Guest post: How to find and sustain a body affirming practice
Happy New Year! I hope you had wonderful, relaxing holidays and are ready to take 2014 by storm!! What better way to start off a brand new year than to be able to share with you a post by one of my favorite people, Emily Goodstein. Emily has thrown herself into her practice with a dedication that is beyond admirable and I am so proud of her and excited that I have been part of her journey. I asked her to do a guest post because I wanted to share her insights into finding and sustaining a body affirming yoga practice. Her tips are insightful for all of us, whether you are an experienced yoga student or a beginner, with a larger body or not.
In addition to being an awesome yogi, Emily is a fantastic photographer, who specializes in birth story photography. She has an amazing blog of her own and is a social media marketing genius. I’m so happy that Emily is a part of my life and I encourage you to check her stuff out! Here’s her post:
There was a time, not too long ago, that I loved yoga but couldn’t find the time to get myself to yoga classes. I couldn’t find classes I enjoyed, didn’t have buddies to go with me, was unable to find the correct yoga outfit. I was triggered by classes that were too difficult, didn’t feel comfortable being the only larger lady in the room, and had outgrown beginner classes…
I did a few things to reclaim my practice. I sent emails to listservs and friends, I posted on Facebook and Twitter… I told people I was looking for a “body affirming yoga class” and ended up connecting with two fabulous teachers in the DC area. My social media posts had resulted in a long list of buddies looking to try new classes with me. When I unrolled my mat in Annie’s class for the first time, I felt at home. To see a curvy yoga instructor at the front of the room was so novel, so affirming, and so empowering. The chatter before the class was about where to buy the best yoga pants (that are made in a range of sizes for ALL bodies). The plethora of props and modifications suggested during class helped to facilitate such an enjoyable practice. I couldn’t get enough.
In order to sustain my practice, I’ve done a few things. These techniques certainly won’t work for everyone… (and since I am such a stubborn person, I would have totally rejected any of these ideas if they were suggested to me before I thought of them myself), but maybe they will help to inspire a few ways for you to create a body positive yoga experience for yourself.
1) Be picky. Once I was able to “own” that I am really picky about the specific teachers I practice with, I felt much better. It became easier for me to avoid classes that wouldn’t be affirming or didn’t set me up for yoga success. And just because another studio or different teacher is lower in cost or closer to my apartment, doesn’t mean it will be an empowering yoga experience.
2) Bring a buddy. I hate this advice, but it is so true. When people suggest finding a “work-out buddy,” that doesn’t take many factors into consideration. When I invite folks to practice with me, I want to make sure they’re not going to yuck my yoga yum by being critical of my chosen classes. Since I know working out, yoga, bodies, and fitness are somewhat delicate issues for me, I make sure that I only invite folks into my yoga practice who will respect those fragile dynamics. I am lucky that I have a bunch of friends who join me for classes on a regular basis — it is a great way to catch up with people I enjoy spending time with wile doing something relaxing and nourishing at the same time.
3) Spread the word. I know that the two specific body affirming classes I’ve chosen to attend are somewhat “niche” classes and I want them to thrive! So, I do everything I can to spread the word about the classes and recruit new students to practice with me. This means checking in on social media and letting friends know where they can find out about the classes when they ask. I was getting so many questions about my yoga classes of choice, I actually created a “canned response” in gmail with an overview of each class along with time and place and registration links for quick information dissemination.
4) Calendar it. One of the best things I did to reclaim my yoga practice was to put the classes I wanted to attend as recurring appointments on my calendar. I booked travel time to and from the classes and try really hard to schedule around the classes as opposed to in conflict with them. I started by devoting two after work chunks of time to yoga and when I was ready, I added a third class. This said, if there is something that happens that conflicts with a yoga class, I try not to be flexible and not try to “make up” for classes I didn’t attend (this just stresses me out).
5) Love leggings. Before I got serious about yoga, I was wearing flowey sweatpants to classes. I spent half the class adjusting the sweats between poses. Then one day, I noticed that Annie was wearing leggings to class and I decided to break my own “leggings are not pants” rule and try ’em out for a class. And then I was in love with leggings. I wear a pair of Old Navy leggings (I bought six pairs) and a longish tank top with a loose fitting t-shirt on top to every class. Sometimes I wear leg warmers and a sweatshirt if it is chilly out. But the leggings really revolutionized my practice because they are stretchy and comfy and stay put during my practice.
What has worked for you? How did you reclaim your practice? And more specifically, what do you wear to yoga class that you love?