I am moving through the class movements when I hear our instructor Anna say to the yoga class, “Relax your shoulders and pull your tongue back from the roof of your mouth.” It takes a few seconds to register what she is saying, and then I notice my tongue is, in fact, stuck to the roof of my mouth. I pull it back and coach my body to be in a more relaxed state. I look away from the mirror in front of me that accentuates a very unattractive part of my torso.
I am so deep in the uncomfortable yoga pose, I am not certain if Anna really said my name out loud. It is hard to believe that in the posh downtown Seattle yoga studio filled with extremely fit, body-conscientious humans, she noticed my yoga pose and complimented it.
It has been two years since I have come back to this studio, where I was a faithful weekly 6 a.m. Wednesday morning attender before the pandemic hit. Today, I stare at my widened image in the mirror with grace. My pear-shape has matured and my thighs no longer allow light between them.
I am not at home like I once was in my body or in my yoga practice.
I stare at my sweat dripping on my rented mat. My son’s PawPatrol water bottle was all I could find in the car, and I look ridiculous next to the seasoned, much more stylish yogis filling the room. My legs are shaking as we push through a stretch from star pose through our vinyasa flow. Anna tells us to be kind as we finish our practice with an elongated hold. I have battled my negative body image throughout the entire practice, and I push myself to hold the pose as long as I can.
She said it again. This time it is certain Anna notices me amidst the entire class. Tears pool in my eyes as I lay down in savasana, and I let myself feel her care. The strong ground holds me, and my body melts into a rested breathing. I close my eyes; I never want to leave this moment. I just want to let Anna’s mothering praise saturate into me.
Anna finds me after class and asks how it was for me. Tears prick my eyes again as I feel unusually seen and cared for. The vulnerability makes me aware of how empty I have been for so long. I know a good teacher because she sees you and leads you even when you don’t know yourself where you are. Her acceptance and praise of my imperfect body encourages me to be a more kind lover to my own body.
As I spray my mat to clean it, I am taken by the drops of sweat my body spilled during this last hour as if my body was shedding the shame and contempt that had collected onto me. I commit at that moment to be a lover of my own body, for she is a good body.
Christy Bauman, LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voice. She offers meaning-making and storywork consulting. She is the author and producer of three works: Theology of the Womb, A Brave Lament, and Documentary: A Brave Lament. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, and adjunct professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality, and theology. Christy is co-director of Christian Counseling Center for Sexual Health and Trauma with her husband Andrew. They live in Seattle with their three kids: Wilder, Selah, and River.