For as long as I can remember, I have felt insecure about my body.
I am tall and it feels like I always have been. Always the tallest girl in my class (sometimes taller than all of the boys, too), standing in the back row of all of my school pictures since kindergarten. I am five foot nine and a half and have been this tall since middle school.
I have large breasts, which most people think is wonderful, but has always made me feel bigger in my belly and torso. When I gain weight, it always goes to my chest and belly before any other body part.
I feel the most insecure about my stomach.
In high school, I suffered from depression and anorexia. At my lightest, I weighed in around 115 pounds. Even at my lightest weight, I still felt insecure about my stomach.
I was never skinny enough.
After college, I decided that I didn't care about being skinny and just wanted to have fun. I stayed active and worked out pretty regularly, although never with any real fitness or body weight goal in mind. Despite staying active, I gained an embarrassing amount of weight over several years of partying, drinking, overeating, and general lack-of-self respect.
The idea of wearing a bikini (or lets be serious, just shopping for a bikini) was a nightmare. And don't even think about taking my picture while we're on the beach!
Everything in my life changed in 2010 when I decided that I no longer wanted to live an unhealthy life or a life obsessing over my next diet plan. I didn't want to watch my weight climb and descend over my lifetime without any consistency. I wanted to live a long, healthy life, and I knew that I needed to make major changes to achieve that.
"I just woke up one day and decided that I didn't want to feel like that anymore, or ever again. So I changed. Just like that."
I found a passion for running, weight lifting, spinning, swimming, and yoga. I also found a passion for cooking. I no longer cared about partying or drinking -- hangovers didn't exactly mesh well with my new healthy lifestyle. I preferred to go to bed early on the weekends so I could wake up early to go for a long run or practice yoga and eat a healthy breakfast.
By 2011, I was working with a trainer once a week, was running more than thirty miles per week, practicing yoga, taking spin classes, and swimming regularly.
I never felt better. I never felt more alive.
At that time, I was in the best shape of my entire life.
Skinny? No. Fit? Hell yes.
Guess what? I still felt insecure about my body.
Beginning in late 2012, my primary form of exercise became yoga (and it still is today). I practice about 4-6 times per week; sometimes in heated classes, sometimes in non-heated classes, and sometimes at home. I have a healthy diet, eating mostly vegan, and I rarely drink alcohol.
I can honestly say that I have never felt healthier.
...and I still feel insecure about my body.
Just the other day, I was practicing in a hot vinyasa class and it was HOT. Like, really hot. It was easily over one hundred degrees in the room. It was so hot that, for a moment, I thought about taking my shirt off and practicing in just my sports bra and yoga pants.
As you can imagine, this was an incredibly bizarre thought for me to have.
To bare my stomach to entire class full of yogis, some of whom are my own students?!?!?!
Enter anxious looking emoji.
A few days after this experience, I was teaching a class and one of my good friends, who is a fellow teacher and a person I look up to, was practicing in my class. It wasn't a heated class, but because it's summer, it was super hot in the room. In the middle of practice, she took off her shirt, practicing for the remainder of class in only her sports bra and yoga pants.
I found this liberating. My friend and I have spoken to each other about our body issues and how insecure we have felt at times -- especially about our stomachs. I felt so inspired by her.
The next day, I practiced at home and decided to practice without a shirt, in just my sports bra and yoga pants.
I felt so strong.
I didn't care what I looked like.
I was happy.
During my home practice, I was working on handstands and haven't ever felt as strong as I felt that day (see video below). I nailed almost every single handstand that I attempted and my practice generally felt stronger than usual.
After my practice, I realized that I was feeling so strong because my core was engaged through my entire practice. Likely because I was more aware of my stomach since it was exposed.
Ironically, I am talking to my students this week about stepping outside of our comfort zones.
Sometimes we get so stuck on the idea of staying the same and become so afraid of change that we become paralyzed.
"When we become comfortable, do you know what happens around us? Absolutely nothing. Each day becomes just like the one before. We do what we have always done, therefore we get what we have always gotten. We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are."
I want to be stronger. I want my yoga practice to be stronger. I also want to be confident. I don't want to just feel skinny, but instead, I want to truly feel good about myself.
You may see me in class in the future, and I may get on my mat in just a bra and yoga pants. I hope you look at me and understand the kind of courage it takes for me to do that.
I hope that you look at me without judgement.
Most of all, I hope that I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Who knows, it could be the best thing that you ever decide to do.
"To reach higher levels you must approach your entire life as an endeavor in constant growth. The ultimate truth is, you are either moving forward or moving backward; growing or dying. There’s no such thing as comfortably maintaining. To grow, you must step above past achievements; beyond your perceived boundaries and limits. That means stepping out of the known, into the unknown; out of the familiar and into the unfamiliar; out of the comfortable into the uncomfortable. You must get out of your comfort zone."
Take risks. Be fearless. Get out of your comfort zone.
Class theme: July 27, 2015 - August 8, 2015
P.S. How have you stepped outside of your comfort zone? I would love to hear about your experience! Share your story, or any thoughts you may have, in the comment section below.