I’m 5’3” on a good hair day. When I began practicing Yoga over 7 years ago, I weighed about 200lbs and was a size twenty. I had just had two children in less than 18 months and was just looking for a gentle way to reclaim my body. Truth be told, I was really looking for some personal quiet time. I had no idea what yoga was. I had never even heard of it.
Yoga came to me as a complete accident of time and place. It was a 20 minute demo for my monthly Women’s Guild meeting at my church. I flat our refused to get on the floor for the demo but was humiliated by the room full of mostly 70-somethings telling me to get down with them. I followed their lead, got down on the floor and was changed forever. I decided to take the plunge and try an eight week session.
I can still recall vividly the terror I felt going to that first class. In fact, I was so scared that a few days before I actually did a dry run to the studio. And then the night of my first class came. I was uncomfortable in my clothes; not sure if I was wearing the “right” things. I was pretty sure that my ugly sweatpants were definitely not the “right” thing. I was petrified about being completely out of place. Do I go early or sneak in late? Where should I sit in class? Would people stare at me? Would I embarrass myself? What if I couldn’t keep up? Would I be brave enough to come back again? And the deafening thoughts went on….
One of the first things that struck me when I got to the studio was that the teacher seemed oblivious to my size. I don’t think she even picked up on my nervousness. I don’t remember too much else about the specifics of that class or the rest of that first eight week session. What I remember most is the sensations I started to feel in my body and distinct thoughts that started to arise.
I specifically remember a posture that my instructor loved to have us do almost every class: standing half moon. I remember one of those first classes and standing in that asana, which I thought at the time seemed to be an easy and harmless position, and tears started to roll down my face. I was overcome with sensation. It was not pain. It was sensation. The fact that I had tears rolling down my face was so startling to me. I knew something was happening to me, but I wasn’t sure what.
But at some point not far after that crying half moon, something miraculous happened. I began to submit. I started to surrender to those sensations. And although I may not have always loved the actual sensation I was experiencing, I learned to love the feeling of being alive in my body; my full body.
After the first eight weeks I still wasn’t sure what yoga was or why I was even going, but it was the dead of winter and I still wasn’t even close to any goals I had for my post-baby body. I convinced myself to hang in for another eight weeks. I figured if I could get through winter maybe I’d see some differences in the mirror.
Here’s what I didn’t count on: The differences weren’t only in the mirror. The differences were that I felt stronger. I had less pain in my body. I was building endurance. And I was actually becoming comfortable in my body. I was excited to go to class. The terror was gone. I was feeling great for about 3 days after class. And the benefits went on…
By this point I was addicted. Yoga was now part of my lifestyle. I became hungry for more knowledge of anything yoga. And I continued practicing. The lessons kept coming. I kept feeding my hunger for more yoga and about a year and half after that first class I received my calling to become a teacher.
Now that I am a full time yoga teacher, this life experience has become my greatest teaching tool. I know what it feels like to be in a larger body that isn’t always accepted in our culture. I know what it feels like to try and hide that body behind clothes and a big smile. And one of the side effects for me in a larger body was to be in my head so much that I couldn’t feel my body. I began to feel alive only when I started to feel sensations and energy moving in my body. This is one of the true lessons of yoga. It has nothing to do with contorting yourself like a pretzel or sporting the newest yoga gear to class. It is about feeling alive in the body you were given and loving that body with all of its’ perceived faults.
If you are a newbie to yoga and you live in a fuller body, have no fear! A good instructor will welcome you with open arms. The other students are not going to care. Find a beginner’s class and do a dry run for yourself. Check out the lay of the studio. Interview the instructor. Ask questions. It’s quite possible the instructor will not fully understand your plight, but a good teacher will understand yoga. And they will help you to find your comfort level. You may not be able to do every posture but you can modify for your body. Don’t be surprised if you have emotional releases. All humans hold old emotion in their bodies. If you have lived hiding your body behind your persona, all of that baggage will start to drop once you start moving your body.
If the thought of going to a class is too much for you, try an online class. Www.YogaVibes.com has many classes to choose from. There are plenty of free vignettes to explore in the privacy of your home. Start where you are. Most of the classes have short free portions so you can get an idea of the pace and style. This is a great place to start for a beginner.
And remember, whether in a class or at home, your full bodied postures will probably not look like the cover of a yoga magazine, but they will be your postures. And they will look beautiful on you!
You can join me and my full body in a Beginner’s Moderate Kripalu Flow Class on www.YogaVibes.com in the Beginner’s Vibe section.