I was raised to carve out my worth in measurable actions. The things I did that set me apart - that was where my worth was found - and it was always the ONLY place my worth was found, for a long time.
I've come a long way since then, but still find that my inner voice often tries to redirect me back to this line of thinking.
I've been working on some projects for a while now. They're slow-going but seeing some real momentum lately. And then, someone else in this body positive or all bodied yoga world launches the very thing I've been working on (something much like it) and I deflate.
It's not the first time I've felt this way. I felt this way when I was opening my studio and when I was focusing more online. I'd have a great idea and be in the process of making it happen, and someone else would get there first...someone with a bigger following, a larger base of support, someone "better" than me, my little inner voice would whisper "what the heck are you even trying?"
My self-limiting beliefs center around worth and wondering, sometimes, if what I have to offer is wroth sharing. That's when I'm having a bad day.
Then I remember, wait.... MOST people doing work they love doing out in the world are doing it beside hundreds, thousands or MORE people doing the same 'type' of work, and it doesn't stop THEM so what's my problem? ;)
Not believing in myself is my problem. Believing in myself is still something that takes constant work (practice!!!) to do with any consistency and I've been on this self-love journey for a while, y'all.
So I want you to know, that if I have been on a conscious self-love/self-worth journey for YEARS and still have days - hell... weeks... MONTHS where I struggle with believing in myself, then don't you DARE think that it's somehow not normal that you doubt yourself, too.
We all have different life experiences.
Some of us have grown up in environments that did not cultivate self-worth and confidence and we struggle... hard... to recognize our worth/value. Some of us have grown up in environments that did cultivate self-worth and confidence and still struggle. There is no checklist for this. There's no magic "ON" button for self-confidence and self-belief.
It's a decision.
I make the decision to believe that my voice matters - not once, but every single day. Every day. Especially on days that I struggle.
And sometimes I believe myself.
And sometimes I don't.
But I keep at it.
Because, as I keep saying, - self-love is a PRACTICE, so just like I step on my mat to practice yoga, I step into the world and I practice self-love, confidence, and the embodiment of self-worth.
It starts, though, with acknowledging the struggle and remembering that it's okay. It's just busting through one wall at a time. <3
And as for me? I'm still moving forward with EVERY ONE of my passion projects, because I think they're valuable and I have a voice that matters, even when other people are saying something similar. Different people, different personalities, different paths - and mine is uniquely mine. Some of you are gonna gravitate to what i have to offer. And some of you are gonna gravitate to someone else's style - and it's all okay because...
...I've decided to follow my heart and my truth - no matter what.
Never underestimate the power of a new beginning.
This past Monday, as my Bears settled in for our opening Savasana to prepare for our practice, I guided their attention to their exhale. Instead of guiding them into a particular breath pattern or pace, I asked them to focus on completely letting go of their breath - letting all the air go, even facilitating the exit of their breath with a gentle squeeze of their belly in towards their spine. And then.... allowing the inhale to happen - passively - as truly it's intended. I described the space we create in our lungs when we get rid of all that old, stale breath. Space for new, fresh oxygen. And with this biological understanding of the breath, I directed their attention to this same energy in their lives...
When in your life have you put your energy into an ending, really watched and celebrated, even facilitated it? Have you ever? Endings are powerful, beautiful, life-altering things. Even the small ones. They are also hard, challenging, often painful things. But, no matter how hard or easy, how small or big, endings create much needed space in our lives.
Space for newness. Space for the next thing. Space for the next adventure, the next journey, the next great love.
It's hard to see it that way, when you're in it.
Ending sometimes start to feel very, very permanent. And yes, that's the whole point of an ending. But that feeling that it's never going to end - that feeling? That's a lie. Because at a certain point, the ending is complete. You've exhaled out all that can be exhaled and now, all that's left is space - space to take in.
I closed my studio a little over a year ago. It was a difficult ending for many reasons, as I've written about before. But what I only recently realized, is how hard I was holding on to the process of it ending. I was grasping and holding on to it, to associated feelings of guilt and of frustration and disillusionment. I was ACTIVELY trying to let go, to move forward. I was trying to force a process that can not be forced. I was trying to tell myself I was 'over it', when I wasn't. But I also felt helpless to change how I was feeling. I was confused. I was left with all this uncertainty, asking myself - would I ever be into teaching again like I was before I opened the studio?
I have so much passion for this practice and for the body image work that's so important to me, it seemed so strange to feel so ... well... "meh"... about it. So, I had quite a few false starts. I did a few projects, dabbled... enjoyed the doing of things, but lacked the energetic lift I was used to that could carry me forward.
And then, we moved.
You see, two years ago, we'd moved to the same town as the studio, so that I could be close enough to spend a LOT of time there, so I could pour my heart and soul into it and then pour my body into bed at the end of a long day. The sole reason for the move, was to support the business.
And so, I suppose it should be no great surprise that living there after the studio closed, just blocks away, might have gotten in the way of me finishing the process of letting it go. But here I am, surprised. ;)
My wife and I moved out of that town exactly two weeks ago, and I feel like I've undergone a HUGE energetic overhaul. New home, back in the same town we lived before we moved to be closer to the studio, and a huge part of the move was making sure there were open spaces I could practice, and maybe teach in. Space to film videos.
There were other factors of course, factors I told myself were more important - a shorter commute, room for the dogs to play and be comfortable, more room to have company, to entertain friends. And all of these things are great....
But, funny enough, almost all I've been talking and thinking about since we started the moving process is all the ways this move facilitates me teaching and pursuing my passions. Now that I'm settled in, I'm bursting with excitement and energy for projects that have been simmering in my heart and are now at a full rolling boil.
Not false-start back. Like, back back! :) And back in a totally new way.
Because, what I realized I have now, is absolute freedom. Freedom to teach from my heart, to focus on my passions, without the anxiety of what will pay the bills for a studio space. I can focus on my body image work, on training teachers, on partnering with studios and other teachers who are aligned with what is authentic for me and what I have to share. I can record videos. I can offer online courses. I can try and do whatever I want and not feel like a failure if something doesn't work out.
Because, here's the thing.... I opened and closed a brick & mortar business, and I don't feel like a failure. There's no such thing. As cliche as it sounds, the failure would have been not trying. And I have learned SO much about what lights me up, and what doesn't. I've learned where I shine, where it works and is effortless, and I've discovered some hidden passions I never knew existed (like public speaking!).
All those "false starts", I mentioned? They weren't false after all. They were just starts. Explorations. Adventures. And now, I have some amazing things to share with all of you.
I've just allowed the biggest, freshest, breath in - and it feels amazing! See you soon.
At this event, WE (this community!) raised a total of $1148.00. We discovered when we took the money to the local TD to donate it that TD matches before it goes out. So that turns the $1148 into $2296 which, once matched by the Canadian govt equals a final total of $4592 to benefit Fort McMurray - and I don't know how to thank you all enough. Some of you came and enjoyed a class, some volunteered, some shopped, some donated just to donate, and some did all of the above. Whether you came by just to say hello or otherwise - you are so appreciated.
To all those who donated time and services and skills (crafty, yoga, zumba, tai-chi, baking, reiki), to the Open Door Church who generously donated the space and also supported the event in several ways, to the experienced students and the curious who came and tried their first ever yoga or tai-chi class or had their first Reiki experience, to the volunteers who managed the money, helped set up, take down, manage the tables or do all of the above, and to everyone who donated an item (or several!) to the sales..... thank you. ♥ Truly. I want to especially thank my wife, Peggy, without whom I would have never even attempted to take something like this on - she is my wrangler and my sanity and my Big Picture Thinker (love you honey!). ♥ Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Please help me show our gratitude by supporting the businesses and organizations who supported our efforts with generous donations and volunteer time:
open door church - A beautiful church, a warm and inviting congregation and a community with a huge heart in Maple Ridge, BC
Fiesta Latina Fitness - Zumba Classes by the bright and energetic Elena Villacis and her team in Maple Ridge, BC
Maple Ridge Florist Ltd - Beautiful floral arrangements, plants, gifts and bath and beauty in Maple Ridge, BC
Brian G. Day, Brijute Tai-Chi - Tai-Chi classes every Tuesday, 7pm in Maple Ridge, BC
Cedar Phoenix - Stunning hand-carved labyrinths, Maple Ridge, BC
Reiki On - Reiki and wellness products, Maple Ridge, BC
Aloha Fresh Soap - Gorgeous handmade soaps, Maple Ridge, BC
Sugaring Change - Port Moody - A natural, skin-friendly hair-removal alternative to traditional waxing (you gotta try it!) in a welcoming body-positive studio in Port Moody, BC
Meridian Farm Market - Maple Ridge - Wonderful local produce, great meat selection, deli, bakery, grocery in Maple Ridge, BC
Heartland Yoga - Heart-centred yoga by Jennifer Kauppila
Seven Hills Yoga - Deliciously stretchy Yin yoga by Jeffrey on Bowen Island, BC
Barkers and Babes Boutique - Pampering goodies for the fun loving fido and fashion loving diva
www.soldridge.arbonne.com - Skincare for women and men and other goodies
In September, I thought I'd had a big breakthrough. And... in a way, I had.
I closed the Body Positivity Yoga studio in July of last year, for a great many reasons. The majority of those reasons were practical, financial, and logical. But, I also wasn't happy. It was hard to pin down exactly why, except that I knew that turning something I loved so much into a business - at least a business I needed to rely on to keep a roof over my family's head - wasn't working. It was pulling my attention away from the things that excited me about teaching Yoga, about helping people discover their self worth and putting it all on numbers and profitability and fighting an uphill battle in a neighbourhood that was really struggling.
And, as I talked about in my last post, after I closed the doors, I also stuck my head in the sand. I hid. And, if I'm being honest, I'm still hiding. But why?
There were some things I knew deep in my heart as I closed the studio and haven't lost sight of since. I didn't regret opening the studio. Not at all. It was the big adventure. It was also the big "what if" that I may have held onto forever had I never tried. The part of owning the studio that I loved was the ways I got to help people. I love teaching. I started to feel that love slip when I was teaching too much near the end, yes. But the satisfaction of seeing a student TRY a pose they never thought they would never ebbed. The joy I felt when someone did something they didn't know their body could do never abated. I never lost the feeling of satisfaction when I could sense people's bodies and minds and spirits ACTUALLY resting in Savasana.
When I closed the studio, I kept telling people who would ask, myself, and students I ran into at the grocery store of all my plans.
But they weren't plans at all. They were the things I thought I should say and do. They felt false. "I'm going to start teaching again soon, I just don't know where!" and "I am going to open the virtual studio, I just need to get to work on it!". But was I saying that because it's what I really wanted or because it's what I thought others wanted of me?
By September, I knew I had been hiding, avoiding... not sure where to go next or what I was supposed to be doing. I knew I'd been avoiding the very topic of teaching again. My personal yoga practice had essentially disappeared. The only class I've taught since I closed the doors of the studio is the class I've taught since the very beginning - the class I teach to my Bears.
I thought I hit some big realizations in September when I made my last post. I felt... re energized... sure I wanted to continue in some fashion, even if I didn't know what that was. That is still true.
But then I dove back into hiding full force all over again.
I don't remember when Peggy first told me I felt guilty, but I do remember that the moment she said it, the conversation that followed was full of tears and hurt and big feelings that I wasn't sure what to do with.
I also knew she was right. I knew she had uncovered the very root of what was going on in my head and my heart. I did. I did feel guilty. I do. I do feel guilty.
Peggy insists that the sacrifices she and our children made to make the studio a reality were ones they didn't regret, that she didn't regret. The stress she went through staying at a job that was all wrong and making her miserable so that we could keep the doors open, the financial pressure of knowing that all the bills and our grocery money had to come out of her income because the studio didn't provide one and cost us extra most months, the emotional strain of some of my personal dysfunctions around control and triggers from my past rearing their ugly heads.... She says she doesn't regret any of it.
I don't regret it either. But I was aware, perhaps more aware than I even realized, of the sacrifices she made and the lack of benefit she received. I was aware of the ways it impacted our social life and our ability to spend time together, her working during the day and most of my prime time work being in the evenings and weekends.
And to find out, at the end, that it was closing, made me feel like I'd put her through all of that.... for nothing.
Of course, logically I know it wasn't for nothing. And I believe her when she says she would do it the same all over again (or at least mostly the same). But guilt, yes. Lots of guilt.
And what about abandoning my students? What about the feeling that I couldn't serve the need that I saw was so great? What about feeling like I was letting all of them down, many of whom had become friends and allies and cheerleaders? Yeah, more guilt.
Peggy would ask me, without any pressure, "do you WANT to still teach yoga?" and I wasn't sure. Not even a little bit sure. My personal practice nonexistent, it's like I was avoiding the topic of yoga.
Except, once a week, on Monday nights, when I teach the Bear class.
So she would ask me if I still liked teaching the Bears.
"Oh yes!" I would reply. I do love teaching the Bears. But, I rationalized to myself, maybe that's because they're all such dear friends and I'm so close with them. Maybe that's more about nostalgia.
But is that all it is?
No. It's not.
I've been convinced that the piece I wish I could have spent more time on when I was at the studio focusing on trying to get the business to be profitable and thinking about marketing..... was body image. I wish I had been able to do more workshops and classes focused specifically on body image. That's where my passion is!! Right?
Several things have been happening recently that have been bringing all of this to a head for me.
The local Provincial Eating Disorder Awareness Week begins on Sunday. And this signals two important events I am involved with are coming up.
First, I am speaking at an event I have known about for many months, the How To Love Our Bodies, Love Ourselves Pinwheel Educational Event on Thursday. I'll be telling my story and sharing my tools for a more harmonious relationship with your self and your body.
Secondly, the Love Your Body Summit is coming up - a project I am beyond excited for. A day of body love where I will be both speaking and teaching yoga. In preparation for this event, I participated in a photo shoot. By the way, the photo shoot was something else I spent a good amount of time avoiding. When trying to explain why to the very talented photographer, Michelle, I verbalized that I wasn't sure the work I wanted to do in the world was all about yoga. That I wasn't sure what to SHOW in the photo shoot because I didn't want to just be boxed in as a yoga teacher. But I didn't really know WHAT I wanted to do, so I was having a hard time expressing that. She let me off the hook when she explained the photo shoot was about how I like to feel in my body. What's important to me. Not, she implied, what others expected of me or the work I was going to do.
And so the photoshoot unfolded with some yoga, yes, but with some puppy play and coloring and Hello Kitty and suddenly I saw myself again. But when thinking of things that make me feel good in my body, practicing and teaching yoga is there. How can it not be? So maybe I wasn't as 'done' with yoga as I was starting to worry I was.
Coming up in just a few short days, I'm speaking at this event. I'm speaking about my journey to loving myself. And at the heart of this journey are two things.. .vulnerability and authenticity. Yes, yoga has a role to play. But how could I speak at that event and then again at the Love Your Body Summit this coming weekend if I still wasn't facing what I was feeling?
And then, something else happened.
A dear friend and student called me up late one weeknight to share with me some insight about the way I teach. And I remembered something I'd forgotten.
I don't teach yoga the way other people teach yoga. I made it up. The way I teach is completely different than the 'regular' way, or maybe more accurately, the 'common' way. Many of the ways I teach, I literally made up. And for a long time, that was something I didn't want to talk about. Wasn't that, after all, proof I wasn't a "real" yoga teacher?
Yes, the way I teach helps people. Yes, the way I teach is designed to make the practice work for, literally, everybody. No, I do not practice or teach advanced poses and probably never will. No, I don't really like a hardcore, sweaty practice. But all of these things have always been things I've felt somewhat self-conscious about: both the fact that I teach and practice gently and the fact that I make up yoga poses. Yes. I make them up.
But here's what I forgot, and what this student reminded me of - I teach what I teach and the way I teach and I make things up from a place of sound anatomical understanding. In other words... if I make something up it's because I KNOW that it will help my students or myself access a sensation in the body I'm after. Maybe what I am trying to get is a stretch across the quadriceps - an area that I've always found very difficult to access. Maybe the reason I made something up on the fly is because I see that a stretch I've offered is causing a student in the room to get frustrated because something about their body isn't cooperating. THAT is actually the part I get most excited to share with other yoga teachers. That's the part that hits all of my EXCITEMENT buttons.
One of the reasons I've felt so discouraged is it seems like there are these high profile body image activist yoga teacher personalities crawling out of the woodwork and I see them doing headstands and full wheels and crazy poses and think to myself, oh... that's what I could have been.
But that's because I forgot.
I forgot that I'm not them. I teach from a place that is unique. Because, I am unique. I don't have to be them. I don't have to do the work they do. I don't have to live up to a standard I've imposed on myself in order to offer something valuable to the world.
I've been overlooking, this whole time, that the very thing I felt self-conscious about, the way I make things up... is the very reason that my method of teaching is helpful to people who don't feel like they can do yoga... especially the yoga they see in most studios.
I have something valuable to offer the world that I forgot about. That I, in fact, was hiding.
I get excited about discussions around self-worth and body image, yes. This is a passionate part of my work, a part that I will never shut up about. Except that isn't an experience exclusive to larger bodies, something I also spoke passionately about. Something that also sometimes gets forgotten when I get tunnel visioned about the work I thought I was supposed to be doing.
But, I forgot that I get just as excited about anatomy and redesigning this practice of yoga. I get excited about the fact that I can share a particular experience with five different students in five different ways and prep their bodies for a later pose knowing I've given them what they need to BE prepped for that pose.
I forgot that what I have to offer is about MORE than showing larger bodied people that yes, they too can do yoga.
What I have to offer is showing ALL people that yes.. you can do yoga.
When I woke up this morning, I remembered that I get to do this thing I do any way I want to do it and that it's okay and it doesn't make me less of a teacher.
The most profound thing about this realization is that I literally am the last to figure it out. I can almost guarantee that anyone who has taken my classes or workshops, teachers I've trained or people who have recognized how different my style of teaching is already knows this is what makes it so helpful.
And here I am, just now figuring out that it's not about me being in a larger body. It's about how I used my experience in a larger body to relate to any body, any student's frustration with their body when it comes to accessing 'classical' yoga poses.
By focusing only on the idea that what made me special as a teacher was my larger bodied experience with yoga, I have been selling myself short. Very short.
To borrow a word my dear friend and student used in that conversation....
Perhaps what I teach isn't so much yoga for larger bodies, as it is accessible yoga. Which, of course... includes larger bodies, but isn't exclusive to larger bodies.
With this realization, I think I finally have an image in my mind of what I want to do next.
And all it took was letting go of what I thought I should be doing.....
I'm not saying when this will all unfold. But now I understand why I want it to. And that is what has been eluding me for so many months. I finally understand where my desire rests.
I can't wait to see where this takes me.
When I read this quote this morning, I knew it was time to break my silence and come out of hiding.
I've been sitting here staring at the blank screen for longer than I care to admit, because I just can't think of the best way to begin this blog post. But, I suppose the important thing is just to begin.
In July, I closed the Body Positivity Yoga studio. And I've sort of been hiding out ever since. I guess you could say that I, metaphorically, dove under the covers and stayed there for a while. I suppose that I could call it "regrouping", which was certainly a part of it. But, if I'm being really honest, I think I just didn't know how - or if - I should move forward with this work that I love.
To my supportive community of students and teachers and friends, I've been saying "I didn't fail, and I don't regret a moment!". Over and over and over again. And it felt really true. But now it's time to get really honest - with you all and with myself.
The nuts and bolts of what happened were largely financial. There were some challenges in the neighbourhood and other behind-the-scenes problems. But the decision was made when my wife unexpectedly found herself unemployed and, suddenly, the realities of the studio's financial position could no longer be ignored. We essentially lost the luxury of waiting for business to build up enough to be truly self-sustaining - a luxury I had been, admittedly, taking for granted.
When you need to choose between keeping a business or keeping a roof over your family's head, it's really not a choice at all. So, in many ways, that part of the decision was easy.
After the decision was made, I made sure that those who would be affected were notified and given as much notice as possible. I was honestly terrified of the response I would get. I expected people to be frustrated and angry at me for not finding a way to make it work. But, while there was plenty of sadness to go around to see our little community space closing it's doors, what I felt most was love and support and understanding.
As business was winding down, I was trying to wrap my mind around how we could or should continue. How could I keep doing this work and take care of my family?
The short-term answer was, I couldn't. Not at first.
My wife Peggy went through a number of health challenges in recent months and I went through some day-job employment struggles, all of which reinforced the decision I'd made about the business. I can't imagine how things would have gone if I had tried to continue the business through all of that. And, I think that sometimes life has a way of showing us what really matters. And making a "living", teaching Yoga, was suddenly pretty low on the priority list. And I'll admit that, during my time under the covers, I questioned if I really still wanted to teach at all.
The answer was far from simple.
I love Yoga. I love teaching Yoga. More importantly, I love teaching body acceptance and connection to Self through Yoga. When I am offering Body Positivity workshops, events or yoga classes, I really feel like I'm making a difference. And I miss that work. But I don't miss running a brick and mortar business. To be more specific, I don't miss trying to "make a living" teaching Yoga or trying to keep the doors open on a physical space.
The reality of owning and running a physical yoga space took away my ability to focus on what's most important to me: my family, my community, and my passion for making a difference.
I got mired down in the nuts and bolts of business ownership, in numbers and bookkeeping and profitability and had little energy for what really mattered at the end of the day.
The reality is that I did fail.
I failed at doing something that I wasn't meant to do.
I failed at recognizing when it was time to forge my own path instead of trying to shove myself into a mold that existed already.
I failed at rolling with the punches and getting right back 'on the horse' again.
But I'm learning. And I'm growing. And in the end, that's all that really matters.
What I (eventually) realized, thanks to a few knocks upside the head by the clue-by-four that my wife wielded, is that if I wanted to move forward I had to accept what didn't work before and I needed to be willing to truly think outside the box and redefine everything moving forward. Most importantly, I needed to be open. Really open to possibilities and opportunities.
So here's the thing: I don't have any idea what I'm doing, yet, though Peggy and I are working on some ideas. But, I am finally ready to come out from under the covers and get the energy moving again.
So yes, I'm going to be teaching. Yes, I'm going to be involving myself in new projects. I can't say yet what those things are going to look like, exactly. But I can tell you that I'm not going to try to stuff myself into someone else's box. I'm going to follow my heart and play and see where this adventure takes me.