Yoga, womanhood and I

There are many ways we can be cruel to our body. An eating disorder is one of them.

Through anorexia, I starved myself of anything vaguely feminine. Physically, biologically, even psychologically.

Through yoga, however, I have begun to feed my womanhood again in ways that food alone cannot.

How? Let me explain...

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The gentle approach

At the height of my eating disorder, I would never have imagined that I would ever feel comfortable exercising around other people. I was far too self-conscious about my clumsy, awkward, (FAT) body.

Yet today, I am at the studio five or six times a week.

Why?

Because yoga has helped me shift my perspective to what my body can do, rather than constantly comparing myself to those around me.

The meditative postures force me to focus on what is going on in me. The moment my eyes stray and old temptations to judge arise, I usually fall flat on my face.

There is also something about the environment of a steady yoga community which provides a friendly contrast to the onslaught of ideals that we are force-fed on a daily basis.

My fellow yogis are not concerned with calories burnt or personal best’s, inches lost or rigid diets. There simply is no faster, stronger, better in yoga. There is only you. Your Breath. Your path.

It is in this light that you come to true acceptance. You become soft, when you were once hard. Forgiving when you were once harsh. You slow down and in this slowness, affection, even for your perceived lumps and bumps, begins to flourish.

Energy in stillness

Yoga is more than just physical postures. Yoga is also stillness. It is meditation in motion. Stillness of mind from stillness of body.

It is in this stillness that I have discovered my energy. The ‘buzz’ beneath it all. The constant hum of aliveness under my skin.

And the more that I explore that, the more I see how distinctly feminine mine it is.

It feels soft, open, bright and oh so beautiful.

I don’t know what this energy feels like for men, if it’s the same or something similar. All I know is that this energy helps me feel love. Love for my body and its female form. Love for my female thoughts, and finally, love for my female emotions.

Emotional acceptance

Things are changing but us 20-somethings are still stuck with that stiff upper-lip upbringing so valued in Western society. We have far too many deadlines for feelings so we may as well ‘suck it up’ and get on with it.

And still we are told that women tend to be more ‘emotional’ than men.

So can we be both women and survive in this day and age?

Yoga says we can.

For there is an intelligence in emotions. They give us the power of compassion, to connect, both with ourselves and others.

I have learnt that my strength comes from sensitivity. I have revealed my resilience through hysterics, and my capability through rage. I have opened up my Pandora’s box and found the peace at the centre of my mood swings.

Serenity is not a stereotypical ‘zen-like’ state - it is the acceptance of who we are and what we can do with our own lives. And if it is my role as a woman to be in contact with my emotions, then that’s fine by me. In fact, I am finding it an honour and a privilege to do so.

It is perhaps then no surprise that I want to share this practice with other women.

This love and enthusiasm has led me to become part of the organising team for the Brighton Yoga Festival. The BYF is a free event taking place on 23rd July 2016 at the Corn Exchange and Brighton Dome.

No matter your shape, size or even gender, this is a chance for you to fall back in love with yourself. This love is waiting for you to reclaim it - you need only welcome it back in.

You can find more information about the festival at www.brightonyogafestival.org.

Words by Victoria Hodder, English-as-a-foreign-language teacher and blogger at More Than Grammar

Photos of Emma Brocklesby, founder of Kalula Yoga and Kalula Jewellery.