I’ve always hated my legs.
They are long, yes, their one redeeming quality. But my calves don’t have shapely muscles, my ankels slant inward, and my thighs hold most of my weight.
I’ve said some pretty nasty things to myself about my legs, and been envious of others for years and years.
A Bikram yoga class was the first time I can remember looking at my legs in the mirror and thinking they looked strong.
The first time I can ever remember thinking something positive about my legs was when I was 22 year old.
George Washington University School of Public Health asked me to write a post on what yoga means to me. I mulled it over for a long time, but couldn’t come up with suffient words. Everything I thought about seemed inadequate to truly express what yoga has done for my health – mental and physical.
Then this morning one work came to mind:
What I love about my yoga community, whether in St. Louis or Dallas or Charlottesville or Louisville, is that everyone is so accepting. Everyone is kind, open-hearted, friendly and curious. There are women and men of all sizes, dressed in Lululemon or in sweats, with tattoos or perfectly tanned skin. All types of people find yoga for their personal reason, and everyone is welcome.
Yoga accepts all body sizes, and the best yogis do not always appear the most “fit”. They don’t have to be super musclar or lean, though some are. Yoga is about loving and challenging your body, and that happens no matter what size pants you wear.
Yoga is a mental, spiritual, and physical workout. I have to make my body align in certain positions, but also focus with my mind. I have to accept where I am that day – whether energized for endless chaturangas or a little worn out and distracted. I have to put all my thought onto my breath and forget about what is going on around me. I find peace in the focus, and come out feeling more calm but also sweaty and fatigued. It is a whole body workout.
Yoga feels good. Some workouts feel like a complete stressor on my body, and while that can be a good thing, when I go to yoga I know I am doing something awesome for myself. It is like an intense stretch and a full body massage in one. I always feel better when I leave than when I came.
Yoga can be fast or slow. Tough or gentle. Quiet or full of the sound of breath or music. Done anywhere in any clothes.
I found yoga through Bikram 5 or 6 years ago, but have moved onto to vinyasa flows as my new love. Gentle yoga helped me through my recent struggle with amenorrhea when I needed to gain some weight, and power classes are the perfect destressor after a frustrating work day. Yoga is the best antidote to a lot of running, weight lifting, or spinning. It’s an essential part of my weekly routine, and one that I make room for in my life and budget.
Yoga has helped me to accept my body, even my legs, and accept myself. I have had a tumultuous past and am on an winding path to find a life and career I love. But yoga makes me realize that all I need is my breath. Keep breathing, keep pushing forward, keep accepting.
- It’s national yoga awareness month! Share with me what yoga means to you with #yogamatters!