Disclaimer: I wrote these blogs a long time ago! I'm leaving them up as I don't want to delete my journey and I think showing growth is important. But it means that some of my views, and some language I use, is now different. Please be mindful of this, and that the content might be triggering, if you choose to read on.
I just bought a new yoga mat. Sounds like a pretty average thing, but not for me. I love my old yoga mat so much, I refused to get a new one for a long time. It has been on such a journey with me – a physical and emotional journey. But it got so worn down it was as if I was just doing yoga on the floor. Bits were coming off and sticking to me. I had to accept it was time for a new mat.
My body positivity path is a long, ongoing one.
I struggled a lot with exercise as a kid. I had asthma which made running hard. I was always ridiculed for coming last in cross-country, even by the teachers. I had a PE teacher who spent more time checking our polo T-shirts were tucked into our gym pants - yes, actual gym pants - basically underwear. Shorts were not allowed. Girls were not allowed to wear bras. Seriously. Then he would check we were sitting up perfectly straight and if we weren’t we had to hang off the climbing frame for about 20 minutes.
All the popular, happy kids were sporty people.
I felt like I would never amount to anything because I wasn’t sporty, because I was fat. All of this made me scared to go to fitness classes as I got older, though I did anyway because I knew I needed to. I always knew I had to be striving to lose weight. All the women I’d known around me growing up were on diets (but the men, not so much). I thought I’d only ever be happy if I was thin. I thought I’d only ever be respected, be loved and be successful if I lost weight.
I realise now that it’s all bullshit.
The more I’ve learnt about body positivity and feminism, the more I’ve realised that we live in a world which profits from us hating our bodies. If we all loved ourselves, a lot of businesses wouldn’t survive. The world is full of hypocrisies. We’re sold junk food at the same time as being sold dieting products and gym memberships. It’s almost like they’re working together to keep us in the cycle of shame – selling us stuff to feed us up, then telling us we’re too fat and selling us the miraculous cure. I decided I was not going to buy into it anymore. Apart from my yoga mat! Granted, I did buy that but I don’t plan on buying another one for a really long time.
I've had my old yoga mat for over six years.
I bought it in India, where I attempted to throw myself into yoga. I’d dabbled in the past, learning from home. I realise now I was probably too scared to go to classes. What if I was the fattest in the class? What if I couldn’t keep up? What if everyone laughed at me? I realised the only way I would find out would be to try it. Sometimes we don’t get anywhere in life unless we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and take that leap into something scary.
I went to a variety of different classes in India, but I struggled because I’d been unwell and I was very weak. It was just too hot and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. But I knew that yoga is not competition, there are no judgements and all that malarkey.
So I did what I knew I had to do – I just kept going.
When I got back to the UK I found a regular class in which I felt comfortable. It was a Hatha class that was beginner friendly. I still had a lot of niggling thoughts telling me that I wasn’t good enough, but I pushed on. I did that class for a couple of years until the teacher left in the class was replaced with a Vinyasa flow class. I’d always been too scared to do Vinyasa or Ashtanga because they are strong practices. Again, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up. So I reminded myself…
Comfort Zone. Out. Now.
So I gave it a go and I’ve been doing that Vinyasa class ever since. I’ve now even started Ashtanga too and feel like I’ve conquered my fear!
I’m not very good at stopping and looking at how far I’ve come.
I need to keep trying to appreciate myself and keep practising as part of my body positivity and self-esteem quest. So, buying a new yoga mat and ending my journey with the old one seems like a good opportunity to stop and look at how far I’ve come. When I started doing yoga my arms would shake in downward dog. I was always stuck in my negative thoughts throughout the classes, worried that people were looking at me, judging me, which meant I wasn’t able to let go feel what was going on in my body. It may have taken years to get to the point where I don’t worry so much about what I look like, and where my arms don’t shake so much, but that’s my journey and I should be proud of it.
I’ll still keep my old mat of course.
But part of me is excited to use my new one! I’ll probably slip all over place on it at first until it gets nice and grubby like the old one (that’s what makes a yoga mat really great!). My old mat has followed me on such a journey, but I’m excited for the journey I'm about to go on with the new one.