Q: I enjoy doing yoga but I get insecure about my body differences.
When I need help with modifications, I am embarrassed to ask. What can I do to let the instructor know that I need some assistance without disrupting the class?
Amy: I’m so glad to receive this question, and I really appreciate the phrase “body differences.”
There’s a lot to care for here, so I’m going to break up the answer into two parts. (look for Part Two to post soon!)
Part One: The Culture of Body Differences: Insecurity & Positivity
Because we live together in a society, we grow up learning what is and isn’t acceptable, as well as what is and isn’t desirable or worthy of attention, comfort, or praise from a variety of industries that make up our popular culture. From entertainment and leisure to fashion and trends, to scores of news outlets, we see, hear, and internalize sets of beliefs that shape our world view and self-image. In addition to these broader influences, our belief systems are also shaped by our specific family culture, which can include ethnic and religious traditions, shared knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors, as well as the outlook, attitudes, values, morals, goals, and customs shared by our own immediate and extended families. Because our cultural formation is both broad and specific, we grow into adulthood with a variety of filters unique to our own experience; and to add more complexity, these different lenses might even be in conflict with each other.
You are not alone. Our unique world view and self-image shape how we function in relation to ourselves and other people during public events and private moments. We tend to compare ourselves to an internal “ideal,” to other groups of people, and individuls to see where we fall on the spectrum of “socially acceptable.”
It’s helpful to remember that not only are we not alone in the experience of being different, but every single one of us has some kind of body difference, whether subtle or obvious, as well as invisible differences, such as auto-immune diseases, mental injury, complex learning styles, and so much more. So when we head into a body-based class like yoga, we’re all bringing with us thousands of years of ancestral DNA, our own cultural formation, and all of our “differences” both seen and unseen.
It is natural to experience insecurity around our differences. And it’s also natural to experience positive emotions around our differences. The next time you feel unsure about an instruction, posture, or practice in a yoga class, remember it’s not just you; most likely, other students are unsure about it, too. We’ll get into the details more in Part Two, but briefly, if the style of the class is not too terribly fast, and you can make eye contact with the teacher, trying asking for general suggestions. For instance, if you’d rather not ask specific questions about a particular topic, consider asking for more general modifications. Try something like, “Can you offer any other options if this isn’t working for us?” Remember this, if nothing else: Yoga, and yoga postures, are here in service to you; you are not in class to be of service to the postures.
If you’d like to take this discussion further, if you’ve ever thought, “yoga is not for me,” or if you’d like to explore the possibilities around shifting from insecurity to positivity, here are some great resources:
- Amber Karnes & Body Positive Yoga: Amber is the founder of BodyPositiveYoga.com and the creator of Body Positive Clubhouse, an online community for folks who want to make peace with their bodies and build unshakable confidence.
- Yoga for Amputees: Marsha T. Danzig
- Amputee Yoga Association
- Accessible Yoga: AccessibleYoga.org: A nonprofit organization that believes all people, regardless of ability or background, deserve equal access to the ancient teachings of yoga. By building a strong network and advocating for a diverse Yoga culture that is inclusive and welcoming, Accessible Yoga is sharing Yoga with all.
Part Two – The Yoga Classroom: Student-Teacher Relationship & Class Agreements (coming soon!)
Resident MBA Yogi, Amy Secrist, is available to answer questions, give insight and guidance, and help you feel great about your yoga practice. You can email your questions to Amy@mindbodyalign.com or message us on Facebook or Instagram #AskAYogi @MindBodyAlign
You can also join Amy for practice at the Butterfly House on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30 am. Learn more here.
Amy Secrist, Mindfulness and Yoga Educator (E-RYT 300+), brings 20 years of personal yoga practice and over 16 years of yoga teaching experience to Mind Body Align. She is a trained instructor of trauma-based mindful education. In addition to teaching the MBAwareness Program, she is co-creator of social emotional learning curriculum content. Amy earned her BA in English and Writing from The Ohio State University and her MA in English and Writing from The Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, Vermont. Amy is married to Jeremy and has four school-aged children.
I invite you to join me in this moment.
Breathing in and breathing out.
Breathing in and breathing out.
One more breath.
In and out.
And, Hello! Welcome to February!
2020 is the year of whole living at Mind Body Align. It’s an entire year of exploration and non-judgemental examination into each area of our lives. We will focus on different topics through our Coffee Talks, podcasts, blogs, and social community. Our intention is that each month’s focus will offer you the possibility of standing confidently in your best life. Some of us may dive deep and others may hover near the surface, and it’s all ok. If you attended our most recent Coffee Talk I’m guessing that you have already put some thought into the topic of wholeness and what it means to you. If the concept is new, I invite you to read Annamarie’s blog post to begin your journey.
What does a “whole life” look like? Creating a life that is whole and fulfilling does not mean perfection. It is not tied to euphoric happiness. It is an underlying feeling of contentment and acceptance. Mindfulness is an awareness and acceptance of what is.
In going through the exercise of examining the whole of your world, there is no expectation or implied striving for balance. Personally, I have never found my life to be in balance. This used to create a lot of mental suffering, guilt, and self-recrimination. Practicing mindfulness has alleviated these feelings and my hope is that you will find transformation through mindfulness as well.
Take the first step.
January’s 10,000 Step Challenge may have been that first step for you. We had an amazing amount of engagement in the community. It has been fabulous to see people moving, connecting, encouraging each other, and forming new friendships through this challenge. I can’t wait to announce the grand prizes and meet everyone in person at our meetup at Phoenix Brewery on Thursday, February 6th between 5:30 & 7:00. P.S. Keep your eye out for some great content and ideas to keep the momentum from the group going!
Perhaps this year you need to focus energy on professional development. LunchWISE Wednesday kicked off the new year in January with the topic of Imposter Syndrome. It really seemed to resonate; I am still receiving emails and comments. We hear you and our planning team is reaching new heights to bring you inspired, relevant topics. Our February LW is featuring Holly Troupe, owner of The Boot Life. Holly is going to talk to us about diversifying and succeeding in your market. If you have been looking for new ways to expand your business or side hustle you will want to check this event out!
I also invite you to check out the events highlighted below, listen to the Second Sip podcast with life coach, Chris Stoner (it’s EPIC), and then meet up with us at the next Coffee Talk featuring accomplished leadership and executive coach, Cindy Biggs as we begin diving into perfectionism and what it means to be perfectly imperfect.
Have a wonderful month!
Mind Body Align’s Director of Operations is Jennifer Blue. No stranger to small business, Jen is a community leader, an entrepreneur and a published author who has led several successful startups. Responsible for overseeing the creation and implementation of all programs and events offered at the historic Butterfly House, home of Mind Body Align, as well as overseeing all operations for the company. Jennifer has worked alongside entrepreneurs and visionaries in various industries and positions over her 30-year management career. A Mansfield, Ohio native, Jen returned to Ohio after living and working in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as South Florida. She studied political science at Otterbein College and the University of Louisville. Adventure, creativity and new challenges are “musts” in her life; these drives have led Jen to work as a freelance writer, chef, and abstract artist.
I’m Too Busy For This
We live in a busy world that values busy culture. I’m busy. You’re busy. Every day I think of all the things I should be doing, could be doing, and not to mention all the things I forgot to do. My dive into “busyness” really took a turn when I became a mother. By the time this happened for me, I was well into my career. I knew I wanted to continue on this path so going back to work right away was a no-brainer for me. But I quickly found out that as much as I could balance my life on paper, it was much harder to actually do it. A statistic I recently saw said being a mother is the equivalent of 2.5 full-time jobs. So I have this BIG job, plus my career, and now… I’m left with no time or energy for me. My life went on like this for a while and, to no surprise, I lost sight of what it is that makes me happy. Of course my children and family make me happy. What I am talking about are the parts of myself that make up my personhood or my whole self. In the last year, I have made intentional efforts to understand my wholeness (or lack of it). It seems like a simple concept, and really it is, however, the crux of wholeness can be hard to fully understand. In my world, wholeness is comprised of my emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, and occupational wellbeing. I am still searching for and learning about my whole self. Here are some things I have realized along the way.
I’m not the same person I used to be.
When my “new normal” life as a working-mother felt manageable, I started to incorporate some of the things I used to love to do. Some of my old hobbies and habits like reading and discovering new music came right back and that was cool. Some of the things I used to love didn’t make sense for me anymore like leisurely drinks with friends after work or lofty craft projects. It took me a while to understand why certain things didn’t give me the same visceral response that they used to. It’s because I am not who I was. At first, I felt sadness, like I lost a part of me in the transition. However, I did not lose these parts of myself; I chose to leave them behind when I made major, life-changing decisions. I turned the chapter on my life and my inner person evolved. When I look back on the former version of myself with a grateful heart now I see youth and ambition and I love that woman. I also love whoever it is that I am meant to become in the rest of this story and look forward to discovering what new hobbies make her happy.
I’ve got time for calm.
Someone wise once told me that we all have the same amount of time, and it’s what we do with it that matters. This statement has become so important on my quest toward my whole self. I am a person that loves ideas. I have so many good ones, and I want to do them all. The new version of me needs TIME to be CALM. I need to carve out time where I can process my “busy” life. I need time to check-in with myself and make sure I am taking deep breaths. I need time to sleep. I never knew before how much I needed time to be still and calm. This means I have to say “No” to so many great ideas and plans. I do experience FOMO (fear of missing out) sometimes. But I am actually living in my JOMO (joy of missing out) and it turns out it makes me really happy.
One moment does not define me.
One thing you hear in mindfulness practice is to approach situations with a “beginner’s mind.” We actually say this at the Butterfly House on a weekly basis (it’s one of our core values!) but it wasn’t until I saw it in my own life that it became clear to me. In the wake of my new role as a mother I also lost my job. I was certain that everyone could see the failure in my eyes. I actually believed I was a failure. This false perception of reality made me recoil from all the things that brought me joy because I believed I didn’t deserve to be happy. This is where the beginner’s mind comes into play. Beginner’s mind is an approach to something as if you have no prior knowledge of it. In beginner’s mind, you have no existing bias towards the situation. When I look at my whole life with beginner’s mind I see that I am actually pretty great. This one moment in my story doesn’t define me. I’ve taken risks, and I am resilient. I am capable and I am evolving. Sometimes you have to step back and observe, without judgment or bias, to see the real picture clearly. I do deserve to be happy. Just because I have failed at something does not make me a failure.
It’s a bumpy and beautiful road.
My path to wholeness is a bumpy road. It’s also beautiful. Even though I am nowhere near a perfectly balanced life, it feels good to just be aware that my whole self is alive and well. Some days I spend a little more time on my emotional self. Some days I really dig into my spiritual self. Some days I just give my efforts to the part of my life that needs it the most at that moment. I make an effort to find time to reflect on my life, and I use a beginner’s mind to not cast (as much) judgment on myself. I found this easy exercise to help me gauge where I am in each area of my whole self (I’ve linked this exercise below so you can do it, too). During this exercise, you rank each area (emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, and occupational) on a scale of 1 to 5 depending on how much joy you perceive. Once you’re done, a circle is formed that represents your wholeness. This exercise can help you find an area you want to focus on and make a start. Just know that your circle may never be perfectly round. Your circle, like mine, is probably a little lumpy…and that’s ok.
Whole Self Circle Exercise
Mary Kennard is the Director of Creative Services for Mind Body Align, LLC. A Richland County, Ohio native, Mary earned a degree in Art History from Bowling Green State University in 2008, and focused on the development and support of non-profits prior to joining MBA. Always working to break down barriers, Mary strives to elevate wellness for individuals and companies, making it a part of their personal and professional cultures. Kennard oversees all opportunities for creatively engaging clients and designing fantastic educational materials for clients.
Many people talk about life as being in balance or, more commonly, “out of balance”, and yet, I’m curious, how many of those same people have defined what balance is, or means, to them? Have you? Are you happy, fulfilled, “living your best life?” Would you consider yourself successful, or “living a life of purpose?” These are very popular questions in an age where more people than ever before have food, shelter, time, and money; enough of each to consider the finer points and purpose of life. And, whether acknowledged or not, the answers to these questions are likely fueling your goals and resolutions for 2020. So, before you dive into creating your goals, resolutions, and intentions for the new year, I hope you will consider the following things I’ve learned about happiness, fulfillment, success, life purpose, and balance (aka “these states of being”).
- These states of being are all subjective. They are based on personal desires, interests, expectations, habits, beliefs, and each individual’s unique way of experiencing the world. You may think this is obvious, and yet it is easy to forget this very important point when reading and learning from experts who are charismatic, articulate, and learned. Always “check it at the door” as I say to my clients and students. Check everything the experts tell you (and I tell you) with your own heart and gut. You’ll know when a particular piece of advice is right for you by how you feel when you begin to incorporate it into your life. If it doesn’t increase your joy or contribute to your sense of purpose, it probably isn’t right for you.
- “Everyone walks their own Camino.” This is a phrase spoken over and over again while hiking the Camino de Santiago; a 400 plus mile hike that my husband and I walked from France through Spain to Santiago de Compostela. Another way of putting this is, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” a well-known quote by Teddy Roosevelt. Your best life can’t and won’t look like anyone else’s best life. In fact, your best life today is different than your best life yesterday and tomorrow.
- These states of being are dependent on whatever is happening in your world at any given moment. Your ability to manage the things life throws at you will change based on factors you CAN CONTROL (nutrition, exercise, sleep, mindset, self-talk, how you treat others, and your choices) and things you CAN’T CONTROL (past, future, weather, change, other people’s minds, other people’s happiness, and traffic). One of the keys to finding joy and fulfillment is to invest your energy and time on things you can influence; make the effort to control the things you CAN CONTROL and let go of the things you can’t.
- I’m a big fan of the Peter Drucker quote, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” If you have never defined what a fulfilled, happy, successful, and balanced life is to you, how do you know how to navigate and when to recalibrate? Use tools like vision boarding and Wheel of Life to create personal understanding and support you in living your best life.
- Gratitude! Really, appreciate it, all of it – even the yucky stuff! This is the essence of life.
Socrates or Plato (both are credited) said, “The unexamined life is not worth living?” I disagree. I do believe, however, that the examined life 1) makes it possible to understand your unique self, 2) provides you with information you need to set fulfilling and purposeful goals, 3) allows for compassion when life gets tough, 4) offers structure in order to recalibrate and learn, and 5) encourages gratitude and a joyful approach to everything life offers you. One morning when I encountered an acquaintance on the street, I said, “Isn’t this a beautiful day to be alive?” His answer still resonates with me, “every day I wake up is a beautiful day to be alive.” Welcome to one more beautiful day friends!!! Sending you love and a great big new years hug! Annamarie
Annamarie Fernyak is the founder and CEO of Mind Body Align LLC based in Mansfield, Ohio. She is a certified life coach, mindfulness meditation teacher, and serial entrepreneur. The development of the MBAwareness Education Program was conceived while Annamarie was volunteering to teach mindfulness in a local middle school and found that the teachers and students were struggling to grow calm for their guest teacher, students seemed unable to pay focused attention, and the teachers were growing frustrated.
Annamarie’s focus was to create a program that would transform the lives of the students. She focused on hiring a licensed teacher to create and instruct the mindfulness-based social and emotional learning curriculums to elementary and secondary school students and teachers. Due to the challenges associated with global health concerns, Annamarie’s mindfulness education program is further now evolving into online mindfulness education focusing on teaching tools that reduce stress and support a life where people can feel more at ease. We also teach as a part of corporate wellness programs.
In 2017, Annamarie launched Align Mindfulness which is a FREE app downloadable from your app store that sends prompts a few times a day, bringing attention to what’s happening in your world. Intentionally simple, these reflections help you build a well-rounded “mindfulness” muscle by offering variety in where you place your awareness.
The age-old question of– “If you could go back in time what would you do differently?” has been asked by so many people. I’ve asked myself this question many times and others have asked me more times than I can remember. I have replied that, if given the chance, I would definitely change many things. But why did I say this? Why would I want to go back and change anything? This response says to others and myself, “Boy, I really screwed that up” or “I’m so embarrassed that I keep making the same mistakes over and over” or “What the hell is wrong with me?”
These thoughts and feelings have plagued me the majority of my life. It’s amazing how our mind comes up with a need to defend why we did or didn’t do something. When we feel compelled to justify something, maybe it’s a decision to stay in an unhealthy relationship, that very need to justify the decision is the body’s way of letting us know it time to release it from our life. To start anew. How free would it feel if we could just accept what we’ve “screwed up” in our past? Or not knowing how something will go or what our next step will be and saying, “I love that!”. In this instance, freedom comes from knowing we always have that choice.
We have two voices that can tell us the next step…the first comes from the body. Your body says to make a change and release what you’re holding onto, but the mind starts to freak out. It goes to what we will be giving up or losing because it can’t see what we’ll be gaining. The mind can only see one step ahead and it wants to keep us safe. So, the body says, “I want to explore Arizona to live.” “I really want to start my own business.” “I want to leave this relationship.” Whatever the inspired feeling is, it is a preview, but the feeling can’t tell you why you should go or what that journey will look like because you haven’t done it. Learn to love and trust the space of the unknown. Instead, what if you were to say, “I want to explore Arizona to live and grow my business, and I have no clue what that looks like…and I love that!!” or “I can’t take the abuse in this marriage anymore. I really don’t know where I’m going to live or how I’m going to make it on my own…and I love that!!” There’s something in our body calling us to do this – it’s our first voice, our true voice. But we’ve been conditioned to ignore this voice and listen to the voice in our head, which then causes us to lower ourselves to the mind’s understanding. Every time I listen to my mind I feel confused, disconnected, and overwhelmed. We are not designed to make decisions from our minds because that comes from a limited capacity. Our true potential and capacity lie within the body, and the body never lies.
Being okay with where we really are creates a new story. The real story. We have to see and know that we are enough or we’ll always be coming from a place that is lacking. In this place, we may believe we need to be fixed or try to fix everyone or everything around us. In my life, I felt like I wasn’t enough. I felt guilty and embarrassed for the choices I had made. In my heart I can understand at a true level why I did, but what caused my pain was wanting those around me to understand why. We are taught that happiness, love, and approval comes from outside ourselves, and so the journey of constantly chasing our tails in hopes of finding the perfect job, the perfect mate, the perfect blah-blah-blah becomes our false reality. It’s really hard to have clarity when we’re always looking through a distorted lens. Living from a limited perspective creates hidden blockers. No wonder we’re always wishing we could go back in time for a do-over.
Could you be telling a different story? Are you carrying your past with you and making decisions from that past instead of from the here and now? How have you viewed yourself, and are you afraid of what you’ll be losing? Making decisions that you think are in the here and now but are really based on how you view yourself will show up in how things are flowing in your life. Do you feel alive and performing at your highest level or do feel overwhelmed and frustrated? If you’re feeling the latter that is an indication you’re living and making decisions from your head.
Be open to being you and creating something new. Loving the space of the unknown is where the magic happens, and that’s where the byproduct of you living in your highest self resides. In remembering the body never lies you’ll listen and trust it. Living life beyond the blocks you will perform, excel, achieve, and actualize the life of your dreams. So, would I ever go back in time and change anything? Absolutely not, because now is all I have. To go back would be creating a false story attached to some illusionary expectations that were never real to begin with. I’m right where I want to be and I’m right on time.
Oh, one more thing…I’m totally free to screw anything and everything up, AND I LOVE THAT!!
Chris works with entrepreneurs, business leaders, athletes, and high performers to improve their performance in all areas of their life by getting beyond any mental or physical blocks that may be holding them back.
Chris can be reached at (419) 651-7753 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.