Writing this blog post really scares me! I feel like no one is ever going to come to my yoga classes if I publish my imperfections. But I can’t pretend either, so here goes … I am never going to be the sort of yoga teacher who posts amazing pics of my perfect body. Because I don’t have one. Check out my wonky tree.
I really struggle to get my weight to where I would like it. I have fat and wobbly legs. I had asthma as a child and I was never any good at sports at school. Which is quite a big deal.
Always picked last for teams
Anyone remember that team-picking thing that PE teachers used to do? Two of the sporty kids are chosen as team leaders for a game of netball or rounders, and they take turns to pick players. Obviously they choose the fastest, fittest ones first, and the group of the unchosen gradually dwindles until the slow, wheezy and fat ones are left at the end. They are finally accepted as a necessary burden. They smile and laugh as they eventually join their teams, trying to look as if it’s fine. Pretending they don’t feel the humiliation. I was one of those kids. I can still feel the shame now, aged 53. I’ve been wearing that fake smile for way, way too much of my life.
Yoga – permission to stop trying so hard
Much later in life I got medication for my asthma and started to run and do sports. I’m reasonably fit for my age now, but I have always lacked body confidence. Still do in many ways. But a couple of years ago I discovered a yoga teacher who made me feel safe. Better than safe, I realised I could relax and and just be me. I will always remember my lovely teacher laughing gently as she gave me permission to stop trying so very hard. It came as a total revelation to me that trying less hard can actually achieve more. That the body will bend and flow when it is released from fearful effort. That was so incredibly liberating. For the first time, my body was good enough. Exactly as it was, and is.
Gentleness, compassion and kindness
I still struggle with dissatisfaction and low confidence in my physical abilities. Headstands and handstands scare me. I have a mental list of yoga asanas which I feel I can’t do, which I sometimes allow myself to fret over. But I know that the yogic way is to be gentle and compassionate, and that that has to begin with myself. And I hope that kindness and acceptance will make me a better yoga teacher. One of my midwifery lecturers at university was fond of reminding us that birthing women need kindness even more than they need medical expertise. In an atmosphere of kindness, life has a tendency to unfold and freely grow. Oxytocin flows and we discover strengths we never knew we had.
I’m increasingly convinced of the power of positive affirmation. As Henry Ford said, “He can who thinks he can, and he can’t who thinks he can’t”. My body may be a bit wobbly, but its the one I have, and I am learning to love it and treat it kindly. Yoga and meditation practice help me discover what I am capable of. Yoga keeps reminding me that I have everything I need. That I am more powerful than I imagine. That I am good enough. That I can do it.
I love the picture at the top of this post, because I am happy and smiling. My right hip is stuck out sideways and my legs look fat, but I have just climbed a mountain in the sunshine with a dear friend. I am practising yoga and I know I can do it. I feel free and unashamed. I want to share this feeling with others. It’s liberating!
Karen is currently training as a yoga teacher and she will be teaching classes in gentle yoga, pregnancy yoga and postnatal yoga in the Billericay, Essex area from October 2018. For more details, go to www.thecalmspace.co.uk