For most of my life I feel like I’ve been in a battle with my body. I remember at 13 deciding that I didn’t like how my body looked, and as a result I needed to go on diet. I had a very normal 13 year old body, and wasn’t by any means overweight. But girls at that age are so susceptible to external influences. I would hear my friends talking about how much they hated their bodies. I listened to the older women in my life talking about how they needed to eat less and gym more. Magazine covers shouted to me that I couldn’t possibly like my body as it is, but try this new eating plan or exercise regime and maybe I would. It seemed so normal that women disliked their bodies. So I decided to dislike mine too.
All through high school and university I yo-yo dieted. I gymmed, I jogged, I starved, I binged. While I certainly never had a formal eating disorder, in hindsight I realise I had a disordered relationship with food and my body. God, how much time I wasted obsessing about what I would eat for lunch and how many kilometres I would have to run.
When I started internship I assumed that this way of living my life would simply continue. And initially I really did try. I packed my gym bag and ate my chicken breasts with broccoli. I dreamed of having abs and a body I actually liked (I know, ridiculous). It wasn’t long though before I started to realise how utterly exhausting this was. Internship was so physically and emotionally challenging that I had no energy left to even think about what to eat and when to go train.
So I didn’t.
For almost two years I didn’t exercise consistently. I didn’t care what or if I ate. I stopped weighing myself. Eventually all that hate that I had directed towards my body dissipated. However in it’s place I felt a complete disconnection to my body. I didn’t pay much attention to how it looked or felt. It was simply the vessel which allowed me to get my work done.
At the beginning of this year I decided I wanted a change. I wanted to feel healthy and strong again. I couldn’t quite bring myself to start gymming like a maniac again, and so I decided to start yoga. There was a studio down the road and I was interested in learning something different. There’s also been a bit of a ‘yoga movement’ on Instagram, which piqued my interest.
I bought myself a pink yoga mat (as one does) and embarked on a new journey with my body. That first yoga class was SO tough. My arms couldn’t stop shaking and I had no idea how you were supposed to breathe between the poses when I could barely catch my breath! But something inside of me lit up that day. I felt an instant connection to that place on the mat, and the sacred space of the yoga studio. So I went again. And again. And again.
In Saturday morning’s class it suddenly came to me why I love yoga so much. When you are on the mat, it doesn’t matter how your body looks. People of all shapes and sizes find joy in yoga. It doesn’t matter what your body can do. Whether you can do a full headstand, a headstand against the wall or you can’t do a headstand at all makes no difference. Yoga for me is all about being in your body. Which sounds a bit out there, but for me that hour spent on the mat, and the rest of the day thereafter, I feel connected to my body. Instead of me hating it or pretending it doesn’t exist. I am aware of my body, I’m aware of my breath, and I’m aware of how amazing I feel afterwards.
Don’t get me wrong. There are days when I get home from work and all I want to do is lie on the couch with my cat and drink tea. But when I take a moment to think about how good yoga will make me feel, I can’t help but want to put my yoga pants on and get on the mat. Some days the couch wins, and some days yoga wins. It’s about balance. I still don’t love my body, but I’m certainly working on that relationship and it’s not quite as tumultuous as it used to be.
Thank you, yoga, for bringing me back to myself. For allowing love to grow in a place that was so full of hatred and disappointment. I can’t wait to see where this journey will take me.
My soul honours your soul. I honour the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honour the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things we are united, we are the same, we are one.