When I first started doing yoga, I was thin. I didn’t realize it, but I was. (Thanks a lot, distorted self image.) And as I continued to practice, and do Zumba, and eat well, I got in better and better shape. Looking back at photos, I was in fantastic shape. I didn’t even realize it at the time–I thought I was still a little chubby, but it was good enough to start posting photos of myself in yoga poses to track my progress. At least, that’s what I told myself. I thought, “I’ll post this picture of myself in camel pose, not because my waist looks so tiny, but because I want to see if, in a month, the pose looks different. Facebook and Instagram are great places to store photos.”
Well folks, I’m not thin anymore. Nine months ago I had a baby, and I just haven’t made the time to get back in a good exercise and healthy eating routine. Also, having a baby really changes your body! (Side note: your body isn’t “worse” after you have a baby, it’s just different. But that’s a different story for a different day.) Why do I bring this up? Because the other day I took some yoga photos, thinking I would post them to see how my poses had changed since I had the baby (I hadn’t had time to practice). I felt really good, actually. I felt flexible and strong. But then I saw the photos, I saw how my body wasn’t thin anymore, how my belly sagged, the new rolls around my bra strap, and the new muffin top from where my pants were a little too tight. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t post all of them. I almost didn’t post any, but part of my brain was still in denial about the full reason I used to post yoga photos, so I chose a couple.
I made the album private at first, because I worried that my yoga students wouldn’t want to learn from me, that people would judge me. I worried what people would think of my new, postpartum body. I knew women who had babies and weeks later had flat tummies and were thinner than before. I thought everyone would expect that to be me, and I was ashamed. Eventually I made the album public, but it filled me with anxiety.
This whole experience made me realize that I used to post photos, not just to track progress, but because I was being prideful. I wanted people to see my body and think, “Wow!” I wanted likes and affirmation and comments. And I got those things, but I wasn’t being true to the spirit of what yoga is, and what yoga did for me.
Yoga isn’t just asana (poses). It isn’t just being strong and flexible, with the ability to contort yourself into crazy, amazing shapes. Yoga is a state of mind, a way of living. Yoga is being in each moment and experiencing it to the fullest. It’s loving your body and yourself for what you can do and for what you experience. Yoga is finding yourself in your breath and appreciating the way the sun looks as it rises, or the way the air feels on a cool autumn night. And yet, I’d been living my yoga life as if my pose progress, as if my waistline, was what was most important.
So, why am I writing this blog? I have friends who’ve said, “I’d do yoga if I weren’t so heavy” or “It’s easier for you, you’re thin. It’s harder when you have a belly.” I used to tell those people, “Come on! Yoga is for everyone! Anyone can get on their mat and practice.” Which is true, yoga IS for everyone. But knowing that truth, and living that truth are two very different things. I’m seeing things from a different perspective thanks to this postpartum body, and it’s blowing my world wide open.
Guys, exercising is hard. It’s hard when your overweight and it’s hard when you’re thin. Putting on exercise clothes and joining a class makes you vulnerable. Whether you’re the heaviest person in the room or the thinnest, you’re still going and saying, “Here I am. Please don’t judge me.” And in a yoga class, whether you’re a teacher or a student, there shouldn’t be an ounce of judgement. There should be only love and acceptance.
As a yoga teacher, I’ve feared what my students thought, because of my weight gain, but starting today, I want to start living the truth that I talk about. I want to live joyfully in this body of mine, regardless of the size it happens to be right now. I want to work toward a healthier, happier me.
Starting today (thanks to Becca’s encouragement to set an intention to practice daily) I will practice my yoga, regardless of my weight. Starting today, I will practice my yoga and take deep breaths when things are tough. Starting today, I will practice my yoga and speak truths into my life–my body is beautiful because it allows me move and speak and dance and hold my son; my body is strong because it allows me to bounce James at night when he’s fussy and allows me to carry in my groceries; my body is always changing, always becoming something new, and that is so amazing.
Do I hope someday to get back to being thinner? Yes, and if I’m being honest, part of that is wanting to look a certain way, but more and more, it’s because I liked the energy I had then, I liked the way it felt to move and bend and use my muscles. (Plus, I’m too cheap to buy new clothes!) But if my body stays as it is forever, I will still love my body. I will still practice my yoga, on and off the mat. I will teach my son that a woman’s beauty is more than what magazines say it is–a woman’s beauty is her spirit, her character, her kindness, her humor, her interests, and her body, and that beauty comes in all shapes, all sizes, all colors.
Below are some photos of me at my thinnest and of me postpartum. I haven’t taken any photos in a few months, but you get the idea. It’s a little harder to be an overweight yogi, because you may feel like your body is getting in the way, but that doesn’t make your practice any less beautiful. Yoga can be magical if you really let it into your life. I plan to reclaim the magic that I’ve lost.