Reclaiming my body through yoga

Just under 2 years ago I was at Ocean Soul Retreat and after a powerful vinyasa flow sequence with the incredible Amanda Williams, we had arrived at the very delicious pigeon pose. It’s always been a favourite of mine so I was happy when I heard the cue. As I arrived in the pose I noticed a strong emotion coming through, I couldn’t name it or explain why but I thought to myself shit I’m going to cry here. I felt hesitant but then heard in my head what I often say to my yoga students which is that class is a safe space so if you feel to cry, laugh, etc. allow it. Time to practice what I preach.

I started outwardly crying. In front of a group of people I’d met that day. As I did I had no idea why. I started scanning through my body to see where this was ~ hips all good, heart, then all of a sudden, I went to my shoulders. I started crying more as a memory came in to my awareness.

~ I was in Year 10 and I’d just spent the day at the beach with my school friends. As you all know the beach is my happy place and I’ve always been very comfortable there. Through the day many people were drinking and late afternoon four of us ended up at McDonalds. One of the guys, he was the bully as such in the group and had a lot to drink looked at me “Mandy you play heaps of sport don’t you” and I was like “yeah, why” and he pointed to his own shoulders and was like “so big” and started laughing. I was crushed! I’d never experienced someone criticising my body before let alone saying it straight to my face. ~

From that moment as a 15 year old I became conscious about what I wore. I was already a little self conscious that I hadn’t grown big tits like some of my friends but this comment took away any hope of me feeling confident, womanly, desired. It’s such an impressionable time at high school and things like that have a big impact. That day at the beach I was wearing a strapless bikini so I never wore a strapless bikini again. I steered away from strapless, shoestrings, anything that I felt would accentuate this area that I came to strongly dislike. Or if I did wear something like that, I felt extremely uncomfortable and exposed. The subtle message I took from that one comment was your body doesn't look the way it should. Body shame. 

This experience was so painful for me that I buried it so far in my unconscious that I didn’t realise I was still storing it until that pigeon pose. However, what’s even more amazing was when the teacher came to me, without a word between us she placed her hands on my shoulders and then started a ‘whoosh’ motion from the top of my spine to the bottom and repeating. I couldn’t believe it, it was literally divine order, for me to let go of it. A beautiful experience that I'll never forget. 

I felt a huge shift after. I felt like I had reclaimed a part of myself that I’d given to someone else. It was a really empowering experience. Since then I’ve been much more confident to wear different clothing again. To enjoy my individual feminine form. 

It still comes up and it still triggers me sometimes... Just last week I was trying something on and the shop attendant was like, ‘you’re quite wide across the chest’. At first, angry, cause why say that? But what I felt like saying was “wide, as compared to what? The ‘ideal figure’. News flash - we ain’t prescribing to that anymore. Real women come in all shapes, including the ideal figure, didn’t you know? Take your projections/brainwashing from the media elsewhere. You’re dealing with an empowered, conscious woman here”. clicks fingers and walks out the front door wearing the expensive dress unpaid for - lol I wish.

I choose to feel and be beautiful, sexy, confident. It’s my body. It would be a bit of a slap in the face to all of ‘the internal work’ I’ve done on myself if I didn’t embrace who I am which includes how I look. This is me. And I love being strong. I love being able to paddle for the wave that I want. I love doing arm balances in yoga. I also used to love carrying slabs when I worked at pubs. 

I felt quite empowered in my last photo shoot to wear a jumpsuit with no bra and shoestring straps and to even take some tasteful nudes as well! I’ve come so far on my journey with my physical body and it felt like a celebration of that. 

Us women are SO done, like SO DONE with the old paradigm that tells us to look a certain way. Women can be strong and sexy. Women can be anything and everything. So anyone that thinks otherwise, it’s time to get your head around it.  

This is not a conversation restricted to gender, I say to everybody ~ You are perfect as you are.

This is why I love yoga. I have had many moments like this over the 10 years of practising.
We store emotions and experiences in our physical body. Yoga gives a chance to release what is no longer serving us, over & over again. Moving towards wholeness. 

Have you had an experience like this in yoga? I'd love to hear below. X 

Photography by Britt James.