“To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.”
~Simone de Beauvoir
As a girl growing up, I was always very self-conscious of my body. I was among the first to develop in my age group, sprouting armpit hair and breasts before most of my classmates, growing into a teenage body before I hit the teenage years. Having very little athletic influence in my home or school, I was never very physically powerful or graceful. My main past-time was reading books and writing in my journal. I devoured anything I could get my hands on, reading classics, romance, mystery, thrillers and poetry from an early age. I loved to create stories of my own and to journal in odd ways, such as writing backwards from right to left, starting at the bottom of the page and working my way up to the top.
I wasn’t necessarily sedentary. Taking long walks allowed me to do all the people watching I needed for my creative input. It also cleared my head and allowed me to be free of anxieties I had about growing up, both physically and mentally. As I got older I had periods where I would try different types of exercise. From tennis, to weights, to running, I just could not find anything that fit.
During graduate school at UC Santa Barbara I decided to take aerobics. It was so much fun! I especially loved the step portion of the quarter, even though I often caught the poor teacher shaking her head at me while I did the opposite side of the sequence than the rest of the class was doing. I did not care – those girls were mainly ex-cheerleaders and dancers, not to mention 5-10 years younger than myself. I was not there for them, I was there for me.
One quarter, I horrified a ballet teacher by enrolling in her class. Aerobics did not fit into my schedule, but her class did. I did my best to stay as close to what the rest of the class was doing as possible, but those darn leaps across the room nearly gave her a heart attack. I can still hear her voice: “Run, run, run, leap!” And the following, “You! Again! Run, run, run, leap!” You cannot lead a horse to water, indeed.
I did not find much support for my antics in my academic program. I even had a few uncomfortable conversations about what I was spending my precious time on. I was the only one in my cohort brave or stupid enough to take anything non-academic that first few years. But I found my body.
After I left grad school, I moved further south with my then-boyfriend/now-husband. He suffered serious back and neck pain and ultimately sustained a surfing injury that made it impossible for him to work out. An athlete from an early age, he found being sedentary unbearable. We started taking nightly walks. After a trip to see his dad on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands, where we took our first Iyengar yoga classes together, we started practicing yoga regularly at our athletic club.
Fast forward a few years and here I am, taking a yoga teacher training. Between Lopez and San Francisco, we have explored Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Hatha, Tantra, Iyengar and Bikram classes. Although I tend to gravitate toward certain teachers, I find that all my teachers have helped me learn something about myself. Yoga is not only about the body, but it is an essential way for me to connect with mine.