This week has represented a huge change. I've made a major shift from...
avoid. avoid. avoid. avoid.
For the past 18 months or more, I've been avoiding doing something that I actually really want to do - but has felt too scary, too vulnerable: video.
The reality is, that the very few video pieces I had out in the world have had a big impact on people near and far, and that's something I believe in. I believe in telling my story so that others can see themselves in it. Can relate. Can understand that we all have fear. We all wonder if we're good enough. We all go through the same things and if we shared our experiences more, maybe we'd all really believe that we're not alone.
But, I have been avoiding. I've had the camcorder, the tripod, the list of topics and the good intentions. At one point, somewhat under personal duress, I recorded around 10 videos... shortly after the hard drive on my laptop crashed and my un-backed-up videos were lost. The idea of starting over was too much. I couldn't bring myself to do it. So I put the camcorder away and avoided. And avoided. And avoided some more.
But recently I approached a turning point. I knew I had to decide.... was I going to do the YouTube/Video thing - or wasn't I? I made the decision and, the very next day, the camcorder went with me to the studio for my first attempt at filming myself.
And, surprisingly, something changed. This time, I felt ready.... terrified beyond belief, but ready.
I started out just playing with stuff that came to the top of my head. And in that process, my first video was borne - one talking about vulnerability.
Because, let's face it - those first couple videos are the most vulnerable points in my own life.
Putting myself on display has always been hard for me. I've gotten used to the idea of being "on display" as a Yoga teacher. It helps to be so very passionate about what I do and the message I offer. But allowing myself to be analyzed, watched, commented on, and picked apart by total strangers? It doesn't get any scarier. I'm already picturing hundreds of hateful comments in my head and wondering how I will react as strangers pass judgement on my physical body or on my work.
But in reality, those haters have always been there. And in between and around them, are people that need to see more representation in the world... people, young and old and everything in between who need to KNOW that they are good enough exactly as they are. People like me. People like you. People who want to see that it's okay to inhabit the space your physical and energetic self takes up in this world, proudly. People who can say out loud "I'm enough, as I am."
And in order to do that, I gotta be vulnerable. So, not to get all meta on you or anything - but my first video in my new Yoga Bytes series is about VULNERABILITY because I've decided I'm gonna ROCK my vulnerability. How about you rock yours, too? ;) If you're committed, click to tweet it out! <3
Yoga Bytes that follow will range from talking about that tricky Low Lunge transition or better alignment in Downward Facing Dog to opening up about why I call myself The Fat Yogini, and sharing my thoughts on fear and life and why I am so passionate about this work.
You can watch these videos in multiple places. If you want to comment on and interact with me about the video, then you'll want to watch the video on YouTube (shown below). If you click the YouTube button on the video itself, it will take you to YouTube where you can give the video a thumbs-up (please do!), leave a supportive comment or ask a question (I'll respond!), or subscribe to my YouTube channel.
I am also hosting these videos, called Yoga Bytes, on my studio website. So to watch them there, just click here. And I'll be sharing on Facebook as well if you follow me there.
And so now, without further adieu.....
Last night, after my last class wrapped up, I received an email from a major, national, Canadian news network asking to include me in a story they plan to run on Monday.
My first reaction was, "Oh my gosh. Excitement! Publicity for the studio! YAY!" and then I read the content of the email and had that immediate gut feeling that this story was most likely not one that would represent the values of my yoga studio. And I had a sneaking suspicion that this was going to be the type of news article that would feature pictures of headless larger-bodied people. And somewhere within the context, Body Positivity Yoga would be included as an example of a great place for overweight or obese people to go to get moving and be "healthier". And maybe, some would say, that doesn't seem so bad...
But the thing is, articles like that are part of the larger issue of unrealistic body image promotion in mainstream media and I can't be a part, no matter how small, in the fear-mongering promoted by a five BILLION dollar a year (or more) diet and weight-loss industry that is more powerful than Big Tobacco.
The biggest part of the work that I do as The Fat Yogini and as the owner of Yoga studio that is diet and weight-loss talk free is promoting a body-positive agenda. Central to that agenda is this idea:
When I read the request, words popped out like big giant flaming red flags: "struggle with weight", "obesity", "new guidelines". And I just felt what my body was telling me, my gut. And I knew.
My response was polite, clear, and simple. And it went a little something like this:
"I am the owner of the studio - and I go by The Fat Yogini. But I wouldn't say I (or my clients) "struggle" with our weight. Rather, the idea behind my Yoga studio is self-acceptance and moving for the joy of it regardless of your size, age, or level of ability. Body Positivity Yoga is a diet and weight-loss talk free space.
Before I could participate, I would need to understand the point/message of the story. If you can provide me with some more details, I will let you know what we can help you with.
If the story is body-positive and promotes a message of self-acceptance, then I am sure we can work something out!"
As soon as I hit the send button, I was totally overwhelmed by this incredible feeling.
In the context of my life, I've always had a hard time with "authority figures", people I see as experts. And generally I have tended to feel like more of a follower than a leader. But I've spent a lot of years working on myself, on my sense of self, on confidence and self-esteem. And this was one of those moments where I realized, wow. I really have come a long way!
I felt like I'd just told a major news network to buzz off. Which, in my own way, I did. And instead of feeling scared. I felt GREAT! Strong. Awesome. Happy. Proud of myself. Feeling like a total grown-up (and let me tell you, that doesn't happen very often, the feeling 'grown-up' part, that is.)
Please bear with me as I'm about to give an example that probably only some of you might be able to relate to... but have you ever had that shoppers high?
You know, that feeling you get, when, say, you find that purse you've been lusting after (the one that usually costs way, way too much) in a thrift store for like eight bucks, in perfect condition? And then, after you've bought it, you walk away feeling like you just got away with something really naughty and you're just generally WINNING at life?
This feels like that... except multiplied like ten-fold.
Establishing and holding boundaries, not only for myself and my business but for the clients who see this studio as a safe space? It doesn't get any more bad-ass than that.
And as for that major, national, Canadian news network?
They are more than welcome to track me down when they're ready to tell a story about self-acceptance.
When this image first started going around the social media circles, a friend shared it with me. And I'll admit that my first reaction was...
...because, as anyone who knows me will attest, I really have always had a deep fondness for these single-horned mythological treasures.
But my next thought was... wait... what is the message here, really?
When you really look at this picture, you might think - ooh, inspiring. This rhino refuses to give up no matter what because he is determined to be a Unicorn.
And then, if you really take a step back, you can see that there is something deeply, deeply problematic with this image and what is wrong with IT is what is, at its core, what is wrong with the diet and weight-loss culture. When looked at with a critical eye, this image beautifully illustrates exactly why we should take a step back from all the messaging we get about how we should all be trying to be thinner.
That adorable animal on the treadmill is a rhino, and a darn cute rhino at that. And yet, somehow he hopes that if he works hard enough, he'll become a unicorn. A unicorn.
Think about that for a moment.
Not only is he trying to become something else entirely - which we all know can never be possible, no matter how hard he works, but in this example - the creature he's trying to become doesn't even actually exist.
If that isn't an excellent summary of the diet and weight-loss trap that so many of us end up in, I don't know what is.
There is nothing heartwarming about this image. Actually, everything about it is heartbreaking.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we try so hard to be something we aren't?
The answer, for so many of us, is because we think our happiness lies on the other side of that dream. We think that if we could only be or have whatever it is we think we're supposed to be or have, then everything would just get easier.
But the reality is, the hardest and best journey you can take, is the one to accepting and loving yourself as you are.
Where that gets confusing for people is we think that if we accept ourselves, somehow we're giving up on the idea that we could ever change or grow or be healthier or whatever it is we'd like to be more of. But is that really true?
I can tell you, from experience....
I think, the opposite is true - that accepting yourself makes it even more possible to improve your health and well-being.
I haven't stepped on a scale in years. I couldn't tell you how much I weigh right now. But I do know that, through practicing and teaching Yoga, I am stronger, healthier, more fit. I can take deeper breaths. I have more stamina. I sleep better. I feel that I have more vitality. My posture is better. My focus and balance are better. And none of those "results" have required that I give up on who I am.
So, what's the answer, when you're looking for an image to motivate you to go after what you want and still accept who you are?
How about this one: