💌 I am (happy) baby 💌
connecting with my body connects me to my purpose.
It's just stretching. That's nothing. It's no HIIT 42069, it's no TINY WAIST and BIG ROUND JUICY PEACH DUMPTRUCK WAGON POV CHALLENGE. So it doesn't work. If I don't want to absolutely pass away while I exert every ounce of my energy, then the workout definitely doesn't count. It's not effective, so it's pointless. Aka—it won’t make me look the way I want to look.
I used to hate working out. I hated moving my body in any way. I hated being reminded of my physicality because I hated every inch of it. So, so deeply. I hated my short legs, my tubby tummy, my big-not-in-the-good-way ass, my flabby arms, my chubby hands, and my baby face. My boobs were ok. Instead of addressing this, I ignored it, burying these thoughts into my subconscious as each year of my adolescence passed by. And no, this wasn't a "looks don't matter and I'm mature enough to understand that" type of thing, it was more of a "I hate every single angle of my body so I'll just pretend it doesn't exist" type of thing. It's not okay to treat your body, the engine endlessly running all you do and who you are, with that level of disrespect. I know that now, but no one tells you that when you're 13.
I ignored my body until I couldn't. Until I couldn't continue to act normal with these thoughts flooding my head. Until I couldn't go out with friends because I didn't want others to look at me, staying home for weeks on end. Until it consumed me more than I'd like to admit. Until I wanted to break every mirror, camera, and set of eyes I could find. Until I felt worthless and couldn't find any joy or love, even when it was all around me.
My sister forced me to attend a yoga class with her at the local YMCA at some point in high school. When it was time for the final shavasana, I laid there. I felt the movement and breath still radiating, like a beam of sunlight inside me I forgot was there. I found the feeling of loving this beautiful body I am so fortunate to have. For a few moments, I didn't care what I looked like, how I was perceived, what others saw, because I felt something that meant more than any of that within myself.
Years later, I graduated to bikram. Bikram (hot yoga) is no joke...you're in a room that's about 90-100 degrees and a humidifier on top of that while you flow through a 60-90 minute sequence. Sweat comes from orifices you didn't know could sweat. You slip and slide on your mat, practicing in a little kiddie pool of your own perspiration. It is by no means the traditional, ancient art of yoga-- which very few yoga studios in this country actually are. It was invented by some dude in the 70s. It's calisthenics-- conditioning your muscles with your own body weight. The practice is hard, evoking new sensations every time. I love it quite a lot.
Sweating this much feels like such a detox. It's the chance to just sweat all the negativity out of me. Every cell that was infected by self-hatred has the opportunity to regenerate into something new, something stronger. Every inch of my skin I would disrespect, shame, mock, scorn, and taunt could change into something sacred. Yoga is just as much of an emotional experience as a physical one. This personal connection with my body feels like the only way I can truly heal. Connecting with my body is much more emotional than physical.
I went home last year and a local hot yoga studio had a 14-day special for new students. Um, I wasn't a new student, I'd been there a few times. But the deal was too good to pass up so I took my sister's ID and acted like I'd never been there before. I made a promise to myself to make the most of this; go to class at least 12 out of the 14 days. And I did.
This wasn’t actually bikram yoga, it was yoga-inspired, you could say. It’s the best I was going to get in western Pennsylvania. And in a sense, being back in this environment, the judgmental, close-minded breeding ground for my old internalized bigotry and self-mutilation, might be the only place I can heal that past version of myself.
Thankfully, I've been practicing long enough to finally tune out my surroundings, not look at the other students, not internalize the "HE SAVES" Jesus lyrics I was held hostage to hear. I could just focus on connecting my breath to my movements. Just completely zone into my own body for that hour, ignoring everything around me but the sound of my breath.
Yoga is so magical to me because of that very thing I resisted at the beginning-- the balance of it. The balance of determination and surrender. Of frustration over your own limits and the persistence to keep trying. Strengthening your muscles in such a mindful way retrains our brain's response to challenges; you can't just tense up or run away, rush through the set and take a break. You need to breathe through the moments you want to give up. Yoga encourages you to accept where you are right there in the moment-- not where you could be, should be, supposed to be. You work with what you have that day. You can center yourself before you react. You train your body and spirit to work together, not battle for your attention.
It's a practice that goes beyond the physical, beyond the external aesthetics of why we work out. . The mental component makes it much more of a challenge than flailing your way through a 20 minute HIIT routine. Don’t get me wrong—Chloe Ting has got me through some rough patches. But a sustainable routine should incorporate mind, body, and spirit. Not just body. What I’m trying to say is yoga not only makes you banging, it makes your brain sexier as well.
Connecting with my body over those 14 days was very special to me. I felt so grounded. One time I started bawling my eyes out when the practice was over. I could feel the endorphins flooding in and it was a very emotional experience.
Healing takes time and serious intention behind your actions. I hope to graduate to more authentic yoga spaces, led by teachers honoring the traditional practice. I'm very grateful for every day I have the privilege to improve and feel new sensations. It's exercise I look forward to, not something I dread. And that's what is most important.
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