It sounds really cliche when I say that I have been on a journey of self love. Such a yogi thing to say but it's the truth and it's changed my world.
I spent my childhood training as a gymnast, it was my whole life. Whilst my school mates slept in the mornings I was up at 5am to train and would return after school for another 4- 5 hours of practice. This was five days a week and on weekends I had ballet classes. I was put on a diet at the age of eleven by my coach (I was not overweight at all) and remember the confusion at lunch time when my friends would eat burgers and chips and I was graced with Alfalfa sprouts.
At the age of fourteen I spent time training with the British rhythmic gymnastics team, it was a dream come true. At this point I was all muscle and no fat but was aware that I did not look like the beautifully elegant bean pole thin team mates. Then the letter arrived saying that I would not be selected to train for the 2000 Olympics due to not looking the part, that although my performance was as it should be I simply did not have the figure for the sport. There was an end note to my parents requesting that I do not develop any eating disorders as a result of this news.
Now we all know that being a teenage girl is a hard time, learning to deal with the changes in your body as you develop into a woman. To be told at such a vulnerable stage of my life that I did not look the way I was supposed to was nothing short of devastating. I won’t go in to the details of how I dealt with the life lessons that brought, but know that it took me until after I finished University to maintain healthy eating habits.
I did learn to accept myself then and when I moved to New Zealand to start a fresh and exciting life as an underwater photographer I started to feel validated by the art I created rather then by the way I looked in my wetsuit when making the photographs.
Throw in a an abusive relationship to co-inside with the Christchurch Earthquakes when everything in my life literally crumbled to the earth, and suddenly my blossoming spirit got crushed completely. My partner used to ask my everyday when he got home from work if I had been to the gym that day and used to make my breakfasts and packed lunches so that he could control my eating (once again I must state that my weight was perfect for my height and build at this point), stating on numerous occasions that I was too fat to be attractive. By this point I had no confidence left and I actually believed him.
Needless to say at this point in my life I was pretty broken on the inside. I was an addict to the gym and when the city centred closed off by the army in response to the earthquake damage, so did the gyms. We had no water at the time so running was not an option as we could not shower (Wet wipes were like gold dust during this time but thats another story for another time). Then I heard that a newly open Yoga Studio (Flow Hot Yoga) on the outskirts of the city had survived was open, running classes and amazingly had their water in tact so blissful showers were available.
Needing to get my exercise fix I attended my first hot yoga session there. I can’t remember ever going to the gym and feeling as good in my body as I did after that class, and I knew then that yoga would get me through everything I was battling with not only physically but emotionally. I began a daily practice and found balance in my life. I left the guy and I finally for the first time in my life began to appreciate my body and how it supported me everyday and allowed my move. I started my journey on learning to love myself. My body was healthy and highly functional, I was so grateful that I could honour it with my practice, give back to it by finding openness and space, allowing myself to breathe and work through the stresses in life.
So now I am a teacher, and I feel that I am qualified to teach, not just because of my teacher training, but because the personal hardship I have overcome to have the relationship I do with my body. I struggle still sometimes when I have to have photos taken of me for my website, newsletters and articles. I still have that voice that rears up and tells me I don’t look the part. I don’t look like the lithe yogis you see doing impressive poses on Instagram. I have muscle mass and sometimes those muscles challenge me to get into certain poses but this is the whole thing about finding your own personal practice, you work to YOUR body, honouring what it can do. Challenging it yes, but respecting it and it’s limitations and still loving it despite not being perfect.
As a teacher I think your greatest lesson to learn and practice is compassion. You have to break and crack open order to allow the light in.
Cliche or not I hope this resonates with you and that you find yourself on the mat, appreciating your amazing body.