I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my first few years as a yoga practioner. Specifically, what got me into yoga in the first place.
I won’t lie. I went to my first yoga class, 11 years ago, in a quest to get “the yoga butt”.
You know what I’m talking about. I had heard that yoga will lift and tone your cheeks, giving you a lovely ass. It’s why they called them as-anas, right? I had Yoga Butt Envy.
I was 21. I was dumb. And I was desperate. So let me explain.
I was always an active child. My parents were hippies (they won’t like me calling them that, but they really were), so I was always outside playing, even at a young age. Whether I was canoeing and fishing with my dad, rollerskating with my cousins, or swimming with my sister, I was always moving. When I got into elementary and middle school, I did horseback riding, ice skating, soccer and basketball (OK, those two lasted for one day- to this day I still don’t understand what “off sides” means). But I loved moving my body and being active.
When I transitioned into high school, I became a three sport athlete. I ran cross country, long distance track and did cross country skiing. What started as an extracurricular activity soon became an unhealthy obsession. I was constantly trying to be faster and better- to the detriment of my physical and mental health. Exercise no longer was fun anymore- it was compulsive.
Luckily, at the insistence of my parents, I stopped running. But the obsession with becoming physically more fit continued throughout college as my body image deteriorated. I exercised compulsively. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say the college gym should have charged me rent for the amount of time I was spending there.
I was buying into the societal myth that I needed to have a perfect body. I think many women can relate to that.
But the more I exercised, the more I hated my body. I was constantly seeking physical perfection. And it never happened.
So when I first walked into that yoga class 11 years ago, I was worn down- physically and emotionally. I was drained. I thought that yoga was my last resort, that maybe THIS would give me the perfect body- because I had tried everything else and I still hated how my body looked.
And little did I know, that first class would be life changing. It was the beginning a new life and a new relationship with myself and my body. Yoga made me feel GOOD- physically and emotionally. Yoga grounded me, so I didn’t spend so much time in my head. Yoga taught me to appreciate the way that my body moves. Yoga helped me realize that my body was strong and capable, but also needed some kindness and ease.
Yoga actually made me crave healthier foods, so I felt nourished from the inside out. And as time went on, I actually began to look physically more vibrant. It was ironic- I had given up excessive exercise and I actually looked BETTER.
Yoga helped me LET GO of the idea that my body needed to be perfect. It’s actually far from perfect, but it’s mine and it is my vehicle for doing all the things that I love.
Now, I give thanks for my body. It allows me to hike with my husband and my dog. My body takes me biking in Aspen and snowshoeing in Santa Fe. My body flows in and out of some truly beautiful and amazing yoga poses. The idea of being locked inside a gym now is enough to make me shudder.
Simply put, yoga helped me learn to live in the body I have.
And that is why I want to be a yoga teacher. I want to pay this amazing gift forward.
And if my classes help people get a yoga butt, then that’s just an added benefit.