Here’s how a simple comment from a student taught me a lesson in self-love. Before yoga class this morning my students were talking about what they wanted to work on in class. Several of them had lower back issues. Another confided to me that she’s trying to gain weight.
“That comes naturally to me, so I don’t have any advice on how to do it on purpose,” I told her.
“Can I have some of yours?” She replied, mirroring back my playful attitude.
“If we could figure out how to make that happen, I’m all in.”
“I want your calves,” she said.
Do you have a physical feature you’ve always hated? For me, it’s my calves. I don’t think of them as a body part that’s supposed to be big, but whoever designed my legs apparently missed that memo.
I’ve always been self-conscious about my legs, to the point that when I finished college and went into the professional world, I would only wear heels to work. I thought making my legs look longer would also make my calves look smaller. I wore heels so often that I lost all feeling in my pinky toes, and when I went to the doctor to ask about my numb toes he took one look at my shoes and asked how frequently I wore shoes “like that.” He then told me I’d have to stop wearing heels if I wanted to retain function and feeling in all my toes.
It was a tough choice for me to make. I’m not proud of that.
Today, though, there was a person standing right in front of me who picked out the thing I most consistently throughout my life have considered a physical flaw as the thing she would like to have for herself.
It’s a nice reminder that different people have different perspectives.
One of the things yoga teaches us is to be in the body we’re in at this moment. Most of us don’t have the option of shifting out of our bodies on demand anyway.
Right now, in this moment, what we have is the body we have.
I’ve struggled with this for years. I’m certainly larger than your average yoga teacher. Over the 15 years I’ve taught, I’ve had students tell me it helps them feel at home in class to see me teaching. That seems to apply in classes I take, too. I once had a lady tell me after class that she loved it when I was in the (challenging vinyasa) class because it meant she wasn’t the largest body in the room.
I’ve been told many times in various environments that my ability to appear to be confident in my body has helped other people be confident in theirs. Sometimes I actually am confident in my body. And sometimes is enough.
Yoga helps with that, and not just because my body can do some cool things. It has taught me to sit with myself and feel what I feel – good or bad. To know that I can do just about anything for five breaths. Or six, maybe seven… To know that the brain weasels, like everything else in life, passes in time.
What I think of as a flaw someone else can envy. That’s one of those simple truths that we already know, but it definitely sank in a little bit more when someone saw my calves as a feature, and not a flaw.