified, I was totally out of control with my eating, my emotions and my life outside the Shala was a hideous mess.
I hope you aren't taking this as I'm blaming Ashtanga or my teachers or this recipe of a daily practice - I'm blaming no one but myself for not trusting my self, this body that is amazing and my yoga mat that held space for all the answers - I simply could not listen to myself because I was not practicing for me or this body or my spirit. I was there to please the teacher, this lineage and do anything and everything they wanted me to do. Because I had nothing else to live for. I didn't think I had anything else to live for.
When I was my 'best' yoga self/student, I was tortured and suicidal. Something I really do not like to talk about. I told my boyfriend at the time, I tried to talk to my family, I went to therapy, I told my teachers. I simply made everyone uncomfortable and no one knew what to do with me. I had a 'great' life and I needed to stop being ungrateful... More fuel for the fire that I couldn't comprehend, let alone put out.
I'm pouring these thoughts out for myself. In order to paint a picture of reality, rather than remember only the good parts. The life I have currently is very close to the life I want until this one ends. I am creeping towards contentment, feeling present and very hopeful. Shiny and bright. What else could I want? Skinny. I still have not experienced skinny in a real way. I should be using the word 'healthy', but I'm not there yet. I've only been skinny in a falsehood of starving myself out of lack of control and understanding the concept of what being alive is.
Now that I am in this new life of sharing wellness and after a few years of solo self study on other continents, I feel ready to drop the burden of skinny - but feel healthy and fueled and push my body to work harder in order to be nourished and content. Perhaps weight loss will happen in the process. But for the first time in these 28 years of life, skinny will it be done the right way. Eat well, listen to what my body needs and move as much as I can - ALL WITH LOVE AND CARE FOR THIS SELF, BODY, LIFE.
We can't go back to the life we used to live, because that's the person we used to be. We are a new being with every breath. How cool is that?! We get to wake up every day and choose to be our authentic, beautiful being or we can put on a mask and a costume and pretend. Every day, every breath can feel overwhelming and stressful and inauthentic - if so, how can we change? Like baby steps, use each breath as a reminder that one day this breath will stop, we will all die. Use that idea of impermanence to live the life you truly want. One of simplicity and contentment - not comfort, toxicity, complacency and feeling utterly helpless and sinking.
I share my love of yoga and breath and meditation and art because it's what has saved my life - truly. I will not stop diving into my souls' journey because that is my duty as I continue to explore this world, this yoga practice and what being healthy means to me.