I wrote this piece a few years ago and, just yesterday, it showed up on my personal newsfeed. It still hits me right in the feels, so I was inspired to share it with all of you.
As a yoga studio owner and instructor, I am always seeking knowledge. I often look in yoga-based magazines, books and online resources to deepen my personal practice and, by extension, what I offer as a teacher. This never ending search has lead me to some of the most incredible discoveries of my life, but it has also lead me to witness a presentation of yoga as a trend; a branded yoga, a sexy yoga, a fashionable yoga, a yoga for "losing those stubborn 10 lbs. FAST!". It sometimes shouts right in my face that I do not belong because I do not look like a 'yogi'.
This is not the yoga that I know. This is not the yoga that fills me with light or the yoga that I crawl to on my knees in desperation. My yoga can't be 'selfied'. It is not owned by a corporation. It is not better than or worse than. It is me ... in this moment. My yoga is unbiased, without expectation, judgement-free. She enables me to live fully and love deeply. To be as grounded in the ebb as I am in the flow.
Once, a long time ago, I forgot who my yoga was. I lost her in the rush of my day-to-day life. You see, my yoga is not always blissful. She can be tortuous, unrelenting, ugly, and uncomfortable. It was easier to be busy than accountable to the steady beat of my own heart telling me to do the work and to keep me on my path. I missed my yoga at first, but it was much easier to get swallowed up by the hypnotic siren virus that is 'busyness'.
Then, one day, I took myself deep into nature. I cut off from technology and creature comforts and I had nothing to busy myself with. There, in a pre-dawn darkness that was so deep, it swallowed and filled me all at once, I was silent enough to hear her softly calling to me. I dove into the blackness. Alone and draped in nothing but the night, I found my yoga again. There was no one to there tell me that this body wasn't right, didn't fit or wasn't beautiful. I could not see with eyes that polarize and judge. I could only feel my yoga. I saw my truest self without vision. I knew her. I was her.
I became overwhelmed with gratitude for this body for bringing my yoga to me. This body a full-fledged bootylicious miracle! This is the body that my parents, the two people I love most in the world, created. These chubby legs ran after my brothers (and, yes, my thighs touched with every stride). These sausage fingers helped deliver a fucking baby! This is the abundant body that the man of my dreams fell in love with. The round face that my community resonates with. The flabby arms that embrace my baby girl every day. Each time I come to my mat and move this body, I am reminded of just how grateful I am.
Your yoga is waiting for you even if you never step foot on a yoga mat your whole life. You are her. She's in there. One day, you will meet her, you will know her, you will love her and you will never be able to live without her ever again.
Inspired by my friends at The Yoga and Body Image Coalition and their sincere efforts throughout National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I felt compelled to share this short piece with you. I wrote it as a guided mindfulness practice directing love to oneself for Valentine's Day this year. Below, you will find a link to an audio file version of this guided meditation that you can listen to should you lose sight of the inherent miracle that you are.
My intention in sharing these resources is to help raise awareness about the serious nature of eating disorders and to help direct those affected to receive the help they need and deserve.
Thank you to my eyes for the ability to see the beauty that is all around me: the sun; the trees; a smile on a friendly face. Thank you for seeing our shared humanity - from my windows to another's. Thank you, eyes, for my highest vision. Thank you for your belief in the dreams that you house and your glimpse into things unseen.
Thank you to my ears for your willingness to stay open to all experiences. I can close my eyes or mute my voice, but you, ears, stay present without reservation. Thank you for reminding me that all expressions are equally worthy of my attention. Thank you for your example of undiscriminating observation.
Thank you to my voice for acting as the bridge between my mind, my heart, my vision, and the rest of the world. Thank you for your bravery, even if you sometimes shake. Thank you for the words - sung, spoken, whispered, or written - that empower and elevate. Thank you for your direct line to my expression of Self and for the secrets that we share that you communicate discerningly.
Thank you to my heart for keeping me honest. Thank you for aligning me with my sense of wonder and joy. Thank you for housing the experiences for which there are no words. Thank you, heart, for your vulnerability; for teaching me about hope. Mostly, soft heart, thank you for blossoming without reservation and for radiating your gifts despite adversity, fear, and efforts to dull your shine.
Thank you to my hands for allowing me to share generously and accept what I need with gratitude. Thank you for your acts of love, compassion, and connection when words cannot express. Thank you for your guidance and protection. Thank you, hands, for teaching me when to extend and when to withdraw.
Thank you to my feet for allowing me to stand present in this moment; for your support and for your steady rhythm. Thank you for the wisdom to guide me on my path.
Thank you to my body for humbling me; for being the home within which I reside and the vehicle that allows me to share with and experience the world. Thank you for teaching me about cause and effect, growth and loss, attachment and trust. Thank you, body, for your daily reminders of my limitless potential and your willingness to adapt.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Size acceptance. Fat activism. Positive body image. Self-esteem. Self-love. Self-acceptance. Body positivity. I live here now. It's taken me a long time, but I have citizenship now in the Nation of Bopo and I catch myself taking it for granted that not everyone lives here. For some, they're just visiting. For others, they're shipwrecked, but maybe they can see our welcoming shores. Some people are at war with this Nation, but we're a feisty bunch and we hold as steadfast to our beliefs as we do to one another. Some people don't have a clue that Bopo even exists. Today, let me name myself Ambassador and take you on a brief tour of this diverse and magical place ...
Here's an example of what I mean when I say that I take my body positivity for granted: a friend came over today and was trying on some clothes of mine to borrow before leaving for vacation tomorrow. Running from room to room in my house, becoming increasingly frustrated, she finally asked, "Don't you have any effective mirrors in this house!?". Funny, eh? I really don't. There's a little vanity mirror in the bathroom, one on the medicine cabinet, and then this sliver of a full-length mirror on this sliver of a wall in my bedroom. The sliver mirror is especially useless though. It's a wavy design and, because of the door and the slant in the roof, you really can't see yourself well in it at all. Why haven't I noticed this mirror deficit? She wanted to know. "I guess I just go with how I feel instead of how I look", I answered honestly. We blinked at each other in the silence then. She in her boat, one foot tentatively on my island. Me standing proudly in Bopo Nation, but without any judgement or superiority. Then, we just went about sorting through clothes and chatting about life; she from her boat and me from my island. In moments like these I am grateful for my practice because what was once hard work through avoidance, comparison, assumptions, acceptance, and back again, has become so comfortable. That's what it feels like in the Nation of Bopo: comfort. Comfort to just be. Comfort to allow others to be as well, even if their being looks, sounds, or feels much different than yours.
Here's why this blog is entitled "Let's start at the very beginning ...": your self-image is the lens with which you define yourself and see the world around you. Deeper than "body positivity" - a term, unfortunately, being coopted by the very powers that be that this movement was created to rebel AGAINST! - a positive self-image isn't necessarily about being positive about your body all the time. It's about weeding out external imagery and rhetoric defining what a "good body" is (and, by default, what a "bad body" is) to discover what you believe about yourself. You don't have to always feel positive about your body to be body positive. Body positivity began as an inclusive movement to promote the right to exist and participate regardless of the body you're in. That includes the right to have a full spectrum of feelings about your body. In fact, I might argue, that this exploration is necessary to start to unpack what you REALLY believe. Positive or negative, how have you come to integrate these feelings about yourself with the messages you're getting from others in your life and from the wider world around you? What do you like about your body? Can you start to notice those thing more? Can you waive the white flag when it comes to you vs. your body? Your body is made up of tissues that respond to stimulus ... it's not out to get you. What lies at the heart of your body issues? (Psssst ... the answer is not your body)! Can you root out the emotion that is at the heart of this symptom? Who can you rely on for support down the rabbit hole? Can you define for yourself what beauty is? Can you start to see beauty in all its forms - in nature, in art, in architecture? Can you recognize the diversity of all of the things that you define as "beautiful? Can you start to practice gratitude to your body for what it can do and what you do have?
As an internal practice, body positivity is a reclamation of our right to define ourselves.
Slowly, gradually, on the long and winding personal journey towards body positivity, we start to see ourselves differently and, as a result, start to see the world differently. In Bopo Nation, we can all eat, watch, wear, date, say, and do whatever we'd like bravely and unapologetically. Here, we understand that all bodies are worthy of love, of expression, and of taking up space. There are no "after" bodies. All bodies are valued, just as they are, as people. As a result, we all get to live life to its fullest. We each have equal potential and the possibilities are endless.
Like I said, it's a pretty magical place.
Now what do we self-loving, body accepting humans do with all this possibility? You've made it to Bopo Nation and you want to see the sights! Here's the map: you START within, at the very beginning, with your personal work towards body neutrality and, eventually, maybe, most days, body positivity. Give yourself permission to shift your mindset gradually with dedication, patience, and persistent practice. Then, like most practices, expect to cycle back to the same old shit over and over again each time your lens becomes clearer. From this place of body positivity, we find ourselves making room in our hearts for the individual experiences of those around us. Start to blur the lines between inner self-love and just love.
Now, you'll see what the locals know: Bopo Nation isn't really about body acceptance or body love at all. Well, it is, but that's only half of the journey. Fuck the idea that "all bodies are good bodies" and embrace the PEOPLE - the individual right of every single human being to exist and participate in the world and be seen as equal to every other other human being. THAT'S BODY POSITIVITY!!! Not my fat body as valuable as your skinny body. Body positivity isn't measured by my waistline, but my whole body (physical form, mind, heart, and actions) as valuable as your whole body. The body positivity movement has laid the foundation for pushing back against the oppression by rebelling against the claims that certain bodies have more value than others and look at how far we've come. Now, we can use those same pathways and push back against racism, ablism, discrimination, societal gendering, sexism, and all the other oppressive hierarchies designed to benefit few on the backs of many.
That's the magic of body positivity. That's radical change. That's our birthright and that will be our legacy.