How Restorative Yoga Healed My Body Image
Let’s party like it’s 1999.
Or, let’s at least go back there in our minds. Picture this: I’m a curvy gal in my first year of college. I’m away from home. I have terrible migraines (this is nothing new). I hear that yoga can be good for pain, so I somehow get my hands on a Rodney Yee VHS tape and start practicing.
Only when my roommate is in class. Always with the door locked.
As I practice, I like it. I love it, in fact (which is weird because I have never liked any form of anything that looks remotely like exercise). So I want more of it — but I want more of what I see on the videos.
More tone on my body, more gymnast-like flexibility, more speed — more, more, more.
More to Less
As the years went by, I did get more of that — mostly the speed and flexibility. But then things shifted in my body: my curves got curvier, and I couldn’t go as far into poses as I used to.
To say this was a hit to my already fragile body image was an understatement.
I think I took about a year off practice at this point. I was so discouraged that I couldn’t do the poses I used to that I thought I shouldn’t bother. I thought I had finally reached that point where I was just “too big” for yoga, so it was time to move on.
Except, of course, I couldn’t. I still found myself surreptitiously doing poses — but “just to stretch,” of course. Not yoga.
During my more, more, more days, no one could have convinced me to do a restorative yoga pose. One of my teachers would teach Savasana and then leave the room; students could leave whenever they wanted. The intention was to give people the space to take their time.
I took it as the opposite, though. I usually reached for my car keys while we were getting into position. Then I would politely wait as long as I could and bolt for the door. I’d say on my more restrained days that this took approximately 42 seconds.
I just didn’t see the point.
But then one day after my self-induced yoga break, after feeling particularly stressed from work and school, I decided to indulge myself in a full restorative workshop. What possessed me to do this, I’ll never know. (I think I thought of it more like a massage than yoga, so that made it okay with me.)
All I know is that after the careful precision of set-up, the internal (and sometimes external) groan of delight after settling in and then fully letting go into the poses, something shifted.
I felt relaxed, grounded and centered. And, yeah, I wanted more again — but this time it was totally different.
You see, restorative yoga is all about y-o-u (or, in this case, m-e). Everyone’s set-up is slightly different. This is really the goal of all yoga, but restorative invites you into it differently. The goal is to make yourself as fully comfortable and supported as possible. This was new to me as I’d been “raised” in a yoga environment where competition wasn’t explicitly encouraged, but it also wasn’t exactly discouraged.
This restorative yoga was about meeting yourself exactly where you are — and loving every minute of it.
When I realized that, I felt a marked turn in my relationship toward my body. For the first time, rest, ease and letting go entered the equation. For the first time, self-care became my priority, not what I tried to avoid.
After that, you couldn’t get me out of a restorative pose if you wanted to (but who would want that anyway?).
Want the low-down on Anna’s restoratives? Click here to download the Restoratives chapter from her book, “Permission to Curve,” for free!