By Krissie Bentley
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If I go looking for yoga on the internet, the images I see look nothing like me or my practice. Thin. Flexible. Standing on her hands or in a deep split. Usually outside, beside water or on a rock. If I go the usual internet routes for yoga information or inspiration, I end up discouraged and defeated.
Luckily, there is a lot more to yoga than a hashtag search on Instagram will show you. I could go on for days about what I have learned about my spirit and my connection to the Divine, but today, let’s talk about what I learned about my body and taking up space our world.
I believe that what yoga has to teach us is both universal and specific. I also believe that in the practice of yoga, we find within ourselves what we most need to learn. For me, yoga continues to teach me about my physical body and how I want to experience the world in this suit of skin, flesh, and bones.
Before yoga, I had spent decades trying to ignore my body. With each new diet I tried (and there were dozens of them), I learned to not listen to the voice that told me that I was hungry or tired. With each denial of physical awareness, I broke away a piece of the bridge between my brain and my body. With each cue for hunger or rest that I ignored, my ability to hear and listen to my body became less and less.
Yoga changed that for me. With each breath that I took on my mat with attention and intention, I slowly rebuilt the lines of communication between my body and my brain. I learned to notice when shifting my foot could bring me more stability. I learned how to release tension from my neck. Just a few weeks ago, I became very excited when I felt a new level of release of my seat during the final resting pose. This process of self-knowing doesn’t stop even after years of practice, and knowing that keeps me coming back to my mat.
When steeped in diet culture, my body would sometimes yell at me. But I learned to override it and convinced myself that I needed to overpower it. Several years ago, I was a distance runner and put myself through many runs where my body was unhappy and wanted to stop. I ran through hunger, dehydration, and the need for rest. I was hungry for well over a year. It is no coincidence that I stopped running when I became more serious about my yoga practice. I actually quit running for no other reason than I realized that it didn’t feel good and I didn’t want to do it anymore.
I notice things about my body almost constantly now. Because I give myself permission on my mat to respond to my body, I have generalized that permission to all aspects of my life. I rest when I’m tired. I eat when I’m hungry. I drink when I’m thirsty. I trust that my body knows what is best for me. I have also learned to read and react to my body’s signals of distrust, excitement, and frustration in new ways.
I used to have a very shallow understanding and opinion about my body. My butt was big and in the way. My legs are super short. My shoulders are very tight. I used to think that because of these things, I just didn’t have a “yoga body.”
I was very lucky to have trained directly with Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga. My entire world shifted the first time she invited us to physically move our bellies on top of our thighs to make space in a forward fold. I realized in that moment that my body is just fine. Over time, I have learned how to move not just my belly, but also my butt and my breasts when I need to make more room in a yoga shape. I also use props to assist in my practice. I can use a strap when my legs need more length or blocks when the floor needs to be closer to my hands. I have learned, and continue to learn, how to work with my body in each practice.
We created this short practice as an opportunity to start to experience gentle yoga in your body. You don’t need any special clothes or special props. You can do this practice almost anywhere – you don’t even need a mat. I do advise being barefoot, though. I think the connection of the feet to the floor is pretty important for body awareness. But if that isn’t possible or is uncomfortable for you, it isn’t absolutely necessary.
Roll out your mat or a beach towel and press play. I’ll see you at practice!
You don’t need fancy pants or special water or an expensive mat. All you need is an open mind, a few props, and a teacher you trust that knows how to work with different bodies. Bring your breath, your curiosity, and a willingness to allow whatever feelings show up. That is what yoga is about.
The gentle yoga practices in Resprout help you build this curiosity and body connection from the ground up. The practices build slowly each week and can be done at any time of day, in most rooms of your house (or at the park or on your deck or anywhere you can access videos). Each week for six weeks, you’ll receive a short yoga practice and a long yoga practice that are yours to practice forever, as often as you’d like. Meditations and all sorts of food planning and videos are also included in the program.
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