New Year, New Thing

On New Year’s Day, buoyed by the enthusiasm of my online community, I signed up for a 30 day yoga practice.

I appreciate the benefits of yoga for my body, and eventually even my mind and soul. It used to bring forth a LOT of anger in me, until I discovered (attracted?) teachers and practitioners who were more focused on true well-being and health rather than marketing, profits and spin.

I live in a large body, arthritic, menopausal and in a fair bit of inflammatory pain a lot of the time. Day 1 of the 2021 30 day practice left me feeling excluded, frustrated and sore.

It felt too fast for me and offered no adaptations for people with bodies like mine. I felt the shame creeping in. I “should” be able to do this, and if I can’t it’s because there’s something fundamentally flawed about me.

Not allowing myself to drop completely into the freeze and despair of shame, I remembered a week long introduction to Body Positive Yoga from Amber Karnes that I’d tried earlier in the spring of 2020.

I remembered feeling seen and heard with Amber’s practice and guidance. I was able to settle into poses feeling grounded, stable and strong, some for the first time ever.

So I looked up those practices and went back to yoga challenge day 1 armed with my own adaptations. There’s something about a square peg and a round hole that comes to mind here, but yep. That’s what I did.

On the way to finding the intro to body positive yoga, I came across Amber’s post on Accessible Yoga Training website: “Stop postponing your life until you lose weight.” I recommend reading it in its entirety, but this hit home:

“Dominant culture teaches us that there is a hierarchy assigned to bodies. Beauty standards (who is considered “beautiful” and who is considered “ugly”) are based on this foundational belief: that some bodies are inherently more valuable or worthy than others. Thin bodies are valued over fat bodies, white bodies are valued over black bodies, able bodies are valued over disabled bodies, young bodies over old bodies, and so on.

All this is predicated on an extrinsic lens or external gaze: other people’s perceptions of your body and where you fall into that hierarchy.”

The crack where the light gets in was almost audible in reading that post.

Why the hell was I trying to force myself into a body box that doesn’t fit or serve me? Or follow it with making myself feel like shit because I didn’t measure up to a standard I DON’T EVEN VALUE.

Because for all of my life, I was never able to accept or love my body just as it is. Too curvy, too bulky, too tall, too short, too wide, too thick, too slow, too stiff, too feminine…

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t born thinking that way. Like many of us, I’ve internalized arbitrary standards of health and beauty imposed by systems and those dominant cultures that have nothing whatsoever to do with health, inclusion and love, and everything to do with control, and exploitation.

And because I’m pretty good at whatever I take on, I internalized those voices and made them my own; I made myself my own biggest enemy.

I embodied everything predatory, judgemental and exclusive about the systems and cultures I was raised in and rebel against, and turned that artillery on myself. Hiding, covering up, and not participating in places or activities where I didn’t see bodies like mine. And resenting every second of it.

Even if they were present, I could not fathom how anyone who looked and moved like me could love themselves. I was envious and jealous of them that could. That envy and jealousy has transformed into appreciation.

Why didn’t I just join the Body Positive community last spring when I did the week long intro and felt so good?

It wasn’t about money. Because I can tell you that between then and now I spent at least the cost of a year’s subscription on quick fix programs that triggered my shame and promised “results” (and yes, I have slipped into beating myelf up about that as well.)

Why didn’t I just sign up for what felt good? Why couldn’t I offer myself that gift?

Because I saw it as giving up, giving in, admitting failure at not being able to someone I never was, never even wanted to be, at the same time as feeling inadequate and imperfect and wrong, at the same time as hating myself.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, you’ve probably guessed that I unsubscribed from the first 30 day challenge and joined the Body Positive Clubhouse.

I’m continuing to practice with my friends who are doing the original 30 day program, but I’m doing it in a way that fits and serves me – not just my body, but my mind in heart that are in need of healing as well.

Interesting: when I shared how the program wasn’t working for me, a couple of friends said they felt that way too, for different reasons. So we’re committed to supporting each other for 30 days in the practice that works best for each of us.

It’s a small step towards learning to love myself, just as I am. A little more than two weeks until I turn 60. About time.

When I was finishing up the practice I chose for myself today, I felt like there was just too much quiet in the video towards the end and opened my eyes to look at the screen. I found this:

And I knew I was in the right place. For today, it feels good, and I’m in for more of that.