Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Insecurities of a Yoga Selfie

Before I began my Yoga Teacher Training, I didn't follow YogaSelfiesRUs or whatever it's called on Instagram; I didn't bother with looking through yoga poses uploaded by fellow Yogis on Facebook; and I certainly, most definitely, did not post any photos of myself doing asanas. It was all just too much. It spake of ego, of "Look at me, I'm so pretty!"and it played with my self-esteem. (Image Credit: Giesel Widmer)

I was not the most flexible in my training class, nor was I the strongest. One girl could do handstands practically on her fingertips. Another girl could hook her legs behind her head. Me? I was the grunting, gasping girl in the corner, all rounded back, and collapsing over sideways. I wasn't the most slender or serene-looking. My ujjayi breath was barely audible. I fidgeted in Easy pose. Down Dog hurt my shoulders after a few too many. I discovered I had been doing Tadasana all wrong for the past three years. I couldn't even stand properly.

So what was I going to feel when I saw pictures of these magnificent males and females contorting themselves into stunning straight lines, nary a bump or stomach roll in sight, holding themselves up effortlessly on the palms of their hands? Like shit. Yeah. It made me feel shitty, plain as that. Instead of being inspiring like how it is for quite a few co-trainees in my class, I could feel my heart sink and my cheeks flush in embarrassment. There is absolutely no way I'll ever let anyone see me blunder into that pose. I would think to myself. So I won't let them see. See, even though I went to a handful of yoga classes before my teacher training, I did a lot of home practice. Moreover, I rarely let anyone practice with me lest they see me in a less than stellar form. I was embarrassed. I felt kind of like a fraud. Here I was, saying "Yoga, yoga, yoga!" and what if I was actually doing everything wrong and had no idea?

Well, I kind of was, as evidenced by the whole Tadasana debacle, but so was everyone else. Imagine my shock when I discovered that all my co-trainees were no better or worse than me. They were all as good as they could be at that moment, and we all were slated for improvement. I had strengths in one area that I didn't in another, and another person had vice versa.

After two months straight of training, I was slightly more flexible and slightly stronger. I fit into my body better. I felt more comfortable in my skin, but I still retained a bit of that insecurity. Two months isn't enough to abolish years of conditioning you get from society. We were born in the age of Kate Moss. We watched celebrities like both Jennifer Connelly and Aniston go from pretty girls with full faces to skinny waifs. In short, there's a tremendous amount of worthless value being placed on specific bodies and looks that are not very attainable nor practical.

During my training, I gained a lot of confidence in my skills. I took my first yoga selfie and was shocked by how I looked. It wasn't what I expected at all. I looked good. More than good, I looked awesome! I did the pose right! There weren't any stomach rolls! Whaaaaaat? I felt brilliant about myself. I took more selfies, started doing scary poses that I kept falling out of in public, I stopped caring. Somewhere in there, I realized, who cares? All that mattered was that I was trying and I was improving with each trial. One day, I was going to get there.

Then, training was over. I became certified. Two months of all the yoga I could get was finished. #yogaeverydamnday wasn't true for me anymore. I was back in Cleveland where I didn't have a studio I called Home. Not only that, I went back, then I moved to Columbus. I was starting over for real. Everything from scratch. I had to find a studio I liked. I had to find a job. I had to make connections, network, meet people. I had to turn nothing into something. It was and still is a daunting and scary task, but little by little, I started chipping away at it. My training went from three-plus classes a day to three home practices a week if I was lucky. My joints were becoming creaky and my muscles were withering into floppy underarm hang. I felt like I was losing my strong Side-Crowing self.

Then, I picked up a couple back copies of Yoga Journal from the library for inspiration. They're great publications, really, but I did not expect my reaction after I finished reading. My old insecure self returned, thinking thoughts like "I can never get my legs that straight in the air," and "My abs are a joke, I can't hold myself up in Boat," and I started to panic. The insecurity took me over. In my mind, I was a fat, ugly, lumbering rhino who couldn't do a graceful Freebird anymore. All those emotions I had from when I avoided YogaSelfiesRUs rose up in me and I didn't like it. This wasn't who I've become, who I've earned the right to be after my training. This wasn't me, it never really was, and it never would be again.

So, I just let myself notice the pain. I felt it. I recognized it and identified it. I gave it time to go away on its own without fighting it or inflicting guilt on myself. I practiced ahimsa, nonviolence towards myself to get through a momentary breakdown. Today, I did another home practice. It's not back-to-back classes at Black Swan in Austin, but it was what I needed. With time, I'll be back to #yogaeverydamnday and I just need to be patient. I realize I have to give myself credit. Like I said, I'm starting from scratch and every accomplishment, no matter how tiny, is actually huge. As long as I maintain my practice and maintain the respect I give to myself, my mind, and my body, I will always be as beautiful as all those yogis in their selfies, even if I can't go from Crane into a handstand… yet.

I saw this posted on Facebook with a message: How do these photos of a woman doing yoga in the nude make you feel? At first, I was intimidated. She is beautiful and nearly perfect. I may never have a body like hers. I know I'll definitely never have boobs like her for sure. But despite that, I see it as an accurate depiction for who she is: someone who loves and has put time into her practice. Her love is so raw that she has to practice it at its barest. It's a exquisite example of a yogi's dedication. 

How does these photos make you feel? Luba Shumeyko Yoga- Nude Yoga- By Petter Hegre.

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