Have you said this to yourself? Has your friend invited you to a yoga class but you have resisted because of your body image? Do you think you “can’t do” yoga because you aren’t thin or flexible? That others in the class won’t welcome you or will make fun of you? I too used to think I couldn’t do yoga because I wasn’t flexible enough. For the longest time I was drawn to yoga, but I resisted. I still don't really know what the call was, but it was there. Yes, I'm still a work in progress. Yoga is a practice, and just because I now teach yoga doesn't mean I am perfect. I still have my shadow side that I work with.
The images I had always seen of yoga were of skinny young women/girls with their legs behind their heads or standing on their heads. I knew that my body could not do much of the things you see in mainstream media and lately on social media. I thought I had to look or be able to move a certain way to "do" yoga. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Yoga meets you where you are today, not where you think you should be or want to be.
In February 2014 I was at my highest weight. The picture to the left was taken February 3rd, 2014. It may look as if I weighed way more than I actually did. I was sandwiched between two people in the back seat of a car, in upstate NY, bundled against sub-zero temps. The picture is horrible, but it was actually a very happy day for me.
A few weeks later, on March 8, 2014 at the age of 50, I walked kicking and screaming through the doors of Weight Watchers, determined to lose weight, but more importantly keep my health. Believe it or not this was not my first rodeo with Weight Watchers, in 1994 I lost 32 lbs. After a few years of maintaining that loss, those pounds found their way back and brought some friends along. My weight that March day was logged at 179.4 lbs. I set my "new" goal weight at 128 lbs. The highest "ideal" weight for my "want to be" height. Those of you who know me, know I can only claim to be 5' tall if I have heels on, and tell a tall tale, lol. However, I wanted to have a goal that would be not only be achievable but would be sustainable. If I lost past that and could sustain it great, but I wanted to set myself up for success, not failure right out of the gate.
A few weeks later, my daughter drug me through the doors of Gold's Gym, again kicking and screaming...see a pattern here? I was not a gym person. I was never an athletic "type". Hell, it didn't take me long, in high school, to figure out if I didn't "dress out" for gym I would not be allowed to participate. Yep, I proudly flunked gym!! That was far preferable to being shamed for not being good at various sports, being picked last for teams, and then laughed at when I missed catching a ball or missing a hoop when we had to play basketball...when you are less than 5' tall basketball is not your finest hour. Kids can be extremely cruel. I found I was fairly good at weightlifting, and when it came time for that segment I was happy to have found something that I could do on my own. I now know that I was so ill-equipped for gym because as a young child I was not able or allowed to romp and play with or like the other kids. That just was not done; in my mothers world...I had no skills for sports and maybe I was afraid to develop them, (this is a whole new story or series of stories) maybe one day I will share more. It is certainly part of my story and yoga helps us to deal with, acknowledge the stories, hold space for them, and grow. Honestly, I'm still growing and learning to hold space for myself and those things. It's not easy.
After being coerced through the doors of the gym, I found out there were two yoga classes. Well, heck, it was part of my membership; I might as well try it. Right? After all, I had wanted to for years. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't have to go back. The first class was extremely popular, barely mat room. Kim Murphy was the teacher. Little did I know, that Tuesday night, Kim was/is an extremely popular yoga teacher. Through the years, she has become a trusted friend, a mentor, and was my teacher for my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). That night a couple of nice ladies moved their mats so that my daughter and I could set our mats down next to each other. I guess we looked completely lost and out of place. I made it through that first class and I did not die. In fact, although I'm sure I was terrible at what I was doing, I knew I wanted to continue.
So, come Thursday night I was back for round two. Thursday was a different teacher, Dave Asher. Dave, is almost the complete opposite of Kim, but although different, I found something in his class too that kept me going back. Dave, actually started his yoga journey as one of Kim's students too. Dave, has become a friend and mentor, and was one of my biggest supporters when I was going through my YTT. Dave, now attends one of my classes fairly regularly. When Dave and Kim first came to one of my classes, I must say I was scared...poop-less (I'm being nice with my words). I had big time jitters and fell down the comparison hole. Sometimes, I still do. There's another post for another time, too.
I continued with this practice called yoga. I continued going to the gym and following the Weight Watchers plan. Over time I got some strange idea to run a half marathon...oh another story. Before I reached my goal weight, I ran a very slow half marathon. I made it to my goal weight in less than a year and continued to lose weight well past my original goal weight from 1994. I continued to run, and started powerlifting, thanks to my personal trainer Jeff Woods. Some days I still think he's out to kill me, but he knows what buttons to push and has found my currency, lol. I often tell him I hate him, lol, but he knows I love him (I think). He certainly has "my number". My training motto is "I won't quit but I will cuss the whole time". If you don't believe it, ask Jeff. That poor man has probably wanted to wash my mouth out with soap, more than once!!!
When I started training with Jeff, I had made it to my "goal" weight.
I didn't start out powerlifting, with Jeff, just strength training. Somewhere along the way that morphed into more. I can't even say I know when that happened. One day I was just squatting and picking up heavy stuff and then all of a sudden, I was deadlifting 185 lbs. Around six pounds more than my highest weight. This was a major PR!
If you are so inclined to watch, below is the video of that 185 lb lift. I had not planned to lift that day. But three years later I am still riding that high!
As I began my YTT, I stopped lifting. My YTT requirements left little time for more. It was nice to have a break, but I didn't realize how much I enjoyed lifting. It gave me a "high". Through yoga, I realized I enjoyed this because I was good at it. There was no competition with anyone but myself (unless I wanted it to be).
Yoga is the same way. There is no competition with anyone else. The person on the mat next you is on their own journey, just as you are. We all have our shadow side. Yoga helps us to see it, accept it, and move forward.
Last fall I started lifting again and set a new PR. Of course that was cut short this spring when the gyms closed. One day I will lift again. When I'm not sure, but I will. Maybe when I get that text from Jeff telling me to get my a$$ to the gym on Sunday morning. Maybe sooner.
Over the past year or so, I have gained a few of those lost pounds back. I am now a bit over that "new goal" weight.
I say I'm not happy with that, but is that true? Maybe I am coming to accept that I'm right where I'm meant to be. I try to continue to eat healthfully (most of the time) but I will admit the events of these past few months have seen me in the junk food, for comfort more than I want to be. I will pledge to make a better effort to leave that stuff alone, and see where things lead. I will not allow myself to back to where I started. That is not a healthy place to be. I have too much to live for to go back and continue down that path. If I were still lifting, Jeff would tell me it's muscle, but not this time. I have fallen prey to the Covid-10. It's definitely time to reign that in.
All this is to say. There is no "yoga body". The only thing you need to have a yoga body is to "Have a body and do yoga". I hope I have in some way inspired you to take to the mat and give yoga a try. Your future self will thank you.
As we traverse these current and uncertain times many yoga classes are live via zoom. You can practice in your own home, in a place that is comfortable for you. There is no need to go to a gym or studio. If you are not comfortable being with others, check out my live zoom schedule. You can still have the yoga community, but not have to be there in person. If the classes listed don't work with your schedule, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer private classes or I may be able to add a new class that will work for you. I will continue to offer this online studio and community. When things are safer and we begin to return some normalcy, I will try to begin to offer some outdoor classes. That may be farther in the future than I would like, but I want to make sure I can offer a safe environment should I offer in person classes.
Until the next time, I hope you'll
Meet me on the Mat