body positive yoga

Everything after ‘should’ is just violence

Everything after ‘should’ is just violence

I have just read this book. I’m not even going to mention the title because I’m fairly convinced it’s the most awful yoga book I’ve ever read.

Why you ask? The shoulds.

In therapy, there is this term: ‘negging’. It refers to making someone feel bad about themselves so they will do what you want.

I counted the word shouldTWO HUNDREDtimes in a book that barely made 300 pages, including the foreword, introduction, and title spacer pages. This was a huge red flag that negging was going on - as yoga teacher Cora Wen says,

‘Everything after ‘should’ is just violence.’

Movement Is Not A Moral Obligation

Movement Is Not A Moral Obligation

This year has been one of doctor’s visits, and tests, and surgeries, and medication. I am not ill, I just have what they call a ‘pre-existing condition’. 

There are a few things that have been challenging: the main one is that the drugs and surgeries have meant I am often too unwell to move. And I rely on movement rather heavily for my mental health.

I also have a little voice in my head that tells me, every day, that I ‘should’ move. Like it's immoral of me not to be moving...

How your greatest restrictions can become your greatest teachers

This is a guest post from our new team member Kirsten. She's only 25, but wow, she's lived. Read her inspiring story, and you can connect with her at her personal website too.

7 things spinal surgery taught me.jpg

4 years ago at 21, I was blessed with a spinal tumor, which I had removed 2 years ago in a full spinal resection. That’s right, I am now half titanium and you may call me the bionic woman! You may think I am being sarcastic when I say I was blessed by this but it truly was one of the most transformative events of my life.

We all have limitations, be they physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. They can make our yoga practice and daily ‘off the mat’ activities even more challenging. But they can also be our greatest teachers.

7 things I learned from my restrictions:

Humility:

I used to believe that if I could just perform a headstand, I would be somehow crowned a real yogi. Well, after my spinal surgery, when it was difficult enough to stand on my feet! My idea of ‘yoga’ was forced to change to suit my personal limitations. I suddenly had to pay attention to how my body wanted to move and what would be most conducive to healing. For about 6 months this was simply meditation and gentle wrist and ankle rolls, a little different from the power flow I had been used to. And that was OK. Which brings me to:

Faith: 

It’s okay to slow down… and even better to stop! Most of us are so busy that we've forgotten how to enjoy the moment, and what is life but a bunch of weird and wonderful moments all smooshed together?

If your restriction forces you to take time out and recover, be okay with that. You are not wasting time! You are investing time into your health and wellbeing and there is nothing more important than that. Stop fighting and wrestling with life and take the time you need to heal and repair. Have faith that the universe will take care of you. That is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Gratitude:

Gratitude is the single most important lesson I learned. We berate ourselves so often for not being ‘good’ enough: not smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough or flexible enough.

We look at what we don’t have rather than all we do have.

Taking time each day for gratitude will change the way you practice yoga and the way you live your life. No matter how awful your day has been, sit down at the end of it and list everything that you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just close your eyes and create a list in your head before you go to sleep. Even if you have had the day from hell you can be grateful that you are snuggled up in a warm bed, have a full belly and maybe you were even lucky enough today that someone else took the bins out and fed the cat! It doesn’t matter how trivial it seems, gratitude is a powerful healer.

Awareness:

Having a physical restriction forces you to become aware of your body and listen to it. This is a gift that many people cannot access, so embrace it! When you can tune in to sensations in your body (perceived as good or bad) you are honoring the connection of body and mind.
Deepak Chopra say this is the first step toward happiness. Awesome!

When you establish this connection you will also become more aware of unuseful tension and unhelpful pain, which will help you adapt your practice to your individual needs. So don’t fear uncomfortable sensations; don’t judge them or try to change them. Simply spend time listening to and observing them to increase your deeper awareness

Sanity:

Honestly, most of the yogis I know are a little bonkers, (in the best possible way of course)! A lot of us have found the road to yoga through our search for clarity and stillness. For many of us, moments of peace or stillness can get shrouded with the screaming physical pain or uncomfortable thoughts.

The best part here is that the remedy is within you already.

Breath.

Let your breath be a guide for your practice. If you are holding your breath or breathing rapidly, that is an indication you are straining in a pose. Connecting with the gentle ebb and flow of breath will help to quiet your mind throughout your practice and can be used as a simple meditation or focus point through your life. It is particularly useful during times of stress or anxiety (like sitting in traffic when you are running late)! The more often you connect to your breath, the more connected you will become to your body-mind, a side effect of which is more inner clarity, peace and maybe, just maybe, a little more sanity.

Compassion:

Often when we are feeling insecure in a class our ego can creep up and take hold. There are two ways the ego will respond, either by berating you or by judging others. This is a protective mechanism and quite normal but not particularly conducive to a relaxing or empowering practice. When you acknowledge and accept the limitations within your own practice, it becomes easier to accept them in others. Every single person in the class will be at a different point in their own practice and lives and that is okay. In fact, it is brilliant! It is what makes us unique and simply human.

Yoga is for every single body:

Overall this is what I’m getting at. You don’t have to be beautiful, flexible, physically fit, a dancer in a past life, injury free or even sane to practice yoga! If you are, that's fine too, of course.

You can be completely off your tree with half your body in a cast and you will still be able to practice to some degree. You may not look like the poster-girl (or guy) for yoga that you’ve seen on instagram but you will be honouring your body, mind and spirit in all its guts and glory!

have faith meme.jpg


PS: have you seen our 'Word' board on Pinterest? It's full of inspiring stuff. 


How to make your yoga classes Body Positive

every body is beautiful body positive bow pose

You may have heard me talking about body positivity before, in some form or another. I'll sum it up: it does nobody any good to be all judgy on ourselves, especially not about our physical characteristics. It's even worse if people are all judge on each other. Most of us don't need any help being hard on ourselves

So I was delighted when Sarah Harry, founder of Body Positive Australia, who is both a qualified therapist and a yoga teacher, agreed to write this guest post. She's (obviously) an accomplished yogi, but she's run into a lot of discrimination. I'd love to hear your thoughts too, especially as a student of yoga!  Read on:

As yoga teachers we like to think of ourselves as inclusive and knowledgeable to adapt postures to each and every body who may wander into our classes. But that isn’t always the case. Just in the last six months I have been asked if I realised this was “an advanced class” (insert condescending tone) and on another memorable occasion a kindly teacher asked me if I was in the foyer to “collect the towels for the laundry” (that would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad).

All without a word of inquiry about my yoga experience.

The yoga teachers in question (from two different Melbourne studios) were just judging me on my body shape (I’m a curvy yogini) and sadly these aren’t isolated events.

So, here are my top ways to make sure you are being body positive in your studio and classes.

  • Don’t make assumptions #1 The curvy lass or gentleman in your class may be a total newbie or a seasoned teacher. A couple of questions or attention to their registration form should do the trick.

  • Don’t make assumptions #2 I once very much overestimated the skills of a young woman in my class who was sitting with so much flexibility and ease cross-legged that I assumed she was a pro. Not the case. There is an injury risk here.

  • Don’t ignore me. I was once in a Yin Class where I could not (like, not even close) get into the position the teacher described (reclining hero) and as I floundered she walked past me and pretended she couldn’t see me. ARRGGG. Please help me. Even if I can’t open my mouth to ask for it. Please have some modifications up your sleeve, they really are an essential part of making yoga accessible to all.

  • Curvy modifications aren’t scary. If I had to give one curvy modification for everyone to use it’s this; widen your stance. That’s right, in an amazing number of postures simply opening the legs a little wider (Warrior 1 & 2, Mountain, Forward bends can all be made sooo much easier for the curvy body by stepping the feet a little further apart, also giving more room for tummy’s and boobs)

  • The dreaded boob smoosh (sorry guys!) Just be aware that the bigger busted amongst us (even if not curvy) will struggle with some postures cutting off air supply (never good) So watch out in inversions in particular that everyone is comfy. I generally go for a simple supported shoulder stand or ‘legs up the wall’ which offer the benefits minus the asphyxiation!

  • Watch your language. One of the more annoying phrases used is “come into the full expression of the pose” or something similar. Banish that! Offering ‘options’ is the language I use, so that someone who struggles to get into that “full expression” doesn’t feel like they are hopeless or not doing it ‘properly’.

sarah harry sitting cross-legged in easy pose

There are heaps of ways we can make our yoga classes welcoming, but often classes and studios are inadvertently intimidating places. A simple smile and welcome can go a long way to reassuring people they are in the right place to learn yoga or deepen their practice.  

 

You can find Sarah on Facebook too.