The other month, I purchased a tank top emblazoned with the words “This Is My Yoga Body.” It was part of a campaign to raise money for the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, which develops body positive programming for yogis of all body types. This was a campaign I could really get behind, as I’m not one of those yogis you might typically see on the cover of Yoga Journal.
Not many of us are.
The funny thing about the imagery we typically see in Yoga Journal and on Instagram is that it’s not really all that representative of your average yogi.
I am a curvy yogi who still struggles with center-of-the-room inversions and complicated arm balances.
That is my yoga body.
When I first came to yoga, I had a lot of body hate that I had been carrying around with me for years. And I still get frustrated sometimes. With my belly. With my waist. With the way I look in a maxi dress.
But for the most part, yoga has helped me to think less about size and more about how amazing my body can be. I now feel flexible.
But sometimes, I forget how much I’ve accomplished with yoga. I forget how many successes I’ve had on my mat, and I start in with the negative self-talk again.
Just yesterday, I found myself getting worked up in class. The teacher, whom I love to bits, asked us to do center-of-the-room headstands and then drop from there into pigeon pose.
Once upon a time, a center-of-the-room headstand was no big thing for me. And pigeon? My favorite pose in the world. But I hadn’t done a center-of-the-room headstand since before I was pregnant, and something (fear? my still recovering core strength?) was holding me back. So after trying unsuccessfully, several times, to lift up into my inversion, I settled back into child’s pose, so upset I was near tears.
Then I had to mentally smack myself upside the head. Because:
Number one: yoga is not a competition, and we’re supposed to work with what our body is capable of in that moment, without judgment.
Number two: not 10 minutes before, I had successfully caught air in this pose (photo by Amy, via Flickr):
But even if I hadn’t been able to get into the full extension of that pose, my body is still amazing. I’m still amazing. I’m still flexible. And twisty. And strong.
I try to keep these things at the forefront of my mind. All the time, but especially with Emily. Because I don’t want her to grow up with the same reflexive body hate that I have, even though I know it’s difficult to avoid in our culture. She’s bound to come into contact with it eventually.
But I hope it’s not with me. I hope she doesn’t hate her body because of me, because of some offhand comment I make about my belly or my thighs. I want her to always be this unselfconscious, and to have this much fun, both on and off her mat:
These are our yoga bodies. What’s yours?