The world we live in helps us to create some thick skin.
From birth, we’re bombarded with advertisements, messaging, and propaganda telling us what we should wear, how we should eat, where we should hang out, what we should look like, and how much money it’s going to cost to ensure we are making a reasonable attempt at “fitting in.”
All of this pressure to fit in to our society makes it nearly impossible to maintain any connection with our spirit and deeper intention. Our actions are motivated by society instead of intuition and creativity.
Our natural instinct to all of this pressure from society is to build walls.
We shield ourselves from our truth to make sure the outside world only sees what we’re ready to share. We lose the ability to think for ourselves, and we become terrified of breaking the mold that society has so forcefully crafted for us.
I’ve been on this planet for 32 years, and let me tell you, I’ve built some sturdy walls in that time. It was my yoga practice that first introduced me to the walls I had built, and then it also offered me the tools to start tearing them down.
Before I found yoga, I was always paranoid about how I was being perceived by peers and strangers—I wasn’t able to show up in the world with any sense of identity or authenticity.
Other people’s opinions of me were more important than my own opinion of myself. My confidence was as at an all-time low. I knew I needed a change, I knew I needed to learn how to love myself, and I knew that these things would liberate me from the handcuffs of society.
I still remember my first yoga class.
The teacher’s hands on me, offering gentle support and adjustments, the way my body felt (awkward and stiff)—but what I remember most is the rush of quiet content that filled me up in savasana. It was a peace I had not felt in a long time.
That’s what kept me coming back.
The most profound shift as a result of my practice started with a deep sense of body awareness. The more awareness I brought to how my body functioned, the more I could flow through my practice with ease, and the more appreciation I found for it. I was able to start relating to my body as a spiritual vessel instead of a fleshy meat-suit.
As I began to appreciate my body, I realized how much shame I had held through my adolescence and early adulthood years. I treated my body like a burden instead of a gift. I put so much pressure on myself to be thin, fit, and sexy.
I still remember the first time I felt shamed about my body. I was nine years old, and a boy in my class told me I shouldn’t wear the pants I had on because they made my thighs look big. I stared in the mirror all night, threw out the pants, and have been giving my thighs the third degree ever since. I grew to despise my body, turning against it, abusing it, and eventually completely abandoning it.
My practice cracked open that seal of shame. And it revealed strength behind and through the shame. It transformed the awkward and sloppy image I projected of myself into grace and lightness.
I wish I could say that I don’t hold on to any of that shame anymore, but that would be a lie. What I can say is that I’m now very much aware of it. Instead of believing and identifying with it, when shame arises, I have the tools to rationalize it and meet it with compassion.
As I found this new connection and appreciation for my body, I started to find residency within my body.
I felt myself sinking in. Getting comfortable in my skin.
The more comfortable I got, the more confident I grew. I felt more outgoing, and less worried about what other people thought. As I gained this new sense of confidence in myself, I started testing the water and putting myself out there in ways that I hadn’t before. I slowly learned the beauty of vulnerability.
The yoga community was a strong and supportive force through this transformative time. In the beginning, I remember walking into class feeling judged and inadequate, but once I broke of out my shell and spoke to my neighbors in class, I realized we’re all here for the same reason. We want to grow, to learn, and to support each other. As my network of yogi friends grew, I became unstoppable.
Turning 30 was the year of giving zero f*cks and it felt incredibly liberating.
I had the courage to end a sh*tty relationship that had been completely draining me. I learned how to not hate being single. I immersed myself in a 200-hour yoga teacher training program, connecting and supporting with a group of amazing individuals week in and week out. I soaked up all of the information like a dry sponge; I couldn’t get enough.
I had found my passion. I had arrived.
Graduating from teacher training literally made me feel like a different person. It took sacrifice, dedication, time, and a lot of effort to get through the program, and I had proven to myself that I was capable of putting my mind to something, following through, and getting it done. I’ve never exposed myself so deeply and felt so supported as I did in that training.
After graduation, I was fully equipped to start the demolition process in order to rebuild a life for myself. I took my time and slaved away for two more years at my corporate job to save up money, but I kept the fire going. I kept practicing and connecting.
Eventually, when I had all my ducks in a row, I broke the mold.
I quit that soul-sucking job and created the life I want. Yoga turned a life that felt like prison sentence—set by the society I lived in—to an open book.
It’s time to start re-writing your future. It may not be the same path as mine but the journey is all the same. It’s about connection—with yourself and your community. The universe will take care of the rest.
Author: Megan Provost
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Catherine Monkman