There is no way of knowing for certain, but I'd be willing to bet that if you are reading this you know a little about body shame. Most of us do. It may have been the very thing that brought you to join Studio 8 or has you at least considering it. It also may be the very thing that keeps you in a cycle of behavior that continues to weigh you down mentally and physically. Either way, unchecked, stagnant, life-sucking body shame sucks. In her book Women, Food and Desire author Alexandra Jamieson writes,
"Body shame keeps an invisible glass wall between us and life. It hampers our ability to thrive in all arenas: in the boardroom, the bedroom, the backyard. Body shame robs us of so much of the good stuff in life; it cripples our ability to truly take in a compliment; it makes it impossible to enjoy a sensual experience without self-censorship; it inhibits our ability to let loose and play and run and jump and dance and sing with true abandon. Shame sucks. And body shame is the worst."
I know you know. I hear your nods and amen's. Body shame impacts us all. In 2005 I stepped out of my very comfy comfort zone and dragged myself to a women's wellness retreat in the beautiful mountains of Vermont. The center had years of experience helping women find new ways of living and eating that supported weight loss and I was determined to get the 40 lbs I'd gained since I'd quit smoking off for good. I think I weighed in at about 204 at the time and was experiencing body shame that was paralyzing me in every area of life. What I experienced during those 2 weeks changed my life forever. I realized that extra weight (whether it's 20 lbs or 200 lbs)can mess with our heads and fuels BIG shame. Shame keeps us (our truest self) in hiding simply because what we are or how we look isn't what it 'ought' to be.
What a crock of dung.
During my 2 week stay in Vermont among women weighing 185-500 lbs. I began my journey out of shame and into a limelight of living as ME. I am still transforming all these years later. One of the pivotal moments was when a beautiful woman drove in from NYC to teach a yoga/dance class. My life changed that day. I don't remember much about the practice or even much of what she said- all I remember is how I felt: LIGHT. I entered my first shvasana pose with tears streaming down my face and overwhelmed by the joy of just being present with ME...in MY body. For the first time in my life, there was no room for shame as the deep knowing in me was too big and smart and full of love to allow for such b.s. It was quite literally the beginning of a freedom I'd never imagined I'd have in this body of mine.
I arrived back home with an urgency to continue to move and quickly found a yoga class where I practiced 3 or more days a week (on and off) for years. Quite out of nowhere I suddenly felt a pull towards teaching and I've never looked back. Funny thing about it all? I weighed more when I started teacher training than when I attended the retreat in Vermont. Neither shame nor a number on a scale was going to keep me from being ME. So here I am today, a yogi and teacher with 14 years practice under my belt and feeling as beautiful as I've ever felt inside and out. I've done so many extraordinary things in a body the world calls "obese" and ugly. I've had the best sex of my life, pushed myself through some vinyasa classes that I thought would surely kill me and just this past weekend spent 2 hours in a cool little space downtown free flow dancing in ways I've never danced before. My God, does it ever feel good to be in THIS body and God bless it for enduring years of verbal abuse and carrying me through day to day with such grace and tenacity. This body of mine (and yours too) deserves only love and compassion.
If you struggle with body-shaming and care to grow beyond such a hateful mindset(violent,even), start today and practice some deep and profound gratitude for all that your body IS and DOES. Then, repeat. Every day discover and uncover all the hidden beauty this is YOU by simply not JUDGING. Be in awe and tell shame to piss off.
Written by: Tammy Chouinard, Yoga Teacher