Gender & Identity, Life

Becoming a yoga teacher was the best form of expressing love for my body and myself

Yoga is not a competition of who looks the best in stretchy yoga pants and contours into obscure balancing poses just for the camera. I remind my students of that as much as possible.

I first laid my eyes on yoga when I tried it in graduate school. It was my way of dealing with stress and controlling the millions of thoughts in my head. For my first few years, I focused on gaining the strength to get into that basic chaturanga or gracefully hold a balance pose. In the beginning, I looked something like this:

comedy fail GIF
[Image Description: A gif of a girl trying to hold her foot straight in front of her and balance on one foot.] via Giphy

From that point, I practiced yoga off and on. It was not until after graduate school that I became serious about it. I was happy when I could stretch further and hold poses for much longer. As I moved at the same pace as the teacher, I was slowly finding my way into the intermediate level. I started to look something like this, and it was amazing!

yoga GIF
[Image Description: A woman coming into a low lunge asana in yoga with a cat climbing her back] via Giphy

I began to flirt with the idea of doing teacher training, but could not seem to find the time. After life happened, I stopped making excuses. I chose my teacher training program based on authenticity and a connection to the actual roots of yoga. Because I did not want a particular school of thought where people tried to contort their students into a position, I was careful in what I selected.

Hence, I chose a program in which I learned the basics beyond simply asanas (postures) and pranayamas (breathing techniques). I especially enjoyed learning about the physiology of different human bodies when they are in asanas. In plain English, this meant understanding that everyone’s body would never look the same in a posture. Bodies are built differently, and to force anyone to look like the skinny, bendy individual in popular media was ludicrous.

However, after I left the beautiful comfort of yoga teacher training space, the self-sabotaging questions began. Was I good enough to teach a faster flow of power or vinyasa if I was struggling to get into my own headstand or handstand? The teachers in a funky arm balance, with their colorfully printed yoga pants, perfect makeup, and obscenely expensive Lululemon tops were probably more credible than me. In addition, the internet images dominated by skinny women on top of big rocks in their string bikinis or midriffs made me wonder if I had any chance. I never tried to sport a string bikini, and probably would never feel comfortable doing so, anyway.

At that point, I realized it was time to let this negative self-talk go.

I had to practice and teach yoga with steadfast love for my own body. I had to accept that not everyone would resonate with me as a teacher or love me the same way. After all, not every teacher resonated with me and still does not (yes, yoga teachers really enjoy being students too). I was confident in what I knew and that I had something to offer others. I got into it because it was by principle the least competitive mode of physical fitness. It was only me against myself.

In this process, I developed an unwavering confidence in my own strong practice rather than let anyone or social media tell me I was not good enough. The world is a big place with different types of people, and I refused to embrace a practice that did not encourage the principles of the body positivity.  Do not get me wrong though, I adore colorful yoga pants and tops. I catch myself looking them up more than any other type of clothing nowadays. I have learned so much about the best poses for yoga photography, and even add some sarcasm taglines to my photos at times. Check me out Instagram and Facebook (self-promotion for the win)! But, seriously, enjoy yoga for what it is, a space for reflection, meditation, and self-love. Enjoy your own version of yoga.