This coming Wednesday is Love Your Body Day! Amazingly,, this will be its 15th year!! How awesome is that?
While I encourage you to love your body every single day of your life - it often is helpful to have a special reminder that you are perfect just the way you are., and that the advertising and representations seen in popular media are not at all a true reflection of what your body should be.
Loving your body, in a society that trains us to think of our bodies as never good enough, is hard work! It isn't usually something that you just flip the switch on and suddenly start thinking "I'm FABULOUS" every time you see your reflection in the mirror. Usually. I'm sure it happens for some people, I'm just throwing it out there that for most of us, it's a practice. And it takes commitment.
To illustrate this, I wanted to share something that I experienced recently that reminded me that this is a journey - every single day.
I recently had two new yoga experiences, both of which I had been avoiding to a certain degree for some time: hot yoga and an intermediate detox flow class that one of my favourite teachers offers several times a year. In both cases, I had been intimidated on several levels by the idea of going. On some level, I'm sure I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up, and on another level it is always scary going into a "new" yoga environment as I once again walk into the class as (usually) the only fat yogini in the room. I tend to be cautious, dipping my toe into new experiences a bit at a time.
The reality is, that I am almost always pleasantly surprised by my experiences. I just sometimes need a little nudge to get me there.
With the hot yoga, it was one of my Bear students who provided the nudge. He was going and offered me a free pass to check it out with him. We made arrangements to meet up for a hot yin yoga class, which felt accessible to me.
With the detox flow class, I knew it was going to be challenging, but my instructor, Ariel, was very encouraging and told me I could totally handle it. She nudged.
I was surprised by both of these experiences.
At hot yoga, I discovered that while the heat was intimidating when I first stepped into the studio, that I found it pretty soothing once we got into the poses. And, I didn't feel self concious about sweating because everyone was sweating or expected to sweat in hot yoga. I had borrowed a yoga mat towel and found that because I wans't worrying about sweat making my mat slippery (or the ick factor of dripping all over everything), that I relaxed about the sweating and actually enjoyed it. Who knew!?
I decided to try using the yoga towel when I went to the detox flow class as well, and found that, once again - I was way less "stressed" about sweating. Another thing I learned at the detox class was that I don't give myself nearly enough credit for my capabilities sometimes! Yes, I was the only fat yogini in the room. But, I also noticed that when I had to modify something it was not because I was not capable or strong or flexible, but because my body just isn't shaped the same. So, my thighs hit my belly sooner than for someone else because I have more thigh and more belly. So what? When I skipped a down dog or did knees down for plank, was I getting a less effective or less meaningful experience than my down doggin', plankin' classmates? Of course not! My abs were working hard, my arms and shoulders were working hard, and I was squeezing and twisting and getting all the same actions in my body.
In both of these experiences, though, I learned something mind-blowing.
I learned that it's okay to sweat. Maybe people don't realize this, but there is a lot of imagery and jokes out there making fun of the fat person working out that picture them just sweating buckets. I know very few bigger-bodied people that are not self-conscious about their sweat. I imagine it's for the same reason that those same people may feel self conscious wearing sweats in public or not having makeup on or eating any food in public that could possibly be construed as "unhealthy": it's because we try so hard to avoid looking like the stereotype, so that we can avoid being judged.
And really, it's bullshit. Everyone eats. Everyone sweats. Everyone likes to be comfortable. So yeah, sometimes I'm going to be kickin' it in some sweatpants, or enjoying a hot dog outside at the beach, or sweating when I work out - just like any other person. It doesn't make me a "bad fatty". But it can be hard to overcome that mental patterning.
So what if I sweated it out more than anyone else in the room? Maybe I did... maybe I didn't. I felt like I was just drenched from head to toe. So what? All that I can control is how I view myself and how I treat my body. And my body LOVED the sweating.
The more I sweated it out, the more liberated I felt. I was sweating! Buckets! In PUBLIC! And it felt great. I felt empowered.
Yeah yeah, you say. It's just sweat.
No, my friends. It's not just sweat. It's freedom! Just like it's freedom to wear what you want, dress how you want, eat based on the choices you make (not the choices made for you), and live your life with utter and complete abandon.
And this is why I practice yoga.
Every time I get on my mat, it is an opportunity for me to check in with my body, and how I feel about my body. Do I feel frustrated with my body or its abilities? Do I feel solid and supported? Do I feel embarrassed or unstable? When I begin my yoga practice, I become one with my body - with everything I am feeling physically and with my thoughts about my body as they pass by. It's an important touchstone. It helps me to be aware, and to adjust as I need to - whether that adjustment is needed in the pose I'm holding or the mental patterns I'm stuck on.
Over this past week, I realized I was stuck on my own issues and hangups and fears about sweating. I broke free from that mental pattern. Another little victory.
But the work isn't finished. It continues every moment of every day, with every breath I take and every single time I step on my mat.
It's a hard and beautiful journey to love your body. Journeys are better with good company. Travel with me. We'll do this thing - together.