Leading by example (a post about liking your body and giving yourself a break)

Pic by 2and3 Photography

My body gets funky on the dance floor.

Opening a yoga studio will open me to a lot of new people. Mostly, this excites and delights me. I love yoga. I love meeting new people. And I especially love meeting folks who are excited about and open to change. (Which–lets get real about it–is a big part of yoga.)

I can’t wait to start building a new community around Bull City Yoga, one for those of us that love the sweaty intensity of power yoga. I can’t wait to weave intoxicating sequences of epic challenge and subtle grace. I can’t wait for that feeling of joy I get when I see someone who is struggling finally gives themselves permission to take a break.

To give themselves a break.

This is my raison d’etre as a yoga teacher. My thesis statement. My starting point. I believe that if you love power yoga in all its challenging glory, than you probably already know how to challenge yourself. My job is not to tell you to PUSH HARDER to DO BETTER or to crank out an extra chaturanga. (But the offer of an extra chaturanga will be there, don’t get me wrong ;))

My job is to create a space where you can decide for yourself at what level to work. To create a safe haven to either challenge yourself or give yourself a break. I offer options; you make choices. I tend to think that taking a break is often the harder choice to make for us power yogis.

And yes. I know this from personal experience.

I’m trying to give myself a break right now. Not on running an awesome studio, or teaching kickass classes. But about my non-Yoga-Journal-cover-model-body. “You’ll be standing in front of hundreds of people a month!” my mind screams. “Who will follow someone with a body like that?

Forget that I’ve been through a trying year. Forget that I’m on medication that can affect weight gain. Forget that I can teach amazeballs classes. Forget even that I’m actually happy, REALLY HAPPY, for probably the first extended period in my life.

What’s worth remembering is that I need to practice what I preach; to lead by example. If I cannot accept myself as I am right now, as perfect, whole, and complete, I cannot ask anyone else to. I cannot ask anyone else to give themselves a break if I cannot.

And so I will stand before you on July 12, 2012 at 5:45 as a tragically imperfect yoga teacher. No six-pack abs. No veiny forearms. No chisled-from-marble calves and visible ribs. What will stand before you is a human on a great journey and with a hard-won authority to advise you to give yourself a break.

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12 thoughts on “Leading by example (a post about liking your body and giving yourself a break)

  1. Great ethos! Sometimes, as teachers, I think we think we need to know it all, or we ought to be able to do everything, be enlightened already, etc etc… But of course we are all students of yoga, and teaching from our own learnings is the most authentic way to help others explore their own development. Especially when we have come to realise such valuable little pearls of wisdom as listening to ourselves and taking those breaks. Good luck with the new centre – and enjoy!

  2. Thanks for this post – I’m about to start teaching again five months after having my baby – and my body is NOT what it was pre-pregnancy. I am dealing with such feelings of anxiety about getting up in front of everyone without the muscles and skinny-ness I used to have. But YOU got it right – I need to give myself a break – and how can I allow my students that space if I don’t give it to myself?!

  3. To be honest, I find those super-chiselled teachers intimidating. They make ME feel bad about myself! I would much rather have a normal-looking person show me that it’s possible, that anyone can do it, and (why do we still need constant reminders of this? But…) that it really doesn’t matter what you look like.

    Wishing you all the best of luck for your new classes, Ali!

  4. This is a great reflection. As your students, I think we have a small role to play in helping to create that safe space. It should feel safe for everyone, including the teacher. Similar to your thoughts, if we’re passing judgement on others, we’re not going to be truly accepting of ourselves, either. Conversely, I don’t think we can learn to accept ourselves without learning to accept others in the same way. Personally, I can’t wait to see you at the front of my class and hear your voice guiding me through my exercises!

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