Category Archives: yoga

Why Yoga is Definitely Not About Touching Your Toes, Guest Post by Anna Guest-Jelley

annakindness

Anna Guest-Jelley is one of the kindest people I know. She is one of the people who — even though she’d never met me in person — reached out to me when my Dexter died, offered comfort. She is one of the reasons I decided to start yoga teacher training, made me feel it was possible, that I was allowed. She gently guides my yoga practice and my teaching from afar, with her blog posts and videos and newsletter and emails, reminding me that not only are modifications acceptable, they are absolutely necessary, that yoga is truly for every body. She consistently reminds me that we can trust our bodies, love ourselves.

Anna has a new book out. I just got my copy in the mail yesterday and I can’t stop reading it. I was so happy when she offered to do a guest post, and I’m so happy to share it with you today, kind and gentle reader.

curvyyoga

No you can’t borrow it, get your own

Anna’s bio: Anna Guest-Jelley is the founder of Curvy Yoga, an online yoga studio and teacher training center that helps people of all sizes find true acceptance and freedom, both on and off the mat.

Anna is the author of Curvy Yoga: Love Yourself & Your Body a Little More Each Day and the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body. To learn more about Curvy Yoga, visit www.CurvyYoga.com


Why Yoga is Definitely Not About Touching Your Toes

Have you ever thought something like, “I’d love to practice yoga but I can’t because there’s no way I’m touching my toes?”

If you have, you’re definitely not alone! Pretty much everyone thinks that, or at least their own version of it. Many of us think we’re either too much of something or not enough of something else to practice yoga. And I totally understand why people get this idea. Mainstream representations of yoga tend to show thin, uber-flexible bodies in poses that look like they belong in Cirque du Soleil.

But I, for one, won’t be putting my leg behind my head anytime soon — at least not without a trip to the hospital.

Image by Emily Gnetz

Image by Emily Gnetz

Yoga for You

Here’s the thing about those poses: while they’re available to and work for a small minority of bodies, that’s not true for the vast majority of bodies. I’ll say that again because I think it bears repeating: if your body isn’t going to be doing those poses anytime soon, or ever, you’re not an anomaly. That is the truth for most bodies, by far.

I was pretty much the opposite of a sporty kid. I was a total bookworm who you’d be much more likely to find curled up in a corner reading than out kicking a ball around with friends. The primary times I moved my body were when I went to aerobics with my mom as a middle-schooler, already deep in the throes of what would become a multiple-decade run with chronic dieting.

So it probably isn’t hard to imagine what it was like when I first tried yoga. I had no idea what I was doing, and my body was (and still is) far from the slender, toned and flexible bodies on the videos I first practiced with. I live in a short, curvy body, and many of the traditional yoga pose instructions do not work for me.

Creating Your Own Path

For many years, I blamed myself for this self-perceived “problem.” I thought once I finally lost weight, got “in shape,” or otherwise made myself into a totally different person, I’d finally “get it” and yoga would work for me.

But then one day I had a thought that changed my life: “What if my body isn’t a problem?”

Mind = blown.

From there on out, I started to make yoga work for me, not the other way around. And eventually, I started to teach other people how to do the same for themselves.

What Matters in Yoga

I’m a huge Amy Poehler fan. In her book Yes Please she says something that has stuck with me ever since I read it. She writes: “‘Good for her! Not for me.’ That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.”

This idea has changed so much for me, including in regards to my yoga practice. When I see someone doing a pose that involves something that isn’t currently available to my body (or may never be), I focus my attention on that. Good for that person! Not for me.

Yoga is a tool for self-acceptance and internal transformation. So it doesn’t matter if you get that via balancing on your nose or lying in quiet relaxation. You get to choose what’s helpful for you.

And you can start anytime, including right now. Taking one deep breath as you read this can be the start, or restart, of your yoga practice. Because just as it doesn’t matter what pose you do, it also doesn’t matter whether or not you practice for five minutes or sixty. What matters is creating a regular and sustainable practice that fits your actual life. Because having a practice that works for you will give you much more of what you’re looking for than wishing for a sixty-minute, five-days-per-week practice and never getting it off the ground because it’s not realistic for your life.

What matters is what’s good for you, not for anyone else.

Image by Andrea Scher

Image by Andrea Scher

Check out Anna’s website to learn more about what she does, for access to a great collection of resources, and to find out about her new book.

Something Good

Mount McConnel Trail, image by Eric

Mount McConnel Trail, image by Eric

1. Alina Baraz & Galimatias, who I’ve been listening to a lot lately.

2. Wisdom from Jessica Patterson, “If you’re only willing to scratch the surface, you will never satisfy the itch.”

3. A Whole Decade from Brittany Herself.

4. Good stuff on Tricycle: The Mindfulness Solution and Guided Meditation with Venerable Pannavati.

5. 9 Great Yoga YouTube Channels.

6. Medicating Women’s Feelings on The New York Times.

7. List of Emoticons for Facebook, something I use quite a bit.

8. Watch These Young Girls Recite Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman”… It’s Awesome.

9. Andrea Gibson performs The Nutritionist.

10. She Hasn’t Changed Her Home For 72 Years. When You See What’s Inside, Your Jaw Will Drop!

11. I love myself enough to do what it takes (to get well)- PART 1 of a series about adrenal fatigue, chronic hives, hormone imbalance, weight gain, emotional healing, etc. etc. etc. from Melody Ross of Brave Girls Club.

12. On Knowing Our Own Minds from Dani Shapiro. “Our most creative thoughts and ideas spring from a ritualized dream time. In the absence of this dream time we become mechanized, robotic, detached from our inner lives.” Word.

13. Fuck the lie that we can have it all from Renegade Mothering.

14. Something Wild from Sunni Chapman.

15. Tiny Beautiful Things on Call Me Ishmael.

16. Things Black Men Are Tired Of Hearing.

17. Douglas Adams made me a writer: Neil Gaiman salutes his friend and inspiration.

18. Kindness Blog, “Kindness Images, Videos, True Life Stories, Quotes, Personal Reflections and Meditations. Because Kindness Changes Everything.”

19. Wisdom from the 17th Karmapa,

Sometimes when we practice dharma we think that we need to show some sort of external or physical sign of it. We pay a lot of attention to the rituals and these actions of our body and speech. This is practicing dharma when we’re focusing outside. But instead what we need to do is turn our attention inwards. We need to see whether what we’re doing is functioning as an antidote to the afflictions or not. We need to see whether we are taming our mind or not. We need to see whether our mind is improving, getting kinder, or not. If we don’t look at it in this way then there’s no benefit to doing these actions – we think that we are trying to do the dharma, but actually we are just making a show with our body and speech. We are putting on appearances, and that’s all we really take an interest in. And the moment that happens, this becomes spiritual materialism.

20. Good stuff on Medium: A world without advice, and Cabin Fever (P.S. I’ve seen the documentary mentioned at least four times), and I Know the Rules- I Just Don’t Care, and Parenting Advice: Don’t Kill Them.

21. Wisdom Pema Chödrön, from her book The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World,

Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.

22. Their Dying Wishes on The New York Times.

23. You Will Survive from Jack Kornfield.

24. I Eat in the Light Now from Curvy Yoga.

25. A World Gone Mad from Rachel Cole.

26. #continuouspractice – A month and a half in {with a message} from Visible and Real.

27. chocolate chocolate-chip cake, redux: the gluten-free edition on Chookooloonks.

28. UC Berkeley Students Hold Teach-In for Their Racist Professor.

29. Jessamyn Stanley talks about life, yoga as therapy, and internet love and hate on Body Positive Yoga.

30. An Open Letter to Kid Rock About the Word ‘Gay’ on Esquire.

31. A Beautiful Thing on Just Lara.

32. The Real World of the Writing Life on The Missouri Review.

33. He is black. He is privileged. And all of that concerns his parents.

34. The Man Who Snuck Into the Ivy League Without Paying a Thing.

35. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Trigger Warning’, a Sunday Book Review on The New York Times.

36. One Man Holds a PATENT That Could Crush MONSANTO and Change The World.

37. 15 People From Around the World Next to the Amount of Food They Eat Each Day.

38. Spring Breaks from Jeff Oaks.

39. Reexamining the Reblog.

40. Mary Lambert on Embracing Sanity, Remaking ‘Jessie’s Girl’ for Lesbians from Rolling Stone.

41. The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More on Zen Habits.

42. Shared on this was a good week from Chookooloonks: Highlights from Apple’s Favorite Photos Shot with iPhones, and Blue – Color//Colour Lovers, and 22 Contemporary Authors You Absolutely Should Be Reading, and a time lapse of a cactus blooming.

43. Good stuff from Austin Kleon: Interview on the Stacking Benjamins podcast and The So What? Test.

44. Shared on Happy Links: this Instagram account of illustrator Ann-Mari Reigstad.

45. Deaf Man Told To “Look Over There.” When He Does, You’ll Bawl Like A Baby!

46. Navigate Your Life: Chris Zydel from Jennifer Louden.

47. Time lost and found from Anne Lamott.

48. Teachers, are you accidentally shaming your students? How to Make Yoga Class More Inclusive by Amber Karnes.

49. 9 Ways to Feel Less Stress When Life Gets Crazy Busy from Marc and Angel Hack Life.