Because, Yoga: A story of body-hate, then love

urdvadahnurasana copyI have never been more excited about my yoga practice than I am right now.

In good ‘ole social media fashion, let me overshare my heart with you…

I, apparently, have had an emotional block, or disconnect with my yoga practice since, well, forever. I started yoga when I was 17, at the height of insecurities and body-hatred. I had recently lost about 40 pounds, and was looking and feeling smokin’. You see, my entire self-worth was wrapped up in how I looked.

My yoga practiced ebbed and flowed through college, marriage and first grown-up jobs. I was 27ish when I started giving yoga a second, deeper thought – when I thought maybe I’d like to teach. Even though it was close to ten years after I first discovered yoga, I still maintained all of my old insecurities (I could just hide it better), but I hated my body even more; because now I was sick and tired, and I didn’t know why.

All I knew was that I couldn’t sit behind a desk and keep my sanity any longer.

So, teacher training. Because, yoga.

I was still sick, and overweight. And public speaking was my biggest fear (second to giant house spiders). But through it all, teacher training lead me to diagnosing myself, which was confirmed by a real doctor, AND the training seriously helped me overcome my fear of speaking.

So then, teaching.

I was on the mend physically (minus lingering baby and thyroid weight) and I was ready to take on the yoga teaching world! I quickly landed a teaching gig and was given the opportunity to teach as much as I wanted. That was exciting.

But then, teaching.

I equally loved and feared my students. To be honest, I got a lot of judgement from students who thought a yoga teacher should look a specific way. It hurt, a lot. But I also had a group of AMAZING, supportive students who I loved. They encouraged me, and so I kept teaching.

But, I found myself in a giant rut. I was teaching in a way that catered to the athletic, able-bodied student, because I didn’t want to be judged. I think, however, teaching in this manner burnt me out, because my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t realize how damaging and how draining it was to please a group of people who were not even my target. I wanted to quit so. many. times. I am ashamed to share that, honestly.

And then, body positive yoga.

One day, feeling down about myself, I started looking at Instagram photos for the campaign #whatayogilooks and #yogaforall. These yogis defy the U.S. standards of a beautiful yogi and can do some amazing things with their bodies. Instagram led me to blogs, which lead me to some blogging of my own, which lead me to the Yoga for All teacher training (which starts this Tuesday!!).

These past few weeks of focusing my intentions on body positivity and teaching in a more gentle and loving way, has rekindled my passion for teaching yoga. I’ve literally done a home practice every day for about two weeks straight (I was only required to do 4 days a week during training)! I am just so excited to have an area of focus for my teaching. My goal is to reach those people who have felt excluded by yoga “standards.”

If you’ve been looking for a place in the Longview/Kelso area to do yoga; if you’ve felt excluded in a yoga class; if you’re worried you won’t fit in or won’t be able to do the poses; come try out Yoga with Shawnee at Summit Studios! I will do my best to accommodate you, to modify you, and to make you feel welcomed.

I am SO looking forward to starting the Yoga for All training and saturating my classes in body-positivity and yoga inclusivity!

signiture copy copy

Advertisements

Let’s be real: Loving yourself is hard work

DSC_0038 copyJust like loving a significant other, learning to love yourself in order to eradicate a negative body image takes time, work, effort, respect, and constant reminders. If you’ve battled your body your whole life, as I have, you are not going to, realistically, wake up one morning and just decide that you love everything about yourself.

You’re still going to have insecurities, fears, moments of sadness, and icky envy… <–Gosh, doesn’t sound very promising, eh?

But wait a minute! There is still hope.

I can’t guarantee this is how it will be for you, but when I decided to stop dieting and focus on intuitive eating, and then a couple years later decided to lose hate instead of weight, I felt lighter. I think it was years of guilt I felt float off my shoulders – a lifetime of being told by peers and media that, because I had fat, I wasn’t a significant human being—woman.

And I still struggle with loving myself at all times. Heck, my biggest trigger is seeing myself in candid photos. Eeek! While I didn’t cry this time, I sure felt all those nasty little emotions popping up as I looked through vacation pictures.

Here is the amazing thing, though. I didn’t cry. I looked at some of those pictures for a while. I sat with them until it didn’t hurt so much anymore. Then I made myself say something nice about the picture. Even something simple like, my hair looks shiny, or my legs are almost tan!

Then, in those moments of “feeling fat,” I start down the path of “I need to lose weight” really quickly. But not long after follows some internal dialogue about needing to stop that; if you exercise you do it out of love; if you eat, you eat for health; etc.

See?

It’s a process. It’s a journey. Hang in there. You can get through each and every icky moment!

Loving yourself is a commitment. You have to wake up every day, reminding yourself every hour, every minute, that you are special, important and beautiful.

signiture copy copy

Love your body at any age: Yoga and Osteoporosis

New blog post! This past week I had the opportunity to listen in on a tele-summit regarding yoga and osteoporosis. The information I gathered was very helpful and so beautifully fit into the “body love” and “yoga for all” direction I’m taking my teaching. Loving your body at any age is equally as important as loving your body at any size, etc. In short: yoga can both prevent and reverse osteoporosis. <-What a better way to love your body than with prevention! Read my notes to for the DOs and DON’Ts of Yoga for Osteoporosis.

Photo credit: According to Bing this image is free to share and use.

Photo credit: According to Bing this image is free to share and use.

***The information presented in this article are my notes on the free YogaU.com tele-summit , “Yoga for Osteoporosis: Prevention and Practice,” as presented by Dr. Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall.

For eight years Dr. Fishman, who is also a well-known yoga teacher, has been studying effects of yoga and building bones. Throughout this eight year span, Fishman collected data on 900 participants and found the average participant, who was in the Osteoporosis range before starting yoga, had re-grown bone mass and came out of the Osteoporosis range.

Google defines Osteoporosis as “a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D.”

Dr. Fishman, however, doesn’t fully agree that the loss of tissue is solely a result of mineral deficiencies. Fishman holds to Wollf’s Law, which, according to Wikipedia “is a theory…that states that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed.”

In other words, bone can re-build mass and adapt if appropriate, healthy pressure is applied. Gentle, strength-building forms of yoga provide a compressive force that stimulates the bone. As muscles are worked, the muscles pull on joints and bones to stimulate growth.

Dr. Fishman also found that yoga works just as well (if not better) to reverse Osteoporosis as pharmaceuticals such as Boniva. Fishman states that Boniva does work, but has its problems and one thousand and one side effects. Yoga on the other hand, has no negative side effects (if practiced safely) and can improve posture, balance, coordination, range of motion, strength and anxiety, all of which are important to aging bodies.

Osteoporosis is not just a concern for those who are older. Prevention should be a concern to those of any age. Dr. Fishman states the earlier in life you start your yoga practice, the better, as a yoga practice can help prevent osteoporosis.
Ellen Saltonstall, a well-known yoga teacher and assistant in this yoga study, gives some advice for those who have Osteoporosis, or may be at risk to Osteoporosis, and would like to begin a yoga practice.

The DOs of Yoga for Osteoporosis:
-Check with a physician. Get a DEXA scan. Check for other medical problems.
-Find a qualified yoga teacher. Yoga Alliance registered is important, but experience and background are also things to consider.
-Use care and intelligence. Start slowly & gradually.
-Practice regularly. Ideally 30 minutes five to seven days a week. Slowly build up amount and frequency.
-Focus on strength and balance rather than stretching or relaxing.
-Prioritize poses that extend the spine: back-bending, which build strength and counteract kyphosis.

The DON’Ts of Osteoporosis.
-Strain: Be intelligible/mindful.
– Avoid flexing (bending forward) the spine with speed and force.
-When practicing balancing poses use props, wall, chair.
-When twisting, avoid curving the spine. Don’t force with leverage. Focus on lift of the spine and raise the hips with a blanket, block or towel.
-Avoid inversions until proper guidance and enough strength in the arms and shoulders.
-Avoid excessive weight bearing on the hands and wrists before you’re ready. Build up strength slowly.signiture copy copy