Why does yoga and body image matter?

When I talk about trauma-informed yoga or yoga service, some people want to know, or at least wonder: what’s your story? What have you dealt with that makes you want to do this?Kate photo
And I get it. Many people interested in this work come to it because yoga has helped them heal. Yoga has helped me heal too! When I’ve met someone who shares that they have dealt with something similar to me, I feel more connected to them. Often, even if I haven’t experienced something similar, it’s inspiring to hear how yoga has helped them – and even with different life experiences, our yoga experience may be similar.

I care about the Eat Breathe Thrive training because I myself have struggled with food, weight, diet, body image issues. As an adult I was interviewed for a book of stories on overweight kids (names changed…I’m not the Kate in that book); as a pre-teen I lost a lot of weight; for many years I did unhealthy and dangerous things to lose weight and to avoid gaining weight. The experience of being in a larger body in this society was painful; physically I harmed my health in ways which I might still not know the consequences of; maybe most significantly I spent years focused on weight when I could have been developing relationships – relationships with others, but also with myself.

All that said, I’m also torn about going into detail. Am I more deserving of empathy or compassion if I dealt with this, rather than that? Are my words, my insights, my efforts in yoga and yoga service more valuable if I have faced a particular issue than if I haven’t? Is it important to know my BMI now or then, my lowest weight, the number of pounds lost, the details of my weight management efforts and their frequency?

I recall one experience of sharing something quite personal, in a yoga setting, in large part because I realized this person might find out anyway and thought it was better that I told her myself, directly.

It felt good. She said words that were kind and compassionate. Then she said something else that, as much as it frustrates me now, I understand: “you have so much more credibility”. I almost want to smile and laugh, now, because I recognize she was right. People WILL take a person more seriously if they have something more dramatic to share. And as much as I think that’s not great, if it’s my “ticket” to being taken seriously … I’m not too good to consider using it!

But my more logical side realizes that capitalizing on that goes against what I believe. It’s not just my personal life experience – or the extent to which I may have overcome it – that makes my words and my work worthwhile. It’s my effort, my training, my dedication to this field too.My insight can be relevant even if I didn’t face the EXACT same thing someone else did…I can learn from others even when we don’t have the same life experiences.

And lastly, and unfortunately, what serves me well in one moment may serve me badly later. I’ve had personal information I’ve shared later brought up and essentially used against me. Some people feel a teacher must be a “finished” model of perfection in order to offer anything to others. I don’t agree. I also don’t want to feel that every move I make or practice I teach is scrutinized to determine if I am really “over things” or not.

So this Eat Breathe Thrive training matters to me, because these issues matter. People can take this intensive too, without having dealt with these issues in any extreme degree, and benefit from it and offer tools to others too. This matters too!

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