I took a dress to the tailor yesterday. The fact that it needed to be altered came as something of a surprise. I bought it during one of my skinnier phases in my late twenties and didn’t think my body had changed that dramatically since then.
But standing there beneath unforgiving changing room light, I detected small but discriminating differences.
As the dress got pinned in to show off my now smaller frame I took in softer, slimmer limbs and read the experiences etched into faint wrinkles around my eyes, that told all told a tail of self-discovery and acceptance.
The truth is as I entered my thirties, I began to feel something shift. Far from being full of the middle-age spread and downward decline I had feared, I started to feel truly comfortable in my own skin. It was a subtle evolution that arose out of consistent yoga practice, self-awareness, a desire to understand myself and, I suspect, age.
What had began as an interest in health and how to look after myself, developed into a unique journey that made me realise that what I perceived as a healthy lifestyle was actually rather self-destructive and tinged with irony.
Who I Was and Who I Could Become
Despite striving for wellbeing, the ‘care’ I bestowed upon myself was dictatorial and restrictive, demoralising and dogmatic, often demanding more energy than I had to give. Despite my best intentions I made the fatal mistake of thinking I was supposed to be a certain way.
I was not interested in beginning with who I was, only concerned with what I could become as I pushed towards unrealistic, end-goals. Everything I did was loaded with expectation. It was punishing.
The turning point came when I discovered Ayurveda. It made me respect my true nature and view myself through an entirely different lens.
Accepting who I was became the first step towards genuine health and it deepened the relationship I had with my body and my mind, and changed the way I practiced asana.
Despite many years of yoga posture practice I discovered it was only when that I began to honour myself that a more authentic connection blossomed. With kindness and compassion as my guide, aggression dissolved and was replaced with presence and peace.
When I stopped wrestling myself, realised my body is an exquisite vehicle to be worshipped, and maintained everything changed; an alteration in attitude that has ended up being stitched into the seams of an old dress.
Guys, we are fragile. Our health is really all we have. It occurs to me that we never know what might threaten wellbeing or when. So, it’s important to respect what we’ve got while you still have it. So here are some top tips to love what you’ve got while you still can.
In the words of Donna Fahri, begin where you are, with what you’ve got. Let your yoga practice and your self-care routine grow from that place, rather than creating something for someone that doesn’t exist.
Forget the need to be anything or anyone in particular and recognise the perfection in imperfection. The chances are when you let go, you’ll create space for a new you to grow.
Diets create anxiety and don’t work. Adopt healthy habits and a holistic way of eating that is simple, high in nutrients and whole foods and low on nasty additives and sugars. Focus on nourishing your body, as opposed to depriving it. Easy.
Harmonise your yoga.
Don’t force yourself through a yoga or fitness routine. Development and growth is one thing, going after goals aggressively is harmful rather than helpful.
Pay attention to how you feel and pace yourself. Nothing good can come from forcing, after all, the lessons are in the journey. Forget the destination.
Get regular checks ups...for everything.
Don’t stick your head in the sand over health niggles. Prevention is always better than cure. Having regular checks up will limit concern and ensure illness doesn’t go undetected.
Relax, a lot.
Life can be hectic and fast paced. Stress disorders and stress-triggered disease is rife. As much as possible, protect your ‘me time’ so you have ample opportunity to decompress and relax.
Even if it’s just for 10 minutes everyday, try to shift your mindset from doing to doing nothing.
Watch your words.
Your inner dialogue shapes you, so watch the stories you define yourself by. Choose your words carefully and be your own cheerleader. Notice areas for improvement and be proactive about cultivating habits, but don’t let negative self-talk creep in.
Be kind to yourself.
In every moment, in every way, everyday consider; what is the kindest thing I can do for myself right now.
Be body confident.
Whatever your shape and size, love your body for the gift it is. Body confidence comes from embracing who you are, idiosyncrasies and all, and is more attractive than curves in the right places.
As my grandmother used to say, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so don’t hide it — show yourself and shine.