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.
Christy, you are so great. Your vulnerability and kindness melt something in me today, and I will spend time pondering why. One thing is clear -there is strife in my relationship with my body of late, and there is needed reconciliation. I look forward to what will unfold. Thank you.
Christy – I LOVE this! You have honestly and vulnerably shared with us what many of us struggle with – our body image. The pandemic changed many things for all of us as it took us out of our routines – including some of our healthier routines. I, like you, am struggling to find my way back to my healthy routines again. Your last sentences are powerful as you recognize your shame and contempt for your body and you, “commit at that moment to be a lover of my own body, for she is a good body.” I’d also like to give a thumbs up to your yoga instructor who took the time and had the heart to welcome you back and encourage you on your journey towards health.
Namaste, Christy. I bow to the Christ in you. Peace and all good.
The sweetness of hearing your name spoken out of care and blessing…I resonated with this bringing tears. Thank you for sharing this tender story Christy.