Updated: Nov 25, 2021
Here’s how you can really love yoga (Even if you don’t look like one of those hot little yoga bunnies).
Let me start by saying, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a hot little yoga bunny. I am all for body acceptance and love of all sizes. As women in our western society, we are raised to shame ourselves and to hate our bodies, so that even those whom we look at and think they have the ‘perfect body’ look in the mirror and shame and hate themselves, too. So, let’s try to remember that, we are all one. We all struggle with the same issues. The woman who truly loves what she sees in the mirror is a magical unicorn, and we should all strive to be like her. So, with that disclaimer, let’s get down to business and explore how to find love, comfort, and personal acceptance on your yoga mat. Here’s the truth that most yoga instructors don’t tell you… Not because they are hiding it, but because sometimes the simple truth is so obvious it doesn’t occur to anyone to say it out loud… Yoga Was Developed By Old Indian Men
No brainer, right? 4,000 years of Indian yogic traditions were all developed by men. Now, think about old Indian men physically.
I’m betting what comes to mind isn’t someone with wide hips; rather, it’s no boobs and no belly.
As Western women, we physically do not fit the mold for the creators of yoga as a physical practice.
Yoga is truly meant to be performed as a physical practice to release any stored energy in the body and prepare the body for meditation practice
Now, in western society, we use it mostly for physical fitness purposes and anxiety reduction. So, the first tip to free yourself of trying to fit into this physical mold is to recognize that in order to further your practice, it is important to focus on the benefits to your mind, instead of just your body.
Yoga itself is more than just the physical practice Yogic tradition is an entire 8-limbed approach that covers your social and personal behavioral discipline, breathing, physical postures, meditation, and the steps leading up to and including ‘Samadhi’ (the union, integration, absorption with the higher spirit/universe/life force). We can dive deeper into all 8-limbs in another post, they are amazing and deserve their own time to shine. As a society, we have come to know yoga solely for the limb of Asana, or physical postures. We use that word interchangeably for our studio mat practice.
For that purpose, I shall focus on helping you condition yourself to love the physical practice that is ‘westernized yoga.’
Most overweight or out-of-shape women initially attempt yoga because they view it as a lesser form of a workout. Easier on their bodies, joints, and on their self-imposed limitations. Less sweaty, no jumping around and dance moves, and no weight lifting. That was my initial motivation as well; there is no shame in that.
What we find, however, is the less glamorous side that social media doesn’t show you. The struggle to hold your balance, the core work, the down-dog that feels way more intense than it looks. TIght hips, tight hips, tight mind.
We discover our own mental frustration with not attaining all the poses and our resistance to our lack of flexibility.
The first few classes, you will most likely struggle.
You will most likely find yourself thinking to yourself “how can anyone love yoga?” Yes, I am telling you that you will struggle. It’s not to discourage you, I promise…
Here’s the key- everyone struggles in yoga. That’s why it’s a yoga ‘practice’, not a yoga ‘perfect’. There is no ‘perfect’ in yoga.
There is not a single human being that can attain perfection in every pose. The physical structure of our bodies prevents that. (Plus, each day we wake up with different physical abilities depending on a whole range of reasons). Even the skinny, aged, decades of practice Indian man with no hips and no boobs will find a physical challenge in one pose or another.
One of the greatest yoga teachers that I know, one that I admire so much, can not do a standing hand-to-big toe pose.
Her balance is amazing, her core is tight, but her arms are physically too short for her to get full extension of her leg while still holding her big toe.
There is absolutely no level of yoga practice that will allow her to change this physical skeletal attribute of hers.
It doesn’t make her any less amazing or inspiring, it just makes her human!
Take Baby Steps Your first step is to acknowledge that yoga is a learning practice. It involves progressive steps as you progress your body’s flexibility, your core strength, and your mind.
The next step is showing up.
You have to get there, on your mat, on your couch, on your bed, in the studio, or whatever works for you.
You have to train your mind to show up.
You have to allow yourself to not beat yourself up for what you can’t do, and focus on what you can do. This is a huge challenge for most of us, as we’ve spent our entire lives beating ourselves up for our shortcomings. Yoga is about learning to let that go and just be. Be present, do what you can, challenge yourself to find your sweet spot, and stay there. Stay with your practice, even when it gets frustrating because it will get easier. We will all have our good and bad days on the mat. Some days, you will have an extra cup of coffee and find your balance off. Other days, you will have sat in a car traveling for a long time, and your hips will be tight and unwilling to allow your full expression of some poses. We will all have good and bad days. The point is to keep showing up and know that it is all temporary. The beauty of practicing not-attachment, self-compassion, and consistency in your practice is that you are building these skills for life. You find that you are able to meet life’s challenges with the acceptance, self-confidence, resolve, and determination to conquer any difficulty that comes your way. So, how do you learn to love it? Because wasn’t that what this was originally about – loving it, not talking about how frustrating it can be?
How to Love Yoga (some simple tips to get started)
1) Get on your mat
When class opens, and the teacher cues you to focus on your breath, to ground and center on your mat, to let go of everything outside of your mat: DO IT. Leave all your cares and worries outside. Commit to one hour of not listening to your inner critic, no matter what they say. Just focus on you, and only you. Not the person next to you and what they can or can’t do. Choose to set an intention for every class. Find that one word or phrase that you can resonate with, and carry it with you through the practice. I find that if I choose one positive word and keep repeating it like a mantra, my class goes way better in my head. Do not make it a “just get through it” mantra, make it a positive one; “you are amazing”, “you are happy”, “you are perfect”, or just simply “happy”, “peaceful”, or “centered”. Whatever it is you are hoping to attain, make that your focal point.
2) Set your ego aside
Another key that needs to be stated: each and every person has their own ego that is beating them up inside.
As fat as you feel, as awkward as you feel, as out of place… know that others in the room feel the same way.
The size zero woman could be battling her own self-worth. The slender, athletic woman may be telling herself that she isn’t good enough. The older, confident woman feels like she can’t compare with the younger women. The younger women feel out of place around the older, more confident women.
We all have our own issues. Your inner voice could be telling you that you are the only one not in a full extension of tree pose because it’s trying to isolate you. The fact is, there is a woman right behind you who can’t do a full extension of tree pose because of an unrelated injury in her youth, but she’s watching you with admiration for the way you gracefully extend your arms.
But most likely, everyone in that room is too focused on themselves and their own shortcomings to even worry or think twice about you and what you can or can’t do. Judgey women don’t tend to show up for yoga class, because it forces them to judge themselves too much.
Yoga attracts the type of person who is actually less critical of others, as yoga forces you to put your ego aside for one hour. And that is a good thing, a very good thing. P.S – if you want to learn how yoga can actually promote body positivity and self-love, read my other blog next!
3) Keep at it, you got this!
Keep showing up, keep trying your best, make your mental battle your point of focus more than your physical battle. Stay committed to letting it all go, and just be.
Allow yourself to just BE.
And then celebrate yourself for showing up!
Use kind words with yourself. Slowly learn to appreciate all that your body can do, and shun all thoughts of what it can’t do.
You are worthy of that celebration, your body is perfectly made and worthy of celebrating movement!
It really is that simple to learn how to love yoga. SO, what are you waiting for? Sign-up for a class, course, training, or retreat today! P.S Follow me on FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM for more tips on how to start yoga and how to develop your practice, both on and off the mat.