For most of my life I’ve hated my body. Growing up I was always taller than the rest of the kids. I was never considered dainty or small and I easily pack on the pounds if I don’t pay attention. In junior high school we had mirrors at the end of each hallway, mandated by some administrator who claimed this would be good for our self-esteem. But for me it just made realize how awkward I truly was with my head bobbing over the other students reflected back to me between each and every passing period. In high school I was tormented by the days that we had to have our body fat measured in gym class. I remember standing in line with the other girls telling myself it’s going to be o.k. if the number resulted in something higher than 20% when internally I was telling myself this body of mine was just not good enough.
Throughout my 20s I had moments where I thought I was cute, attractive, or even pretty, but most of the time I was comparing myself to others around me, as most of us do. If only I was shorter, smaller, had littler thighs or a smaller bone structure, life would be very different for me. I would be able to play the roles I always dreamed of playing. I was a soul slamming against the boundaries of my body, hating it for what it was and how it had trapped me within its confines. And as I look back on this period of my life I can’t help but think how silly I was being and how much time and energy I wasted wishing for something else.
Because the truth is my body is awesome. It does so much for me even when I hated it and had little respect for it. It continued to breathe for me and pump the blood through my veins. It took me on long runs and stuck with me through endless, grueling rehearsals where I would not give it a break. It let me enjoy the experience of singing in front of hundreds of people every night when I was performing and enjoy that rush of air and the ringing of tone that came directly from the very essence of my being.
You see, the body is a partner, a learning tool, and a way to experience this world. Everybody’s body is awesome – no matter of size, shape, or color. And living in this body today I have nothing but gratitude for it and for everything it gives me. Because even though I know I am more than just a body it’s pretty fun to be in control of one and learn to understand it’s strengths and weaknesses over time. And since the word yoga means “union,” implying the union of mind, body, and spirit, I thought it would be a great idea if we all just took a moment and gave gratitude for the use of our body. Just one moment where we didn’t wish it was something else, but gave thanks for what it is today.
So many times throughout my normal workweek I hear from students who wish they looked this way or that way. They have to lose more weight, get more muscle tone, clear up their skin, erase their wrinkles, get rid of that cellulite and only then, they will like themselves more. That they wished their Standing Head to Knee was better and it’s their body’s fault that it is not. That if a certain part of their body was just a bit different they could accomplish a goal within a posture sooner.
And though I can completely relate to this mentality and still struggle at times to embrace my own body, when it comes to practicing yoga I always think, “What is the rush?” Isn’t the fun of this practice to use your body and learn what its capable of? To learn how to use your body to heal itself? I mean, it doesn’t get much cooler than that. That just by compressing, stretching and squeezing certain parts of the body you can heal it over time. When you think it about it all, its quite incredible.
So, quit telling your body it’s not good enough. Instead, give thanks for all that it does for you day after day. Treat it right. Do your yoga. Eat good food. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Sweat often. Know you are beautiful. Enjoy this life.
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