There was a time in my life when I wanted one thing and one thing only — to be skinny.
I would think about it, dream about it, plot and scheme ways to get myself thin. It was safe to say I was obsessed; wasting my time, energy, and most of my 20's trying to be something that had no relation to who I was.
I have my Mama, god rest her soul to thank for my curvy figure. Big busty women with big hips and hourglass figures runs in the family. Instead of embracing my inner Monroe, I would desperately try to decrease my proportions through diet, exercising and the occasional 'detox'.
This would of course work, but the results were temporary and my body would bounce back to its usual self. This was a vicious cycle and it went on and on and on until I found yoga.
Yoga and My Pregnancy
I first started getting into a regular yoga practice during my pregnancy where I managed to gain around 35kg in weight. I didn't really mind this per sé, but after my son was born, I was left with a bit of a body complex — something you really dont need on top of all you need to deal with as a new mum.
After my six-week check up, I went back to yoga and began an Ashtanga practice. As the months turned into years, my body began to change drastically. Yes, I lost a lot of the unwanted fat from pregnancy, but this wasn't the biggest change.
Physically, my shape was becoming more toned, but what's better was I was becoming strong. My entire body held itsself with strength and confidence, something I had never really experienced before.
Trading 'Skinny' for Strength
It was as if my body had sat my mind down for a long overdue chat. I began to care less and less about skinny, I began thinking less and less about my physical appearance altogether. This was replaced by a healthy desire to be strong and injury-free.
Postures that I once thought were beyond my ability became accessible; arm balances and inversions had become a part of my regular practice which in itself made me stronger and stronger.
This newfound strength led me to a deep appreciation and respect for my body, a body that had been unloved and neglected for so long.
From the Darkness to the Light
The sad thing is that we all have our moments of regression and this happened recently and very unexpectedly. I had applied to teach at a studio and was turned down without even a meeting. My irrational mind began to churn and I caught sight of a very negative and disturbing thought, something I hadn't done in a long while.
"You didn't get it because you are larger than other teachers, Who wants to learn from you? maybe you don't deserve to be a teacher anyway!"
Being strong comes in different forms, and this time, my strength lay in the ability to observe this destructive, self-harming thought and deal with it before it turned into something nasty. Instead of letting this thought manifest, I once again had that internal conversation.
"You have a unique body, yoga practice, and approach to life. You have thousands of hours of teaching, trainings, and practice behind you, and your students come and leave your classes feeling content and truly loved."
With this, I was back to my usual positive kick ass yogi self.
Becoming and Staying Strong
In a yoga world full of tall, thin, and beautiful yoga teachers plastered across social media and other platforms, it can be very easy to lose yourself in the dark shadows of body shame.
Many of us have been there, but it's a place in which you don't want to dwell. If you find yourself unexpectedly visiting from time to time, that's okay. BUT, it's important to get yourself out pronto and make your way to the light of self-love and appreciation.
If I can offer one piece of advice to all those who struggle with body image issues in yoga, it would be to focus on being strong. Start with the physical. Appreciate the amazing obstacles your body will overcome and observe when this physical strength transcends the body and takes up residence in the mind.
When this happens, you will no longer give a shit about a little jelly in your belly, or a love handle escaping your leggings. Instead, your focus will be where it is supposed to be — on your breath, Drishti and bandhas.