I started taking a new exercise class lately to add some variety to my routine. I want to start by saying that I have loved how strong these classes make me feel – they focus on small isolated movements to strengthen various muscle groups throughout the body. I feel the difference in my yoga practice, when I run, and even when I’m sitting at my desk and writing.
It has come to my attention however that these classes focus a great deal on the physical “end result” – or the way that your body will look upon completion of an exercise. Do you get my drift? I’m probably far more sensitive to these verbal cues in class because this is something I base my work on (body image, and a healthy one at that) but I can’t help but wonder if these cues are actually helpful to the other women in the class, or further causing them to only dislike their bodies. Causing more self criticism. I’m usually able to just block out these little cues throughout class.
And then last week something pretty darn cool happened.
During the abdominal series the instructor cued us to visualize the way we want our abs to look when we are done. Here’s what happened …
I laughed to myself, feeling totally full of certainty that I like, no, I LOVE my abs just the way they are. I was filled with this warm fuzzy feeling (yup, warm and fuzzy) and excitement that I had arrived. I had arrived at a place of starting to truly love the things about my body that I had once hated and punished myself for. And as the music blasted and we kept crunching our abs, it felt like I had the most wonderful secret sitting deep within me.
So what does this mean?
Well, allow me to preface this with the fact that my “abs” have, for as long as I can remember (or since I was age six), been a “problem area” for me. My stomach has, and probably never will be, flat, defined, akin to a washboard – you get the picture. There never will be a six-pack but my stomach is soft and it is strong. It helps me get into handstands, sit up straight, hold my torso up straight while running, and breath deeply.
I’m almost certain this “ah-ha moment” is a clear indication of moving a step in the right direction. It is proof that the work of training myself out of the negative self-talk actually works. I wasn’t even trying to think positively during this class and I’m certain I will still have those low “my body isn’t good enough!”, moments. But the consistent effort of redirecting my attention AWAY from those thoughts is finally starting to work so that I am able to see my imperfections as part of a beautifully imperfect whole.
I leave you with this: I encourage you to start by simply giving yourself the opportunity to see your imperfections in a new light — even if it feels silly. Slowly start to accept them as part of what makes you beautifully imperfect.
Maggie Converse, YTT 200, is a yoga teacher and Certified Holistic Health Coach based in Norwalk, CT. Yoga transformed Maggie’s life and gave her courage to complete the Ironman Lake Placid in 2013 for Children’s Tumor Foundation raising nearly $9,000. Maggie specializes in alignment-based yoga, yoga for athletes, and pre/post-natal yoga. To read more of Maggie’s work, click here or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. She can be contacted for a free sample consult.