I am super excited to have my first guest author at Anytime Yoga. Even more excited than when I had my first troll infestation — because guest bloggers are awesome and trolls… aren’t.
Stefanie Renard teaches and practices Iyengar yoga Bay Area. She believes that yoga is for everyone no matter shape, size, or ailment. Stefanie has practiced yoga for 10 years and her principal teacher is Manouso Manos.
“I exist as I am, that is enough.” – Walt Whitman
I read on WebMD the following: “Study: Some Nose-Job Patients Have Mental Health Problems.” I am certainly glad that Santa did not grant my request for rhinoplasty because it appears that I would now have very high therapy bills. I have an Italian profile. I got mocked as girl for my Toucan Sam nose and kids would call me ‘honker head’ and all sorts of other niceties. I would ask for a nose job every Christmas hoping to become different and beautiful. My mother would try to soothe by explaining I would grow ‘into myself’ and that Barbara Streisand, of the large-nose profile, was beautiful. You are blind at that age to such rationale. I wanted to be cute and pert and not left standing alone at the school dances.
Add to this a family that tended to struggle with their weight and a grandmother who would speak very disparagingly of ‘fat’ people. She spit the word out with venom like it was a disease you could catch. Things like: “She seems nice but she is so F-A-T.” I understood fat was bad and that how you looked made you into a person of worth. I was not a fat child but I have a large frame suited for tilling fields and carrying burdens on my head. I took this with me into the ballet world.
I started ballet at the age of 4. It was fine until I left the local tap-a-roma studio and changed to a ‘serious’ ballet school. My Russian ballet teacher told my mother: “She can dance but she’s too fat.”
I loved to dance.
It was a thing of joy and I was dead serious about it despite my body being all wrong for it. When I heard my teacher’s words, I turned them against my own body. Compulsive exercise, crazy eating/purging, dancing 5-6 days a week on 400 calories a day…I was determined to create that body I so desperately needed to be allowed to dance at the level I wanted. It didn’t work. I was a too skinny girl with the same wide hips and shoulders.
Turning a young girl against her own body is a cruel thing. I would compulsively measure my wrists with my index finger and thumb. I would hold my arm across my stomach at school for fear it stuck out too much. I would constantly check my profile in the mirror before getting dressed finding the offensive bumps and curves. And I would never look at my face in the mirror because I saw that horse-faced, ugly girl waiting for a boy to like her who had a body all wrong for the ballet she loved so dearly.
I am not writing this to elicit pity. It is a reality for many girls today and was mine growing up. It put a dark mark on my heart that is still with me all these many years later.
The adult me made a habit of wearing clothes that were way too big. I still take showers in the dark so I don’t have to really see my own body. I still see thin, blonde, beautiful women and get that old ache in my heart. The voice that speaks of ugliness and of getting the wrong body – with hips too wide, nose too large, breasts too saggy, and legs like trees. I don’t think this will ever change. It was imprinted on me too young and for too long.
But, Yoga happened. All my back story is there on the mat but now it is different. The story lines play in my head – I am not good enough, too ugly, too fat etc etc. I keep practicing and now there is a voice that answers back.
This body is strong.
This body is healthy.
This body is unique.
The rest of it does not matter.
If you blink, you can miss this life. Wishing to be someone else is a waste of time. The first Yama is Ahimsa or non-violence and it starts with ourselves. I like to interpret Ahimsa as ‘do no harm.’ We injure our very nature when we spin out on the negative story lines set in place by family, circumstance, life, and the luck of the draw. I encourage you to get on your mat and tell those voices saying you are not enough to fuck off.