“TRUE BELONGING DOESN'T REQUIRE YOU TO CHANGE WHO YOU ARE; IT REQUIRES YOU TO BE WHO YOU ARE.” ~ Brené Brown
Do you often go to yoga and feel like you don't belong? Do you feel like everyone else is stretchy and perfect and they know the way the mats line up and they look the part and you.. you just feel a bit different?
When I first started yoga, I was a young teenager, and I practiced in a community hall on a towel (in socks!). I was so disconnected from my body, and while I completed the 8 week course, I didn't immediately go back again for another. I don't remember particularly much about the experience, but I clearly like something about it because I continued to dip in and out of yoga for a good few years. I never gave up on it completely. Then one day, for whatever reason, I was ready. I landed in a class where the teacher spoke to ME, my heart, my soul. She spoke in a language I hadn't heard before - heart language - and I got it. Looking back, I think I started to connect in, and become a little present.
Did the early teachers not speak to me? You know, I think they did. I believe I was just so all up in my head, and all 'out there', comparing myself to everyone else, that I just wasn't ready to understand yet. Because while I was sporadic, I did keep going back.
My journey of belonging in yoga, honestly, it's one that I still am going through today. I'm not your typical teacher who teaches fancy headstands and classes that require a background in gymnastics. I don't have a 6 pack, I'm not tanned, I simply pull my hair back in a messy ponytail day in and day out (haha!). I'm no fuss. I've been teaching for over a decade, with consistently full classes and heart-opening feedback. I know I'm doing something right. But for so long (and even now, especially when I'm a little anxious or depressed), I've never felt 'enough'. I felt like I had to fight for recognition. I didn't feel like I quite belonged. And if I spend too long on social media, my god I can feel inadequate.
If you feel the same in yoga, I want you to know that you're not alone. And I talk to so (so, so!) many students who talk to me before and after class, who tell me the same story. They share it with me, because I share my struggles in class. I am very open about the poses I can do, and can't do, and how we all just need to stop and listen to our bodies (and how that can be hard in a world that doesn't so often encourage that).
When I first shared about my depression in class, I was terrified - but I just couldn't keep this massive part of me under wraps anymore. The feedback and connection I got from the students in that very class will always stay with me. Because for the first time ever, I felt 100% like I belonged. I knew I was in the right space.
Me - with my mental health wobbles, with my body that you will never see in a bikini on a beach doing a yoga pose - I belonged.
In my honesty, I found home. When I stopped trying to be all shiny and perfect and worry free, I became free.
- If bikini yoga makes you feel free and honest, be empowered and do it. But I'm ok in hiding you from all my social media feeds, and filling it instead with stuff that fills my soul.
- If doing fabulous gymnastics-inspired yoga makes you feel strong, you go girl (and boy)! But that's not my thing and I am not going to go to those classes. You'll find me in the mellow class where we drape ourselves over a bolster and meditate!
- If talking about feelings and honesty and reaching into your heart space and finding power in a body and mind oh so lovingly and gently is your thing... we're similar. And you will find a lot of that when you practice with me.
It took me a long time to realise that belonging means doing what makes your heart sing. Which means actually listening inwards and forging your own path. Scary, but freeing.
Be patient friends - it might take a while to throw off those societal expectations that make you think you're not good enough, or make you believe that you're different (like that's a bad thing). But you are different - because there is no one just like you, with your thoughts and your life experience. So keep digging, because when it happens, oh there's so much lightness. You've got this, beauties. Dig deep x