Release

Something huge has just hit me.

I’m a firm believer in the mind-body-spirit connection. I believe (thanks to Louise Hay) that when our bodies are in any kind of “dis-ease” (as she calls it), it is trying to tell us something. (See her book You Can Heal Your Life.)

About four years ago I sprained my back lugging a suitcase out of the back of my car when I was 6 weeks pregnant. Ever since, I have lived with intermittent pain in my low back. It’s one of the reasons I continued to do yoga, see a chiropractor, and get regular massages. And then my chiropractor suggested I  try Pilates to strengthen my core and take some of the load off of my back. And then my Pilates instructor and my massage therapist suggest I go to physical therapy to find out what was really going on and get some more specific help. That was about 5 months ago.

I was also working with an essential oil blend called “Release” from Young Living. I had started using it to help release my negative beliefs that I believed contributed to my negative feelings about my body. But as I worked on my back, I realized how much I needed to release that, too.

Yesterday during Pilates, I did some of the exercises recommended by the PT. And for the very first time, they were easy, and there was NO pain. Now that’s not to say that it’s gone forever. I’m still going to do my stretches and strength exercises (also because they just feel good in general).

But here’s the connection: It is also the same day that I took charge and decided NOT to do the detox. Ever since that moment, I have felt a new sense of calm. And a stronger sense of empowerment.

Because I didn’t go on the usual emotional roller coaster to make the decision. I heard the old arguments in my head (“don’t be a failure” – “what will your chiropractor say?” – “you can’t give up, because you were so ready to brag about what your were doing!” – and on and on). The words were there, but the strong negative emotion was not. I took charge and made the decision that was right for ME.

And in making that move, there must have come a big release in my physical self, too. Which is why my back felt better than it has in years!

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One, Two, Three

Short and sweet, I feel I have three things to focus on as I move forward, if I want to achieve my goals of being healthier and shedding the weight I no longer need.

  1. Loving myself.  I believe this is the most important element if long-term weight-loss is to be achieved. Other things factor in, like diet and exercise, but nothing *real* can happen if I don’t love myself – including my body – including my body right now.
  2. Appreciating.  It’s time to take credit for all that I have accomplished! My weight may be fluctuating. It is still less than it was two years ago. And along the way, I have done some serious emotion purging of old beliefs, judgments, and fears. I also believe it is important to appreciate the extraordinary life I have – my husband, my children, my family, my friends, my home, my work, my growth, my support…. The list goes on and on. And that’s not to mention the beauty in nature all around us, a song that uplifts me, soft sheets on the bed, spotting a hawk soaring above, a delicious chocolate chip cookie – on and on and on – all the big and little things that make life so sweet!
  3. Letting go of Control.  This is a big one for me. It’s time to hold the reigns a little less tightly. In ALL areas of my life, including my need to lose weight. My 2-year-old son’s favorite song is “Let it Go” from Frozen. I love to listen to it over and over almost as much as he does, because it reminds me to let go 🙂

And one final note about loving myself. At the risk of sounding arrogant (which I do not think I am), I had a thought about my fears of people judging me: seriously, I think that all the people in my life – family, friends, fellow parents at school – would actually say I’m pretty darned amazing! I don’t know who I think is out there judging me so harshly! The only one doing that is ME. And it’s time to stop.

The Magic of Yoga

Almost six years ago, I started practicing yoga. At first, I went to relieve muscles that were tight from so much time spent in front of a computer and hunched over books. I had no idea at the time that yoga would propel me down a life-changing path.

In the beginning, I felt awkward and conspicuous. But it felt good, so I kept at it.

My yoga studio is really special. Each 90-minute class begins with a short lecture on various aspects of yoga history, culture, and philosophy. Then there is focus on the breath and encouragement to set an intention for the class. It offers a beautifully supportive environment and encourages students to be true to themselves and listen to their bodies.

Two years later, I happened upon a special edition of Yoga Journal magazine that focused on weight loss. Every single article in the magazine spoke to me. I knew yoga would play a significant role in my journey.

This journey of change still had to wait a bit, as I was about to become pregnant with my second child. Through both of my pregnancies, I continued my yoga practice in a prenatal class. Not only was it beneficial to my physical self, but the groups were so supportive and provided a wonderful space to exchange information and make friends. Knowing there was a little life growing inside of me also helped me listen more carefully to my body and not push myself beyond my limits merely for the sake of keeping up with my neighbor.

What have I learned in yoga?

Throughout my years of practice, I have grown stronger and more flexible. I can now do poses that I thought I would never get into. My heels touch the ground in downward dog (well, most of the time!). I never thought my tight shoulders would allow me to get into eagle arms, but not too long ago I tried again and was thrilled to find I could twist my arms into the previously impossible pose! Hurrah! Ooooh, it feels so good to see and feel the progress! Does it matter that it’s take 5 years to get there? No way! If I’d never tried, I never would have gotten there.

But the benefits have been far more than physical. I have learned  –  and continue to learn  –  to focus on my own body and not compare myself to others in the class. My teachers always encourage this mindset of non-judgment. “Listen to your own body before you listen to me,” one says. As I practice the skill of non-judgement, I have become more accepting of my body. And in turn, I have come to appreciate my body more and more. Look at what it can do! And the more I appreciate my body, the more it is capable of doing.

Yes, I have become stronger and more flexible. But even from the very beginning, there were poses I could easily slip in to. I not only felt strong and flexible in these poses: I felt graceful … even beautiful at times. Focusing on these positive feelings inspires me to continue my practice. And I was further able to take these feelings of grace and beauty with me off the mat and into my daily life.

I learned that I have strengths and weaknesses. And both can always be improved upon. I know that my body still has certain physical weaknesses, including a back left sore from my pregnancies and childbirth. So instead of trying to force myself into backbends and further injuring my low back, I lie face-down on the mat and simply breathe. Sometimes I still have to talk myself out of my fears of judgment from others: even if someone is looking at me (which they probably are not, as they are focused on their own poses), there is no reason for anyone to judge. Remember? We all have strengths and weakness, and we need to honor our bodies for where they are in that moment.

I will admit to a moment of comparison. It was a moment of great revelation for me. A young man accompanied his mother to class one day. He looked to be about college-age and very athletic  –  maybe a baseball player. I had never considered myself to be athletic. Although I had played a variety of sports as a kid, I always felt inferior  –  largely due to the feeling of being overweight. It didn’t help that gym teachers never encouraged me or made me feel that I was capable of improving. So there I sat in my yoga class with this young man a few mats over from me in the back row of class. The old feelings of inferiority crept in. But as I caught sight of him out of the corner of my eye, I was astonished to see how much difficulty he had with the poses  –  poses that I easily got into! What? Could this be? This comparison, however, was not one of self-deprecation and was by no means a feeling of superiority over this young man. It was, as I said, a revelation. It may sound obvious, but in that moment I realized that “being athletic” had a thousand different interpretations. It did not simply mean one was good at sports. I finally realized that I, too, was athletic in my yogi way!

It was a huge moment for me. I was no longer that big girl, so horribly self-conscious. Through my yoga class, the awkward, bruised little girl in me, who had felt so inadequate for so long, finally began to feel soothed. My confidence began to grow more and more. And as it did, so did my appreciation and love for my body.

It felt amazing.

***

I was inspired to finally write this post in part by an article I just read in the latest issue of Yoga Journal about the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and their efforts to raise awareness of yoga as a practice that embraces and can be embraced by every body. (See Yoga Journal, February 2015, p. 50) You can read more about the coalition here.