Yoga Body, Buddha Heart.
When I first started practicing yoga I was 10 or more pounds overweight. I wasn’t particularly concerned; I’d birthed three children in my lifetime, after all, and had recently turned 50. Besides, my mother was plump, and most of my aunts were a bit overweight. “Skinny genes” just aren’t in my DNA, and skinny jeans aren’t in my closet.
But then came yoga, and I decided that I wanted a yoga body like the one my teacher had (never mind that she was still in her 30s—I wanted what she had). It wasn’t so much that I desired to be slim; I just wanted to be solid and strong. In fact, a few of my yoga teachers had rounded bellies, and probably wore the same size (or close to it) that I did. But their muscles came to life in their warrior poses, and they possessed an inner strength and stamina that I admired.
Young women today have plenty of athletic, shapely female role models. But when I was growing up, we had no fitness centers, and no one owned a pair of running shoes. As a kid growing up in the 50s, the word yoga wasn’t in my vocabulary. There were no yoga centers or Zumba classes, and weight lifting was for guys.
Of course, there was a bit of a movement—in high school gym class—to whip us into shape. I remember exercising to a tinny tape of “Go You Chicken Fat, Go!” Our grouchy gym teacher tried to get us to jump over the gymnastics horse and play tennis, but when someone failed she didn’t mince words. We all felt fat, even if we weren’t. (Back then, my weight was perfectly average.)
My mother didn’t model any form of exercise for me, unless you counted ironing, washing clothes or vacuuming. A walk around the block was more to see the sights than to get our heart rates up. My parents valued education, a decent job, and being a good person, but my father’s “sport” was fishing and my mother’s was watching the afternoon soaps.
Yoga, when I finally discovered it, introduced me to my body. Yes, I’d given birth, chased three children around the park, pushed a stroller up and down my hill, played Frisbee with the kids at the beach. But I hadn’t done anything positive (until yoga) just for me, just for my body. And it was time.
Of course, since I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve lost weight, but that’s not the issue. Thanks to yoga, I don’t really think about weight all that much any more. Am I eating the right foods? Vegetarian, organic. Am I practicing? At least five days a week. Do I get out and walk? Am I happy? Kind? Am I spending enough time alone? With others?
Sadly, my mother is no longer with me. But if she could see me lift up to Handstand or Wheel I know she’d be utterly amazed by the strength and agility of my middle-aged body. I wish that back in the day, she too might have experienced the gift of this transformative practice that magically slims down your waist while expanding your heart!
Kathryn E. Livingston has been writing about parenting issues for more than 25 years; recently, she’s turned her pen to yoga. Kathryn is especially drawn to Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Kundalini yoga, and is soon to engage in a Kundalini yoga teacher training. Visit her personal blog at livwrite.blogspot.com. Find her on The Huffington Post and on the Kundalini yoga music website SpiritVoyage.com, check out her book of essays, All About Motherhood, or follow her on Twitter. Kathryn’s yoga memoir will be published in January, 2014.
Like elephant Yoga on Facebook.
- Assistant Ed. Caroline Scherer
- Ed: Brianna Bemel