For most of my life, I’ve hated my body. This is the story I’d tell myself every single day.
I am short. I am fat. My hair turned grey far too early. My legs are stupidly hairy. I have broad shoulders like a man. My boobs are lopsided. I have a big flabby belly covered in stretch marks. I have random hairs growing under my chin. And that’s just what I see. There’s also the IBS, the heavy periods, the persistent cough, the stress incontinence, the allergies and the RSI. I hate who I am.
That’s a hard place to start from every single day. It makes it hard to choose what to wear, to leave the house, to meet people. To carry on with a normal life. So I would avoid mirrors. I would never believe anyone who told me I looked nice. I wouldn’t enjoy clothes shopping. I’d dress pretty conservatively so that I never stood out from the crowd.
The first few times, I went to yoga, I hated the mirrors. Mirrors on all sides. There was nowhere to hide. I would look at all the lumps and bumps. The messy hair. The puffy eyes. But no one else seemed to notice. No one else was distracted by how bad I looked. No one else seemed to care. They were too busy looking at themselves. But not at their appearance. They were looking at their posture and alignment. They were using the mirrors to help them correct subtle elements of each pose. They were intent on what their bodies were doing, not what they looked like.
Over time, imperceptibly, that became the same for me. It helped that the teacher was so incredibly accepting. Allowing everyone to work at their own ability level. To go with what their body could do, rather than forcing it to do what it could never achieve. She encouraged us all to rejoice in our bodies, to celebrate what they could do. What they looked like really didn’t matter at all.
In a yoga studio, it should never be about comparison. The practice is about an individual journey, an inner journey as much as an outer journey. I think I have changed a little on the outside maybe – I’m more toned, I think, but much of what I used to obsess about is still there. I have changed massively on the inside however. I am far more body confident – and by that I mean, I am far more confident in what my body can do. I love my body. I love my body for what it can do.
This body of mine can do so much. I can point my toes really well. I can lower my body from a plank down to the floor really, really slowly. My balance is often really good.
This is my body. I no longer allow myself to repeat that old story. Now I tell myself a new story.
I am healthy. I am strong. I have great calves. My hair is in fab condition. I have good skin. My eyes sparkle when I smile. I am not defined by the IBS, the heavy periods, the persistent cough, the stress incontinence, the allergies and the RSI. I can always find creative ways of dealing with those. I love who I am.