The perfect yoga body….
Is the one you have right now! Seriously, if you’ve got a body, you can do yoga. I repeat, IF YOU HAVE A BODY, YOU CAN DO YOGA. The most powerful example of this truth is that of Matthew Sanford. Matthew was paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident at the age of 13, and was told repeatedly that he would never be able to use the lower half of his body. Even worse, he was led to believe his paralyzed lower body was an obstacle to overcome and that he would never again feel any “real” sensation. Through the discovery and practice of yoga, he was able to tune into the subtle energy of the poses, beyond the body, beyond the breath and tap into a “hum” (aum) of the muscles. He now teaches yoga classes, facilitates trainings for teachers and healthcare providers, and founded Mind Body Solutions.
Recently, I was working a health fair event and talked yoga with 100+ people as they hustled and bustled their way through the 20 other tables of varying topics and specialties. More than few times, I heard “oh you have the perfect yoga body, you look like a yoga teacher” and my soul cringed at the implied internal comparison of “them” versus me. Even worse, more than a few boldly stated they were too _____ to do yoga. Sure, I’m grateful for the body I’ve been given, but in a place of full honesty and transparency, it didn’t come from yoga, it’s purely genetics (luck of the DNA straw draw). In fact, yoga helped me gain and maintain a healthy weight, with the addition of muscle and strength. When I first fell in love with yoga, I was in the middle of a relationship shit storm and could barely force myself to eat one full meal a day. The promise of a yoga class later in the day became motivation to make smart food choices to not feel awful during class. Somehow, in the middle of a packed and sweaty yoga class, and being totally confused at the words coming out the teacher’s mouth, and the shapes my body was making, I would find moments of peace, clarity and fortitude.
We all of our places of insecurity, which shouldn’t be placed in a system of hierarchy, we all have work to do. Whether you weigh 100 pounds or 1000 pounds, whether you can touch your toes or barely skim your knees, there is a yoga practice for you, and with the wonders of the internet, you can often find the right practice from the comfort of your home. Amber Karnes with Body Positive Yoga, Jessamyn Stanley, and Dan Nivens with the Wounded Warrior Project, are all amazing resources to inspire people of all backgrounds to get on their mat. Yoga Vibes, Yoga Green Book, and Yoga Glo are just a few online resources with classes of varying length, intensity, and topic. Many studios offer beginner series or foundation classes; and don’t be afraid to reach any teachers offer private instruction, this is a great way to get personal attention to build confidence in the poses.
Remember, no one ever really gets it “right” all the time, and each time we show up on our mat we show up with everything from our past. Our past decisions have given us the muscles and their areas of tightness and strength, our fat and its distribution of protection and support, the wiring of our nervous systems from our traumas and successes, and our memories and inner voices that either build us up or knock us down. Our body can either be our friend or our enemy, and our yoga practice (and teacher) play a role in connecting, accepting, and loving our perfect yoga bodies!
Learning to listen, trust, and even love my body has been one of the most challenging journeys, and I'm still not all the way there, all the time. It's easy to love my body when everything is feeling good. The biggest gifts have come from turning my injuries into lessons, my negative self-talk into neutral self-talk, and reminding myself, constantly, that no one expects me to be perfect. <deep breath> Repeat after me, "My body is amazing. My body is resilient. My body is strong. Thank you body." To me, that is the real yoga. Not standing on my hand, or even balancing on my feet. That feeling of acceptance. The hardest part about yoga is showing up! Once you show up, the magic takes over. Don't let your stories keep you from the magic. Your body is ready.