I spent years wishing I had longer, thinner legs and less muscular thighs.
When I was 12 years old, my Russian ballet teacher told me I would never be a professional ballerina. She effectively crushed my dreams when she said I didn't have a ballerina body... my thighs were too big, I was too short. While her students were on barre, she would come around and pinch our fat and tap our butts with a yard stick. One cold winter day, post-Nutcracker performances, she must have noticed a few of us had put on some extra winter pounds. She gave us a lecture on how we should drink more hot water and less hot chocolate. Looking back, I can't help but think, wow, she was mean! At the time my classmates and I thought it was normal. She was an older lady who came from the traditional Russian school and was a renowned teacher. We were lucky to have the opportunity to practice with her.
I carried the view of my ugly muscular thighs around for years. Amongst all the positive memories of the years I did ballet - the exhilaration of being on stage, the thrill of finally landing a difficult turn in the middle of the room - my experience is slightly overshadowed by that one teacher. She basically told me all the hours I spent at the studio taking classes and rehearsing were for naught because I was never going to go pro.
It was only once I started working out and doing yoga, many years after hanging up my toe shoes, that I realized the great power of my muscular thighs. I could do set after set of squats and lunges, leg press more than my body weight, spin and run. And in yoga, I could hold standing poses forever without my quads giving out.
Today I'm grateful for my muscular legs, for all the strength they give me in my yoga practice. I may not look like the typical "yogi" frequently represented in the media or ads today - tall, lithe with long legs and arms. I may not even be able to achieve some binds because of my body proportions. But I have a strong, graceful practice and I am what a yogi looks like. I have been lucky to study with amazing teachers who have never made me feel like I couldn't do something because of the shape of my body.
In Bringing Yoga to Life, Donna Farhi said "when we stop trying to fix something that will not and cannot be fixed and we accept it just as it is, we liberate our energy". Once I realized I couldn't "fix" or change the length or overall shape of my legs handed down through genetics, I felt liberated. The possibilities of where my strong legs could take me were endless. Self-acceptance brings with it a whole new energy. Instead of dwelling on things you cannot change, you're opened to all the possibilities of things you can do.
So, I challenge you....who haven't begun your yoga practice because you think you don't have that certain "yoga body" elevated in popular media, or you're not "flexible," or you don't have range of motion to touch your toes, or you feel stuck in your current practice because you can't wrap your arms around your back to catch a bind, or like me you've had children and you have some leftover love in your midsection. Throw it all out. I challenge you to reject all of those reasons, excuses and negative thoughts . Accept your body as it is and feel the liberation that brings.
You are beautiful today, just as you are. Acknowledge that, get on your yoga mat and be kind to yourself!
You are #whatayogilookslike