Posts In: Self-realisation

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March 20, 2020

It’s 5:30am. I’m awake and won’t sleep again until I’ve written this down.

I’ve been writing ‘morning pages‘ for a while now – not needing to write what I’ve written and overwriting my words as I go so that eventually it’s just one big garbled mess.

These past days however I’ve found myself scribbling down thoughts that don’t want writing over – that want to stand as they are. To date it’s been a practice of private catharsis but today it’s something else. Today it wants to be seen.

[Morning pages is a practice of offloading garbage thoughts – to clear your mind before starting the day and create space for creativity.]

We are not alone.

Because what I’m feeling this week is far from unique and it strikes me that there’s comfort for all of us in knowing we’re not alone.

This week has been tough. Really tough. And, despite appearances perhaps, I’ve struggled. I’ve not slept well since the weekend – and on Wednesday I wasn’t that far from a panic attack. My sense of wellbeing changes moment to moment. There’s been worry about income, and uncertainty around travel plans. I’ve lost some future work for sure with other work hanging in the balance. My (landmark… shhhh!) birthday celebration has been cancelled. And yet… there’s also been so much community, collaboration, connection. Plus, in our house, laughter and dancing too (you have to check out this coronavirus playlist on Spotify!).

[On the birthday front, I’m pretty sure it means I can stay 39 forever…]

What were streams of messages are now video calls (my raspy voice is testament to the amount I’ve been talking!). And so many beautiful souls have gathered around in SUCH a supportive way.

But there is no getting away from the fact that where we are right now is unprecedented and, quite frankly, bonkers. It’s no wonder we’re struggling.

I’m both built and not built for this.

Jaime and I joke about how it’d be fun to swap brains for a day (in truth I don’t really think he’s all that keen). Day-to-day, where he’s maybe holding onto a handful of thoughts, I’m grappling with what feels like a thousand. And where he can recognise experiencing perhaps a couple of emotions at a time, I could make one very long list. You can start to see why this week has been a challenge.

Some of this, for me, is there to be worked on. It’s important for my mental wellbeing that I ground myself in the moment and I continue to do that through my practices – whether journalling, movement, psychotherapy etc…

And yet what sometimes presents as problematic is also a source of power. Being able to hold all these thoughts and implications in my mind makes me an exceptional problem-solver and I’m pretty damn good in a crisis. Faced with any kind of ‘situation’, I’m already 10 steps down three or four different paths in my head as I decide what to do – meaning I’ve already unblocked many of the challenges that are about to present.

A case in point… Last Sunday, waking up with a sore throat, and realising that I probably shouldn’t be socialising with people, I put classes online for a week. And then, with Boris’s announcement on Monday, the problem-solving ability kicked up a couple of gears. We were online for the foreseeable, student comms were out, a community WhatsApp was up and running and social updates were live. Yay!

[Until Wednesday when I paid the price for all the adrenaline I’d been pumping…]

Another thing about me – I seem hard wired to help people. On Monday night, all I wanted to do was wrap my arms around everyone and hold their confusion, panic and concern. Which is essentially what I was doing – within my own sphere of influence. My first thought was PROVIDE. It comes from being a sensitive soul.

It’s a much-maligned quality however, and many people in my past have requested that I minimise it. That I “not be so sensitive”. Yet it’s also another superpower – I see and feel what others are experiencing (often regardless of whether they want that known) and am therefore able to help.

The flipside of this is that I tend to seriously overlook my own needs – again a contributor to that anxious Wednesday crash.

Rollercoasters.

All day Wednesday I wobbled – shortness of breath, panic, anxiety, tears… And then I turned the skills I’d been directing at everyone else in on myself – I breathed, moved, walked, journalled. And slowly things got better.

[In case you’re a Springsteen fan… I watched Blinded By The Light on Wednesday night – a great bit of light relief]

I felt better, slept better and woke in a markedly different place. And then promptly got into panic mode again when I totally forgot that teaching online required I actually send students a link at which to meet me!

What do we do about X? What if I have to cancel Y? Will Z be ok? I should call persons A, B, C, D…. My thoughts as I head off to sleep Thursday night.

This morning at silly o’clock I’m sat on the sofa writing this.

And then, later this morning, I dropped the marmite on our tiled kitchen floor – obviously it smashed. Jaime came home from a run to find a carrier bag of goopy marmite/glass mix on the counter and wryly asked ‘what did the marmite do to you?’. I became a little hysterical – firstly laughter, then tears then I don’t know – a muddle of it all together. We called it craughter…

In short, it’s SUCH a fricking rollercoaster and I know all of you are feeling this too. I suppose what I’m saying is, I see you. And I am you.

To those of you who seem to have seen all of this and have been reaching out with eerily timed messages, I am exceptionally grateful (I suspect you have some of this same ‘sensitive’ gene I do). If I’m managing to reach people as you’re managing to reach me I’ll be very happy.

Back to today…

Teaching online continues to be a journey. I said it at class last night but, even if I appear to have all this sorted out, I can assure you that I am very much still finding my way – just like everyone else. Sometimes classes will run really smoothly, other times it’ll be a bumpier ride.

It turns out I can’t teach back-to-back sessions – because holding this space online is exhausting, who knew! I need to drink more water, because talking all day is knackering my throat. I have to make more time for myself.

I’m off to take an online class myself now and, as I go, I’m reminded that I am not a superhero, no matter that every now and again it might feel that way. And neither are you.

Be gentle with yourself. Be soft, be forgiving and be patient.

Thank you.

I continue to be deeply grateful to all of you around me for standing by and supporting what I’m doing. And I will continue to support as many of you as I can – while continuing to resource myself deeply too.

Signing off with love,

Lis x

[I think it’s worth noting that though I picked up the laptop to write this directly this morning, the only way it would exit my head and land on the page was by putting pen to paper. As we continue to spend so much stuff online right now, there might be something in that to bear in mind…]

Picking up the pieces…

January 4, 2019
Picking up the pieces...

From the moment it started to form in my mind, the title of this post was set. It seemed apt after a fortnight of not being well – and of not being able to do any of the jobs (let alone fun stuff!) I’d intended, due to a head that felt as though it was wrapped in layers upon layers of fluffy cotton wool.  

[It also seemed apt after what appears to have been more than a year of not blogging. Yeowch.]

I had big plans for the Christmas break this year – not least a review of the year to date and some serious thought around what the coming year would look like. But life had other plans and it all went very much out of the window as my brain got scrambled, all my ‘pieces’ got dropped and I was left with no option but to rest up – day after day after day!

And it’s been rubbish not being well, but in truth I’ve also been dreading the inevitable moment where I got better just in time to return to everything I’d been supposedly taking a break from – and that I’d been hoping to review and reset!

Except… I’m now a day and a bit into feeling more human again and, while all of my pieces are still there patiently awaiting attention, there’s been this beautiful window in between the illness and wellness where I’ve been able to sit with what is and realise a couple of important lessons from my year, perhaps the biggest of which is that I have given FAR too little time to myself.

Sound selfish? It kind of still does to me when I see it written but honestly, no. I have taken far too little time for me. I have put myself on the very bottom of my priority list. I have in no way recognised the enormous changes made in my life. And I have perhaps most importantly definitely not created myself the space within which to deal with it. And yet I have all the tools which with to have done better.

Life huh? But hey, realisation is everything.

As I’ve begun feeling better, I’ve started moving again – albeit keeping things simple and small. And I’ve been journaling too (it’s amazing the insight you can gather from this simple act of emptying your thoughts onto paper – if you don’t already do so, I highly recommend you start). And as I’ve moved and journaled I’ve reminded myself of why I practice, why I write, and by extension what I hope to deliver as I teach…

Space.

Space that’s created by a shedding of armour, and an unravelling of truth.

It really is that simple.

And so as I head into 2019, with a slowly-clearing mind, I intend to make this a year of honouring myself. And then of course of helping you to honour yourself – if you’ll join me on the mat…

Choices

June 25, 2017
Choices - yogalustco

For much of my life I’ve taken on responsibility for the choices made by those around me – people close to me, people not so close to me. Ultimately, I’ve made whatever people have thought of me (and how they’ve behaved towards me) my cross to bear.

I’ve made it my fault when they’ve chosen to attack rather than understand. I’ve made it my fault when they’ve assumed rather than asked. I’ve made it my fault when they’ve chosen to (whether quietly or loudly) judge rather than accept. I’ve made it my fault when they’ve decided to mock, not hold out a hand. In this latest walk of life, I’ve made it my fault when they’ve chosen him over me.

I’ve been judged to be too much, not enough and everything in between.

And all of it I’ve assumed responsibility for. Somehow my choices, my behaviours, my knowledge, my appearance, my love have not been enough for them. My ‘me’ has not been enough.

The thing is it’s not really my responsibility at all what other people choose to do or think, it’s theirs. Which, writing this today, seems pretty simple but somehow is a revelation that eluded me for years. Weird how sometimes the pieces just click.

Because I’ve been half a foot in one world and half a foot in another for all this time. And I wonder how many of us are doing similar – because we’re choosing to make others’ choices our own.

It of course can be a hurtful realisation in some senses – there are numerous times where people haven’t chosen to stand with me but against me, explicitly or otherwise. But being hurt by someone else’s belief that you’re somehow not good enough is far less painful than being hurt by you yourself believing you’re not good enough – which is what I’d been doing over and over. For years.

Perhaps it’s about time that stopped.

What’s in a name?

May 7, 2017

What’s in a name, huh? Apparently quite a lot actually – as I’ll unfold for you in today’s post. We jump about a bit so bear with me, and allow me to start with a story about a t-shirt I bought this week…

It’s a plain grey and fairly unremarkable t-shirt, apart from the word feminist emblazoned across the front. I wore it the day it arrived (isn’t that always a sign that you love something – when it’s on the minute it’s been bought?). I’m normally pretty blasé about slogan tees but this one is different somehow, because being feminist is a big part of who I am, and behind the word is a set of principles I believe in most strongly.

I believe in equal rights, and a just, contributory, fair society where we’re all judged very simply on who we are and how we behave as our most beautiful, unpolished, unedited, natural selves. I hate any suggestion that we should conform without good reason, and I loathe seeing judgement passed over others because somehow they don’t conform to a norm.

In this vein, I also believe in my right as a woman to be the sole ‘owner’ of myself – free to represent ‘me’ in any manner I wish, including by the name I wish.

Which brings us some way back to the point of this post.

Where names (and women’s names in particular) are concerned, I don’t believe that if you get married you should necessarily take your husband’s name. And I also don’t believe that you should necessarily adopt the title ‘Mrs’.

[Now that’s not to say I believe you mustn’t. If this is your choice, then of course it’s your choice – and I stand by what I said earlier on letting each other be our own selves, however that manifests. I have no beef whatsoever with this, and many of my friends have gone down this road. My feelings are that I don’t believe you should have to. So do what you want, not what you feel you should, and all kudos to you.]

Unsurprisingly then given the above, I was adamant when I got engaged that I wouldn’t be taking his name after marriage. And that the only transition in my title would be from Miss to Ms. Until somehow my mind was changed.

I was born Miss Lisa Nichols and on my wedding day I became Mrs Lisa Innes. And if I’m honest somewhere along the way I became excited about it too. The husband was never keen on me keeping my name, and definitely not keen on the Ms. – and nor were many others I mentioned it to either. So the alter ego that was in charge then (the one I called my ‘autopilot’ in this post almost a year ago now) got me on board.

Except then I got divorced. And immediately that this happened, I shifted from Mrs. to Ms. (which felt good!). I kept the Innes though – it was all too overwhelming to make any decisions about that – too unstable, too new, too raw and too turbulent. But things move on. And so today, 7 years since getting married and 3 years since getting divorced, I’ve begun the process of changing my name…again.

It’s taken such a time because I’ve been unsure of what to do with it to be honest. I’ve known I didn’t want my married name for some time, but reverting back to my maiden name has never seemed entirely right either (though it would be simpler!). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve toyed with the idea but it just bothers me on a number of levels. At a symbolic level for example, on the day I was married I was handed to somebody else and I don’t now want to be ‘handed back’. If there’s anything I’ve learned these past few years (full disclosure – am still learning) it’s how to be me and so I want a name that is representative of this individual self.

So it was no to Innes and no to Nichols.

[An aside… The former is hopefully easy enough to understand, the latter perhaps less so. For sure though there’s no hidden statement, or agenda. It’s simply that that person is gone – gone 7 years now – and I’ve grown and evolved so much since then that taking the name again is an impossible step backwards. It also feels to me like clouding what is a positive and empowering decision with something that seems like (though believe me it’s anything but) a showcasing of failure. Even just practically, facilitating a change back to my maiden name means producing my divorce certificate for all and sundry – which is something I’m not willing to do.]

Which means what then?

It’s been percolating for some time but now I’m sure. I’ll be changing my name to that of Ms. Lisa James.

It is a family name actually – from my Mum’s side – but there’s no hidden statement in that either. It’s a name that has roots for me but is one that I’ve not held before – which makes it at the same time new, forward-facing, and representative of an evolution of self.

If I’m honest some of the delay in me making the change this has been in not wanting to be seen to be making a choice between one parent and the other (my parents are also divorced) but I hope I’ve now been able to explain myself well enough to both that this is avoided (and if not then fingers crossed this post helps).

What’s also solidified it for me these past couple of months has been a speeding up of my understanding and acceptance of self. I’m finally ready to just be me. I know who that is, and I’m ready to give her a name.

So, James gives me ‘me’, James gives me roots, and James gives me my future. It’s not quite official yet but it’s coming. So hello Lisa James – I’m very pleased to meet you.

NB – my personal Twitter and Instagram handles have now changed so you’ll find me on both as @_lisjam. All other change will follow as the paperwork is signed, and official documents changed.

The power of equanimity

November 4, 2016
Equanimity_yogalustco

Equanimity. It’s a word I think about more and more these days, which in itself is interesting given that it’s not something that I would associate with the vast majority of my life to date. I’m (correction: I was) that person who got pulled from pillar to post by both her own feelings and those of the people around her. Who rode a rollercoaster of emotions every day – extreme highs and extreme lows all bundled in together. And who was probably a bit unpredictable to be around – my Dad once described me as lighting up a room, you just were never sure what colour that light was going to be…

But now…equanimity. Or for sure a growing amount of it.

Equawhat?

Simply defined (thanks Google!) equanimity is “calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation”. There’s more to it than this though – you just have to dig a bit deeper.

Because this definition implies that it’s a transient state – something admirable to achieve in the face of a challenge, for example: ‘it was impressive to see that she remained equanimous in the face of such disastrous results’. But in Buddhism however, equanimity (upekkha) is described as one of four sublime states of mind (the other three being loving-kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy), not a passing thought or emotion but rather a “steady conscious realisation of reality’s transience”.

We try our hardest to grasp onto things and not let them go but – whether it’s happiness or hurt we’re so desperately trying to cling on to – the reality is that at the moment you reach for it, it’s already gone.

And if that sounds somewhat dry and boring, think again. There’s immense power (see my previous post on samtosa) in realising and accepting that the world around us, the reality we live in, is constantly changing – not just from day to day but second to second. Reaching for things that no longer exist encourages longing, makes us feel lost and engenders a belief that our lives are somehow lacking.

It causes us pain.

Living life with an understanding of the bigger picture however,  with full knowledge of its inevitable transience and change, provides us with space within which to not react to such things as pleasure and pain, success and failure etc. It allows us to develop a centred approach to life, from which we become less embroiled in events and emotions, and from which we can develop an inner strength and balance – that equanimous approach.

Freedom

Aware that our personal sense of well-being is entirely of our own making then, ultimately equanimity delivers us freedom.

Imagine that – finding a freedom to just be in the moment, without expectation. A freedom to experience, and be experienced just as we are right now. A freedom from all of our stories.

Sounds good to me…I’ll be continuing to cultivate this one (and introducing it to class too!).

I loved you

June 18, 2016

I loved you.
You hushed me.

I loved you.
You stifled me.

I loved you.
You squashed me.

I loved you.
You mocked me.

I loved you.
You belittled me.

I loved you.
You shamed me.

I loved you.
You disrespected me.

I loved you.
You ignored me.

I loved you.
You denied me.

I loved you.
You abandoned me.

I loved you.
You broke me.

I left.
You blamed me.

A girl has no name

May 31, 2016

So it’s been a while…
…27 days to be precise.

Because, after a prolific couple of months, it’s fair to say my blogging activity has taken a bit of a nosedive. Which you might assume is due to being ‘blogged out’…but in actual fact boils down to what you might call a crisis of identity. A face-off, if you will, between an autopilot that seems to have been running the show for some time and an authentic self that is straining to find her voice.

As you may already know from earlier posts this last couple of years has been a period of significant change for me. Change that, with hindsight, was likely driven by a rebelling of this authentic self, but change that, in reality, has been pretty organic – led by my gut rather than any rational thought.

From leaving my marriage to re-engaging with yoga to enrolling on YTT, it’s all been instinctive. Almost non-negotiable too if I’m honest – things I’ve simply had to do, whether I understood the reasons or not.

But nowadays there seems to be a maturing of this authentic self (I like to call her the ‘me’ me – or mimi, for the fun!) as she realises that to effect long lasting change she’s going to have to take a more active role in life.

But the thing is, the autopilot is strong – significantly older than mimi, quite shouty and very deeply entrenched. And pretty much whenever I’m in doing mode (as opposed to being, the simplest explanation of which I found here) this is what takes over.

Which means that though mimi (me in my heart of hearts, in my very soul) no longer wants to accept being pushed to one side – benched in favour of the familiar – she’s not really sure how to go about changing things. Because even though the old (autopilot) patterns of behaviour have been falling away for some time now, no proven replacements yet exist.

A therapist I recently visited said she recognises this tearing up of old patterns as a distinct stage in a transformation journey that usually happens about two years in (interesting that it’s two and a half years now since I left my old life). A friend of mine though put it in plainer terms – likening it to untying yourself from the harbour only to realise you’re at sea without a map!

IMG_1503

So I have a strong sense at the moment of her reaching to assert her authority but coming up empty-handed as she tries to find the tools (something this therapist is going to try and help with). Which of course helps explain why I’ve been feeling a bit voiceless these past couple of months (well the true me anyway). And why I probably seem a bit more withdrawn, and harder to get hold of, than might be usual.

It’s not that I’m ignoring anyone. Or even that I’m in a bad place. It’s just that I don’t quite know how to be this new me – and if I don’t give her the space and time she needs to consider what, how, or where she might contribute I’ll be back to that autopilot all over again.

 

Volcanoes and lifeboats

April 26, 2016

Just as I sit down to start writing this post I realise I have a meeting starting in 10 minutes and the tears well up in my eyes. Because I’m angry. And upset. And though all I want to do is write it out, instead I have to put it all to one side and put the ‘everything’s great’ mask back on again.

Which, quite frankly, pisses me off even more (sorry Mum). I spend so much of my life worrying about other people. Putting them first. But when the hell am I supposed to make time for myself?

I’m fizzing like a volcano, ready to erupt and I have no idea of what to do. If I try and absorb it it’ll eat me up but if I let it out I’ll surely regret it later. And it’s clear I need to do something. Because right now, it’s just manifesting itself all over the place!

Over the weekend when the other half was beeping the car horn every time we came to a tight corner driving down to the beach.

Last night as I should have been enjoying my Skype call with a friend in Amsterdam.

Super early this morning when the cats would not stop banging the cupboard wanting to be fed. And when I saw one of the phones having been plugged in overnight to charge…again.

And now later this morning as I’m going about my day.

Coming back to last night for a minute, I was looking at my notes from the last training weekend for the first time in an age when I freaked out on realising there was a task there I’d forgotten about. A teeny, tiny task in truth, but it tipped me over the edge. I reached out to my fellow trainees for some love and support and within minutes was being calmed and soothed by their awesomeness (and a whole raft of boat emojis…).

We’re all in the same boat was the message (hence the emojis…). And we could rely on these friendSHIPs (pun shamelessly stolen from one of them!) to get us through. It made me feel better of course but one thing in particular got me thinking.

One of the group suggested that my panic might perhaps be stress from another area of life. Stress that was manifesting itself here because it was only here that I felt it to be acceptable. And yes, she’s absolutely right. Because, in fact, if I was left to my own devices to get on with it is I need to do I’d be perfectly calm and content.

Which leads me to the root of the stress. The cause behind my angst.

[Prepare yourselves!]

I’m angry with my brother who hasn’t spoken to me for years and who has suddenly decided that it’s time to turn the treatment he gave me on my Mum, the woman who’s done nothing but be there for him his entire life.

I’m angry that my Dad didn’t get a card in the post for my birthday this Friday just gone. And that despite him saying he’d call me about perhaps meeting up that afternoon he never did. Particularly because he had plenty of time to take my brother to London on the weekend and I’m now scrabbling around trying to find a convenient time for him to meet me – all for him to say happy birthday.

I’m angry following a contact update meeting yesterday that my other’s half’s kids continue to curtail our freedom in seeing each other whenever we’d like. That they insist on referring to me as a wicked witch and making out that I couldn’t be more horrid if I tried. That they seem to forget that it’s my car driving them around and my input that helps make sure they have good and fun weekends, Christmases and birthdays.

I’m annoyed with his ex, who is one of the most selfish people I’ve ever known and has dragged this situation out for over two years, playing manipulative and harmful little games with no thought to anyone else, kids included.

I’m mad at him for making me love him so that I simply cannot (and don’t want to) walk away.

And I’m mad at myself, for being mad at all these people and situations! Because it’s a shameful emotion isn’t it, anger? At least that’s the belief I seem to have picked up somewhere along the way. But even that aside, there’s almost always something worse going on in the world (another friend is trying to save her husband’s life!) and there’s also inevitably a flip side that means you shouldn’t actually be angry at all.

Talking of which…

My brother is controlled by his partner and I don’t think has much say in anything he does. Which means I can’t blame him can I?

My Dad has a lot on his mind and, regardless, is notoriously bad at remembering to call when he says he will. I know this – have always known this. So I simply shouldn’t expect anything else. Plus, it’s just a birthday, and I’m not a child!

The kids are all under 10, don’t know any better and, in truth, are being blindly led by their mother. They’re kids. What kind of awful person gets mad at kids?!

His ex’s feelings for me are entirely my/our fault. This is my cross to bear.

[Addendum 27/4/16: this is my cross to bear but not when the vitriol is channeled via three innocent children]

And him. He’s just lost his Mum. Is there anyone I should be getting less mad with right now? I’m sorry my love.

So. I have lots of friendSHIPs but I right now I need a lifeboat – before I lose it entirely and hurt someone along the way. Answers on a postcard (please)…

Body image

April 7, 2016

I always knew that somewhere on this blogging journey I’d end up writing a post about body image. And then yesterday it got very naturally bumped up the priority list.

Wednesday is one of my teaching days and so I was up early yesterday morning, getting dressed in my leggings and (somewhat figure-hugging) vest in readiness for class. I remember catching sight of myself in the mirror and thinking how “I’d better remember to keep my belly tucked in today” but before I could really dwell on it I was out of the house, getting on with business.

rsz_img_1077So I get to the office, and I’m running around prepping mats and props and belts and the like, when I see someone who usually comes to class but who couldn’t make it this week. I was busy trying to persuade her to borrow my mat and come and join in when she gave me a bit of an ‘up and down’ look.

Instantly I remembered the earlier ‘belly’ thought and went to suck it in. A questioning look must have passed over my face though, as pretty much immediately she exclaimed “oooh, you’re so teeny!”. The exact opposite of what I’d assumed…

“Really?” I said, “But look at my belly!!”
“What are you talking about?!” she said
“Look at it” I insisted, “If you looked at me from the side you’d think I was pregnant!”
“Are you crazy?!” she responded
“I guess we’re all crazy” I said as I left to go and teach.

It was a funny exchange and we had a good laugh about it but it’s true, we are all crazy when it comes to body image, and we have a totally messed up way of looking at ourselves. But in spite of knowing it’s crazy, we all continue to do it – make these judgements about ourselves that really we ought to look like something, or someone else.

So how do we stop the crazy? How do we not pass it on? How do we help ourselves, and others, to think differently about it all?

We put all of this pressure on what we look like, but we don’t think about how we’re functioning. We don’t look to our bodies for example, and ask what they can tell us about what’s going on in our lives – even though the body is such a great indicator of how healthy, in the holistic sense of the word, our lives are.

It tells us pretty quickly if our lives aren’t in a good place, and can speak volumes about where our stress levels are at, how happy we are and how nourished we might be. For me, imbalance manifests itself in digestive issues, eczema, dizziness and exhaustion. It’s all symptomatic of other things going in my life, yet normally when I look at my body I’m not asking “How are you? What can I learn from you?”, but rather “Hmmm, how fat/thin are you looking today?”.

I know that since increasing the amount yoga I do, I’ve put on weight. I have a bigger bum (more junk in my trunk as a friend of mine would say!) and bigger legs and, all in all, I’m carrying around about 10lbs (4.5kg) of extra weight. Sometimes I get a bit miserable about it but the truth is I’m stronger, less prone to injury, less tired and less weak.

And as I’ve covered before, I’m also getting less crazy. Which means that, most of the time, I can recognise the extra ‘junk’ for what it is – muscle, not fat, and eminently healthy muscle at that.

Other times, I wake up in the morning thinking I’m the size of an elephant! Which I know is utterly ridiculous. Just as I know I can’t possibly be slim one day and overweight the next – whatever my mind might say! So if it’s not physical, if it’s in the mind, it has to be controllable or ‘let go-able’…

Which means it can be stopped. Stopped from being a measure of how capable, competent and successful we are. And stopped getting in the way of us doing things. We’ve got to put all of this to one side, and just get on with life!

I read an interview with Cameron Diaz earlier, about ageing and, though on a slightly different topic, she said one thing that I thought was really pertinent:

“We don’t have to do this to each other and we don’t have to do it to ourselves… We need to start honouring ourselves and honouring each other, instead of beating ourselves up and judging other women.”

And I have to say it’s been interesting to see how my own body image has evolved these last few months. Well these last couple of years really, but the shift has definitely sped up since I started YTT and began getting much more philosophical about everything in life. The old negativity and obsession about conforming to a certain ideal isn’t gone, definitely not (see the elephant thoughts above!), but I do have much more peace with it.

Again from Cameron Diaz:

“We, as individuals, are the only ones who can release ourselves from the burden of feeling like we need to be something that we can’t be.”

In ‘living’ yoga I find myself releasing from it all… But even in this community it can be a challenge. I use Instagram and as soon as I started tapping into the yoga community there, I saw all of these slim, beautiful people, in beautiful clothes, doing amazing yoga poses in amazing places. And because you follow these accounts, you get led to more… And before you know it you’re on a path where yoga has somehow become about aspiration, and desire. Which it is absolutely not.

There’s a whole host of talk and discussion about where this all stems from, and whether it’s teachers themselves that are driving it, with a level of irresponsibility in their teaching. But arguably it has as much to do with the people following this stuff as those who are being followed. Because there are actually inordinate numbers of people on Instagram posting about yoga (19,836,823 posts with the hashtag #yoga when I just checked) – not all of them skinny, in beautiful places, wearing beautiful clothes.

Perhaps then, if you’re already inclined to give yourself a hard time about your body, you somehow get led down this road of only seeing and engaging with the stuff that you think represents what you ‘should’ be. The stuff you (mistakenly -see this post from Rachel Brathen aka Yoga Girl) think represents happy, and successful.

I myself have added quite a lot of variety recently to my followers – from the (inspirational – read some of their posts) plus-sized @mynameisjessamyn and @glitterandlazers to a whole raft of ordinary people doing yoga at home in their PJs (@rudabagel_, @movewithjude, @aareeliitaa…)! I think once you understand (or more to the point are able to hold on to the understanding) that yoga isn’t about being beautiful, tall and toned but actually setting aside all that is not significant or not-‘Self’ (in the words of Patanjali, “the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff”) you become open to other images and role models in life.

Which in turn helps you to back off a little, from all this crazy body image stuff. But it’s a work in progress, of course, as is everything!

I can’t be the only one thinking all of this – I’d love to hear your own stories below…

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