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There are a million ways to see your body when you look in the mirror.  For me, most of my life, the train of thought has always been how can I lose weight?  Being surrounded by a culture of celebrities at size 4 doesn’t help when you’re a size 14. Being single and on the dating circuit can add to the pressures of having the perfect physique.

The journey to loving my body began a few months ago in the most unexpected way. Even more of a surprise was the way in which it deepened my connection to the oneness lying beneath the years of negative thinking.

A few months ago, while on a meditation retreat, I took my first yoga class ever. Two months later, I took my third yoga class while on vacation on a farm in the Berkshires. The yoga class combined meditation with yoga all while in a yurt surrounded by goats, a shimmering lake and the aroma of ubiquitous greenery.

Coming back home into the everyday routine, I decided that I would explore yoga further. One week later, I found a local yoga studio and signed up for a package of 24 classes. Thus, began my love affair with yoga.

After a grand total of six yoga classes, I have learned incredible life lessons about cherishing your body at every stage of its development.

1.  Align your life with who you are

Stop with the “shoulds.” I should be a lawyer, doctor or an accountant.  I should be the perfect homemaker with a spotless house at all times and well-behaved perfect children.  I should have no stretch marks, certainly no love handles. I should have more curves. I should have less curves. I should have calves as thick as an oak tree.

In case you need the reminder, you are a unique soul and personality.  For some people, running marathons, spinning classes or the treadmill works.  But, for the longest time, while trying to live up to those “shoulds” I kept paying for gym memberships that went unused.  I paid hundreds of dollars for kickboxing and never went. I signed up for activities that were a means to an end: the perfect body.

Through yoga, I learned to find activities that speak to the deepest part of who YOU are.  While that doesn’t have to be yoga, for me it was the final piece in a jigsaw puzzle.  The deep breathing, the poses that open and cajole your body while becoming present both in body and mind, spoke to me.

What speaks to you?  Is it the way time flies while you’re on a basketball court?  Are you ready to play softball at a moment’s notice?  Do you dream of Sundays for your weekly soccer game?  Stop living your life as a means to an end and instead live the life that’s meant for you.  Listen to your intuition, your calling and you will flourish.  You will run toward a healthy body and get up off your couch because you will authentically love the vehicle that suits you best.  Rather than, doing what you “should,” you will be who you are.

2. Connecting to your body enables connection to the divine

There is this incredible, intricate, miraculous piece of machinery that Godthe universe or whatever words you choose to use gifted to you: your body. While we may have different limitations, nonetheless it’s ours. We may need a wheel chair.  We may use crutches.  We may be obese. We may have diabetes. We may have a mental illness. Just like our lives and our personalities, we all have limitations to varying degrees.

However, if you can fight to find the activities that allow you to honor whatever stage your body is at then you are connecting to this gift that encapsulates your being. Rather than, comparing yourself to your Facebook friend who just completed a triathlon, yoga teaches you to be with your body in the here and now. Yoga teaches you to release any notions of comparison and follow the rhythm and language spoken by your body.

3. Embrace “I can’t”

When I began yoga, I had no clue what my body was capable of becoming. There’s the flexibility, the mind boggling poses and the sweat.  Lots and lots of sweat. I may be a size 14 but when I’m in a yoga studio, I belong there.  My body belongs there.

For the first time in my life, I literally want to take on every challenge.  One week, I was in the “total beginner” class. The following week, I was in the most challenging and rigorous yoga class that the studio had to offer.  The instructor was stern, serious and definitely not there to play games. I was scared.

But, he taught me one of the single most powerful life lessons. While in the midst of an extremely difficult pose, he came over to offer me guidance.  As he instructed me how to position my body, I blurted out “I can’t!”  He calmly responded, “You’re going to give up that easy? You’re going to let that pinky toe tell you what you can’t do?  This applies to what you do outside of here too.”

The lightbulb moment occurred.  I finished the pose and completed the class excited to take on the most challenging poses that my body would allow. I knew that I gave that class my all.  I turned every “I can’t” into “I’ll sure as heck try.  Let’s do this!”

When you hit your head on the pillow at night, it doesn’t matter whether you’re advanced or a beginner, but that you know that you pushed through that day with blood, sweat and tears.  You know that you gave it your all.  Maybe you failed.  Maybe you had successes. Either way, every fiber of your being was all in.  You’ve earned your self-respect.  Hold your head high. Look every “I can’t” in the eye and blaze right through them.

Similar to other elements of our life, we are called to take it to the optimum level.  From creating amazing relationships, giving to our community and cultivating the incredible vessel that is our body. We can grow and reach higher levels than we ever thought possible. Yoga gave birth to my body anew; a body that I now accept with all its limitations.  This body allows me to push further than I ever thought I could, express the deepest parts of myself and connect to the oneness within.

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FB_IMG_1432670028056Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Alyssa Gross. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Alyssa is a thirsty soul looking to connect to spirituality and community. She invites you to come along. Follow her on Twitter at @AlyssaRGross

43 comments

  1. This is beautiful – I love the line, “I may be a size 14 but when I’m in a yoga studio, I belong there.” It’s so so true that our sizes shouldn’t hold us back. I am often amazed at how accepting yoga teachers are of my big body and how they teach me and adjust me just like they do all the other, skinnier students in the class – I know I’ve been lucky to only have had good experiences, but I truly believe it says something about yoga as a practice and how everyone is welcome.

  2. This year I started with Yoga Classes, and my body is so thankful on this. I warmly recommend to everyone, we live very fast, and yoga time is only time of the day that I rest and really enjoy.

  3. Yoga is definitely a sublime and supreme way to discover that your mind and body are intrinsically linked. What the body can do the mind can achieve. Namaste

  4. Our yoga establishment is in rishikesh and it is to an incredible degree surely understood as individuals begin from india urban gatherings and in addition in like way from abroad. We give experienced yoga educator get prepared in Rishikesh and it do 200,300 hour yoga teacher get prepared in rishikesh.
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  5. “Yogavini” is one of the renowned yoga schools in the beautiful seneric view of the hills of Rishikesh in Uttarakhand state. Yogavini is a registered Yoga school providing the yoga knowledge and training under the guidance of yoga experts. Yogavini Rishikesh is situated at Laxmanjhula in Trimbakeshwar Temple on the bank of river Holy Ganga in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. The campus of Yogavini Ashram provides the accommodation and meal also to the yoga aspirants. Yogavini is offering the 200 hour training session in Yoga Teachers Training Certificate (TTC) to generate the teachers as per the guidelines of Yoga Alliance Association (YAA). After completion this training, one can open the own Yoga Academy anywhere in the world. This training will include the awareness, knowledge, tool & technique of yoga, philosophy and culture of yoga.

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  6. I really appreciate your honesty in this piece. I have just started to work for this company that does all kinds of retreats at a discounted price. Most of the retreats are for yoga, so job is to literally look at people doing yoga all day, everyday. For me, I’ve never tried yoga before, but not because I haven’t wanted to. Looking at accomplished yogi after yogi on Instagram, I tend to get discouraged, only able to see how much work is in front of me to even touch on their skill level.

    After reading your piece, it really inspired me to look up how to touch my toes! This is a big step for me. Next, I’m going to start to actually try to do it. I live in a very remote part of the world, so this is going to be up to me. I’m going to turn my negative “there are no yoga classes” into baby steps that include working on small exercises to gain flexibility. By starting small, I think I will be able to obtain my goals and try out yoga the way that I’ve wanted to. I have you to thank for that motivation! Thank you ❤

  7. Great Lesson, I have been doing Yoga for last 1 years and i feel lots of changes in myself. When i start i found lots of difficulty but gradually i’m loving it. Yoga is very good thing to everyone its improve your strength, power and many more. I would recommend everyone just give 20 Minutes in a day to Yoga you will defiantly see the positives changes in yourself.

  8. Beautiful, thoughtful post! Yoga has seriously transformed my entire life! One of my heroes is Sadie Nardini and she always talks about making reality match your heart. ❤ This is something that I've been working on very consistently for the past few months, but these words really cemented how important it is to recommit to myself. I recently found out that Sadie is having a retreat called The Warrior Within Weekend in a beautiful retreat center called Sedona Mago Retreat! It's only $175 for two nights!!! I can't wait to go and experience everything that the Universe has in store. Namaste. ❤

  9. Wow! Very informative blog. I have heard many times that yoga is connection of your body with mind. But never thought it can be so deep. Its really true that for yoga you need to understand your body deep. There is a famous saying “Yoga is the journey of self, through the self,to the self”, and it has a deep meaning.

  10. What a beautiful journey you found on your mat. Mine began there too, and I’m so amazed at the way transformation. Always give yourself permission to be who you are — it’s your gift to the world and to yourself too. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Who makes the decision what a body should look like? As far as I know, I never voted for anyone. As long as you are a real caring person,given to accepting others as they are, understanding and helping folks, you are welcome in my camp.

  12. Hi, I have always admired and wanted to be a part of a yoga group. It is not only a great option but also produces amazing results to both the body and mind. I was very inspired when I read your article, which concentrates not only on yoga but also on life’s principles.

  13. I love the piece talking about the body being a connection to the Divine. Learning to be in the best relationship we can with the physical body is huge part of yoga. But only so that it becomes the instrument of our growth and development. The physical yoga becomes the stage on which we can explore and discover within ourselves. Your insight and discipline is admirable, that we can all be inspired by.

  14. Yoga is definitely a great way to discover that our mind and body. It helps maintaining the physical and psychological state of a being. I would recommend all to do. You can easily get more detail about the centers and trainer near your home with the help of jeevom healthcare website and app.
    http://www.jeevom.com/

  15. Yoga is the quintessential balancing exercise. It’s simple to implement and can be done—in its simplest form—just about any place. So the next time you’re feeling wiped out emotionally, try a yoga class. Or disappear into your office’s restroom, find a stall and balance on one foot. Take a half-vinyasa or two and get your head below your heart and breathe.

    Whomever invented yoga poses so many centuries ago in India knew the benefits of balance, creating a set of poses so resilient that it’s supporting us through modern life’s wacked-out, stressful, crazy days. And that’s a gift worth paying attention to, and standing up for, even on one foot.

    http://www.anartistrylife.com/yoga/balance-is-balance-why-yoga-creates-emotional-tranquility/

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