Body Shaming…close to home

“I thought that you’d be more sinewy as a yoga teacher”, he said to me straight in the eye.

“Sinewy?”, I ask. “As in more toned?”.

He nods, as if that was obvious.

So just to clarify, the relatively new man in my life who had just whisked me off for a dream of a trip, whom I had shared intimacies with, is now telling me that he thought I’d be more toned for a yoga teacher.

In what world is this ever ok?

We often look to the media or the fashion industry for someone to blame when it comes to body shaming, but sometimes it can be a lot closer to home, and we don’t even realise the damage it’s doing before it too late.

Every day of my working life, I have to stand up in front of people, with my body up for judgement. My life work is reflected in my body and up until this moment I had been quite proud of it.

I had healed from a significant back injury and was sitting at a healthy weight, without any body consciousness at the age of 44 (the age I was at the time), and I hadn’t really given much thought to how I compared to the Kardashians.

Yet here I was being told by a man close to 50 that perhaps I’d be more successful if I followed the model of a Personal Trainer he knew who had a huge following on Instagram.

“It’s all about the Kardashian bum now. That’s what people are aspiring to”.

For the first time in my life, I am feeling my rear end to be inadequate.

So in the space of ten minutes I’m feeling a bit flabby with a flat arse.

Up until this point this man had seemed charming, kind, thoughtful and intelligent. So perhaps he had a point?

I look back now and I want to kick myself.

Since then I dropped over a stone in weight, I started to get anxious about being in front of people, thinking they were all judging me in the same way.

I went from confidence in my body to feeling shameful about it, it was like a silent poison within me that was growing and literally eating me up.

On the outside I was trying to stand up for myself:

“I’m not interested in posing in a bikini on Instagram, it’s not about that for me”, as I try to defend my size 8 figure.

Yet me saying “it’s not OK to say that to a woman”, that’s me “kicking off”. I’m “too sensitive”, “took it the wrong way”, “making a big deal out of nothing”.

This is where the damage is done. We know it’s not ok, but we are being told our reactions are wrong. We start to question ourselves instead, we start to take the blame for “over-reacting”.

I’m sure I’m not the only woman to have suffered this kind of body shaming, subtle yet insidious as it is. I won’t be the last sadly, but as I head off tomorrow to present at the WOW (Women of the World) festival in Exeter, I’ll be standing proud in my own body again, and I’ll be making sure to send the message out loud and clear to the other women (and men) in my class.

“You’re ok just as you are!”.

Don’t let anyone tell you any different, and if you come across someone who does and who, instead of apologising makes you feel bad for standing up for yourself, run. Run away as fast as you can, and never look back.

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Sent from my iPhone

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acceptance – Mental Health Awareness Week

 

 

 

It was my first trip to India, on a Yoga Teacher Training, that I learned one of my most important lessons about being “body kind”.

I guess like many, when it came to exercise and movement, I always thought it was about just putting in as much effort as I could, and that I should be able to achieve anything.

In my head, I’d come back from India with a repertoire of fancy poses, including many variations of the headstand, that I’d be able to show off to the world.

Yet the first words to come out of our teachers mouth was these words of advice:

  1. Respect The Teacher
  2. Lose The Ego

As a teacher/ trainer already, the first one was easy. I know how it feels to be them . The latter was more difficult as there was ego there that I wasn’t aware of, but it didn’t take long for me receive the lesson I needed.

Firstly, I wasn’t as fit as I thought I was, not for this anyway. Less than a week in, as my arms were failing in my 1000th chataranga, I was feeling like telling the teacher to stick his vinyasa right up his root chakra.

I also realised that, with my old back injury, and subsequent vulnerability, headstands were not going to be my best friend.

I’ve since concluded that we all have a “not-for-me” box, and alongside running, cycling and Go Ape, headstands were getting thrown into that box.

I had to learn to accept my body as it was, with its limitations, and let go of the glory poses I had envisioned myself doing.

It was a fantastic lesson.

Instead I learned to make the most of what I had, which was still a lot. My limbs were still moving, I’d never had surgery, and I was still able to achieve more than I ever could have dreamed off.

When it came to the headstand section, I took to the ropes on the edge of the yoga shala, and I learned to invert without compressing my spine using props.

This was my first introduction to aerial yoga which has turned out to be one of the most beneficial modalities for healing my back I could have imagined. I do it regularly now, I teach it to others, and I train others in it.

In learning to accept “this is where I am, this is what I’ve got, and that’s ok”, I was actually guided to something even better.bi also learned the meaning of “grace”.

On Monday I found a place near the beach for my own practise. I’d woken with an achy back and I knew I needed to give it some love. I set up my straps, connected my swing and I went to play.

My transition from what I wanted for my own ego needs to what was right for my body was the start of a beautiful journey.

I now teach people in class to cultivate an attitude of self-compassion, ahimsa (non-harm) and also honouring the body above all else.

When you listen to the body it will tell you everything you need to know.

The first step is accepting where you are today, working with what you’ve got, choosing function over aesthetics, and respecting the body.

I have decided that as a teacher, no matter how good it may be for my social media accounts, I will not be the teacher posting glory poses on Instagram. That’s in the “not-for-me” box.

For me, it’s about healing, acceptance and love.

I love my body for what it allows me to do. I accept it for how it is. This healing approach has helped both body and mind, for they are both inextricably linked.

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Grounding for Mental Health

 

When I’m struggling with my mental health, when my mind is in overdrive, and my nervous system has tripped me into “high alert”, I put my feet in the sand, and I walk.

It only took me around 40 years to realise that this was the answer for me. I always was a late bloomer! (More about that later in the week..).

Now I’ve learned there is science behind it too, but I just know from how it feels that it has a magical effect.

As it would happen, today was one those days. My head was a in a muddle, and my to-do list was getting longer and longer. I couldn’t even think what to write about, and if you know me at all, it’s not that often I don’t have anything to say.

I knew that I had to get out of my head and into my body.

For it is in the body that the wisdom lies. Our body was our first home, and when we go back to it, that’s where we can feel safe, where we can trust again.

Ironically, the body is also the place we go to heal our “body image issues”. For it is not the body that is the problem, it is our thinking around it.

The way to stop our negative thinking around it is to go into it, and to place it into it’s natural habitat – the Earth.

When it’s you and nature, have you noticed you’re really not bothered about your body?

I remember when I was in Lombok, and it was me, a bikini, boardshorts, a moped, a surfboard, and not much else. I never gave a second thought to what shape I was in.

Yet when I returned to the UK, and I was surrounded by images of so-called “perfection”, 8 foot, size 4 mannequins in shop windows, selling a dream that wasn’t real, my insecurities soon returned. In the changing rooms, I was wondering why the clothes in the window didn’t look like that on me.

I remember thinking how ridiculous it was. I had a normal body, if anything, in pretty good nick, and yet there I was feeling “less than” after weeks of not giving a hoot.

So I know now that I need to avoid all of that nonsense as much as possible and go back to what’s real…

What’s real is going back to nature, accepting my body as it is, and where I am now. With my feet in the sand, the sun on my skin, and getting out of my busy mind.

A few weeks ago, I stood up in front of 150 people with only little shorts on. This time last year, I was leaner, skinnier than I am now, but I was way more insecure and I couldn’t have done that with the same confidence, where I did not think once about whether I had a yoga teacher’s body.

That’s because this time around I did not have the voice in my head that told me I wasn’t ok as I was. (If I’m feeling brave enough, I’ll share why later in the week!)

BIGGER AND BETTER

Bigger and Better this year…

When we aren’t grounded, that voice can take over, but when we put our feet into the Earth, we get out into nature, and preferably on our own when we need to, that’s when we learn to observe those voices, question them, ask them if they are true. Eventually we just let them go…

At some point we forget the projections of others, the expectations of the modern world, the unrealistic images of a perfection that doesn’t exist, and we go back into our first home, and it’s OK.

 

mental health awareness week day 1

Out with the old, in with the true ❤️

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It’s that time of year that I’m usually harping on about a detox, some kind of spring clean of the body and mind.

The liver needs extra support at this time of year, and it makes a lot more sense to have a cleanse now than in winter as we start to lighten up in every way.

This year my approach was a little different.

I’ve been moving house, that was a spring clean in itself. It’s amazing how much junk I’d collected over the past few years, and it’s been an utter joy clearing it out.

Between abodes, I decided to take a complete break, a pregnant pause, a week of clearing mental, physical and emotional clutter, and as usual, I had to challenge myself.

I’d been invited to take a hiking and wild camping holiday in Majorca, which entailed trekking up mountains with my entire body weight on my back. Throughout the whole experience, I wasn’t quite sure whether it was genius or madness. There’s a thin line between the two, and I was certainly walking that line.

“You have to climb the mountain to get the view”, I was telling myself, but it really wasn’t until I returned home that I really felt the effects.

It was the most of switched off from work in years, I woke up the first day after my trip and it felt like everything was brand new. Not only was it a warm Spring day with glorious sunshine, the first day of the Easter Bank Holiday, but I felt like I’d cleared out a load of the negative energy lurking from last year.

I was refreshed and renewed, it was the start of a new cycle, a new phase of my life, and as I moved into my new home, I felt I’d left a lot behind on that trip. Old fears, the voice in my head that told me I “wasn’t enough”, that I “wasn’t worth it”. (Did I ever actually listen to this stuff, I thought?).

The light streaming in through the windows was like pure magic.

Two days later and I was in the best state I could have been in for the event I was running, which was fortunate as I had over 150 people show up on the beach to do a yoga marathon with me for charity.

Later that day I cried. Tears of relief rolled down my cheeks as I thought to myself “I’ve done it. I made it. I’m back”. I’m stronger than before after the mass cleansing I went through.

My new approach to spring cleaning had worked. I’m brand new and ready for the next cycle. I feel good on every level – physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually – and it didn’t involve either dieting or giving up wine. Yay!

Back To Basics

mallorca trek
I’ve just returned from five nights away, unlplugging and recharging in nature, and I’m full of energy, vitality and even more love for our precious Earth.
I’d pretty much gone full digi-detox, only checking my phone for emergencies once a day, and it was such a relief. I’ve not switched off from work like that for years, and I know it did me the world of good.
Three of the five nights we spent away were wild camping, at different locations on the Serra Tramuntana, a mountain range on the west coast of Mallorca.
These were my favourite sleeps.
We’d find a spot to bed down for the night based on a few pre-determined criteria:
  • Must be able to pitch a tent, preferably soft terrain, to get pegs in and for physical comfort
  • Must be away from other people, where we wouldn’t be disturbed (or arrested as wild camping is “technically” illegal here)
  • Must have space to build a fire so we can cook our dinner and keep warm

 

There’s something so utterly beautiful about the simplicity of it all. Just focusing on survival and meeting the basic needs of food, warmth and shelter, using just what we have on our backs.
I’m not going to say it was easy. As my rucksack got heavier and heavier, and the terrain steeper and more rocky, there were times I thought my legs were going to buckle underneath all the weight.
Perhaps without all the red wine it may have been a little lighter, but what’s a campfire without some cheap Spanish vino tinto?
In hindsight I should have made a deal to carry the marshmallows if my travelling companion, who had obviously been a mountain goat in a past life, had carried the wine.
Next time…
Throughout the whole trip, which was just magical, I kept thinking how we just seemed to have complicated our lives so much. Going Back to Basics is a pleasure. The wild camping spots we found were better than any five star hotel I’ve stayed in.
Out here I didn’t need the gym, any meditation apps, no to-do lists, no social media, no entertainment systems or devices.
I missed my cat, that was it.
Again the words of one of my favourite songs was in my head:
“No guru, no method, no teacher. Just you and I in nature”.
Van Morrison.
Bliss. Enlightenment. Wellbeing. It’s more simple than we think. It’s just a case of going “Back to Basics”.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunshine and Rain

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Sunshine and Rain

Everything is so vibrant and colourful right now, isn’t it?

It’s like nature is showing off, saying “look at me!”, like the tutti-frutti of the seasons, it’s really coming into it’s own.

Even though I’ve just caught myself having a bit of a moan about getting wet and cold, I’m currently warming myself with a nice glass of red, considering the upside of the soaking I just endured on the way back from work.

If we didn’t have the rain, we wouldn’t have all that glorious green landscape – the plants, the wisteria coming into bloom, not to mention the plants that we rely on for food.

I’m always thanking Mother Earth for the sunshine, like when she perfectly times it for me to teach my classes outside. Yet I can’t remember the last time I thanked her for the rain.

As I wrote, I have the song lyrics in my head: “Joy and pain, like sunshine and rain”.

You see we are like plants, we need both sunshine and rain to survive.

So I realise I’m also always showing gratitude for the good times, the places, people and experiences that bring me happiness.

Yet I can’t recall ever having expressed thanks for the hard times, the tough life lessons, the people who caused me pain.

It seems fitting that Spring, a time of rebirth, feels the right time to say thanks for it all.

For it was in those tough times, when it felt like the world was a hostile place, when I was under attack, those were the times that shaped me.

I grew through the pain, I grew as a person. In trying to defend myself, in realising who I wasn’t, I grew stronger in who I was. I defined myself, and I feel both stronger, and also proud about the way I handled it.

I learned that was my my unique qualities (like a plant or a flower) made me the person I am.

I learned that we thrive in the right environment. I learned that the garden needs weeding before planting new bits and bobs. I learned that flowers don’t compete, they just bloom.

I learned that without the rain we wouldn’t feel the warmth of the sun. That if it we don’t feel the rain, or the pain, we don’t grow.

Most of all, I can tell myself that those who tried to bury me, did not know I was a seed.

So today, I am thankful for both the sunshine and the rain, the joy and the pain, for I am a creature of nature, and I needed both.

 

 

 

Being Normal

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When people ask me what I gave up for lent, it’s really simple, I gave up worrying what other people think.

How wonderfully liberating that feels!!

It started when I realised I had no desire to be considered “normal”.

I don’t even know what “normal” is, whether it exists, what it would look like. I don’t even know many people that are what would be regarded as normal. I can’t think of any of the top of my head.

What I do know is that if I switch on to any news of what’s happening in The House of Commons at the moment, I don’t really think I need to worry about being “normal”. Even the people (supposedly) running our country don’t seem to have their **** together.

If they’re just winging it from day to day, oscillating somewhere between chaos and confusion, what hope do the rest of us have?

My answer: maybe there is no way of making sense of the world, maybe there is no right way to live, no template for life. Maybe we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

And what if that’s enough? What if we are enough, just the way we are? What if there is no “normal”, but we are all perfectly normal in our own unique and wonderful way?

I’ve long been referred to as “mad as a box of frogs”, but as someone said to me today whilst I was getting my Aura Transformation (you need to ask me about that, I can’t write it here… yet!)….

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”.

I recognised this instantly as Nietzsche, a favourite quote of mine, so it completely resonated.

When asked how I felt at the end of the session, I said “In this room, I feel normal”. I also felt filled with love, for all humankind, normal or not, and I realised I didn’t care so much what people thought of me, but I was going to continue to love with an open heart anyway.

I realised how I may be able to thrive and not just survive in this world. I think the trick is to care about everyone while not caring what they think.

While I’m writing this, my cat looks up at me, and I say “what???”.

He just looks at me with approval (this is a rare thing), as if to say “you might just be getting the hang of this”.

Who’d want to be normal anyway?