Guest blog post by Yogasteya community member Stephanie Baham
Greetings Yogis! The title of my blog is actually a line from a song called Stand by R.E.M. This blog is about standing in your power. That could mean standing up for what you believe in, standing up for someone else, or standing up tall & strong in a show of strength. But before you stand in it, you have to find it.
When I first had an interest in Yoga, my best friend told me it was a waste of time. He thought it was stupid because it wasn’t a primary factor in losing weight. It takes power to overcome criticism and a blatant lack of support from someone close. I had to stand in my power and I made sure I didn’t give up because of someone else’s belief. I had to stand up for myself and say “So what…I still like it and I’m going to do it. Period.” I simply believed in Yoga before I believed in his opinion.
Think back to when someone doubted your commitment or seriousness about Yoga. Why did they do that? They might have been like my best friend….who found Yoga very challenging. I got him to try it a few years later and as athletic as he was….he wouldn’t let himself enjoy it. He didn’t take the time to understand it. He found it too challenging, so he dismissed it. It didn’t come easy to him like other physical activities, so he deemed it useless. So perhaps that person criticizing you, is just afraid they would fail at it. And they probably would, because they’ve already made that choice. However, those people are still excruciatingly annoying. And it’s ok to think so.
It’s no secret that Yoga is a community dominated by thin bodies. I didn’t discover the curvy Yoga community until last year. So as I was seeing so many thin bodies in classes and in magazines, I started to wonder if I belonged because I am a plus size gal. I had to stay emotionally strong and convince myself that this path was right for me, no matter what the scale said. I was getting physically and mentally stronger by practicing Yoga, so I knew it was working. The first time I wore a tank top in class I thought I was going to faint. But I forced myself. Why? Because I knew I would be more comfortable and I deserved to be just as comfortable in class as anyone else. I literally wore a light sweater into class and peeled it off right before we started. I started breathing just to calm myself down. Oh the horror of showing my chubby arms in Yoga class! Nowadays, I’m little more comfortable with it. All that anxiety for a tank top! But that was my experience and that’s ok. I got through it by standing in my power and facing my fear.
Sometimes I pull power from others. Here’s a story….I was in San Francisco at a Yoga event called Yoga for Hope, which is a festival/fundraiser for cancer survivors. Every year they have this Yoga festival in Union Square, which is in the middle of downtown. Union Square is full of shops, restaurants and tourists. But once a year they block it off for 100s of Yogis who come to practice outside. The festival starts with an opening practice led my various instructors. About halfway through, one of the instructors starting leading a vigorous Vinyasa routine. All of a sudden, my arms were flailing, I couldn’t keep up and I didn’t know which way was up or down. So I took a breath and went down into Child’s pose right in the middle of the Super-Vinyasa-Hardcore-Extreme flow.
While I was down there, I felt like I had a mini-fail. I felt like people were staring at me thinking “Hey look at the fat girl, she can’t keep up!” I took a few breaths, raised my head and looked around. Lo and behold, many people of various sizes from petite to plump were sitting still on their mats with the same “what did I get myself into” look on their faces. One man was texting on his phone. He was probably asking his wife to come pick him up so he could escape this madness. But guess what, I wasn’t alone! I felt like we were really all in this together. Not everyone was keeping up. I felt a sense of connection with those folks. It was a powerful feeling. I decided to be happy with my practice that day because I knew I wasn’t the only one having a “moment” out there. I felt like I had my personal power back.
Most recently, I exercised my power of choice and consumerism. I canceled my membership at a Yoga studio. The studio was great, but it’s time for me to move on to something else. I’ve decided to expand my home practice and attend a variety of Yoga events in my area. Hopefully most of them will be outdoors. I thought a lot about this decision because I was under the impression that belonging to a studio was some kind of “step up” in the Yoga world. But I’ve realized, it’s just another avenue in which I can practice. I was a little afraid to leave the studio because it was always there and basically predictable. Not predictable in a bad way, but predictable in a safe way. I was taking the same classes there because it’s what fit my schedule. Now I’m in a place where I want to try more types of classes from a variety of instructors in a variety of venues. Sounds like a lot to juggle perhaps, but I know I have the power and the determination to pull it of.
What changes have you wanted to make with your Yoga practice but might be afraid to try? Are you unsure how to proceed? Afraid of failure? Don’t be. You are more powerful than you think!
Take some time to recognize your moments of power. Those moments when you overcame fear, took a risk, or let yourself connect with others in the Yoga community. Many more of those wonderful moments are yet to come. Enjoy!
Stephanie Baham is a 44 year old woman born and raised in Los Angeles. Stephanie is currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Outside of her 9-5 job as an insurance agent, she enjoys Yoga, Tarot, film, books and yummy dining. Her Yoga journey as a plus-sized woman ranges from taking small classes to attending conferences to practicing at huge outdoor events. She has an interest in all types of Yoga and her dream is to teach one day. Connect with Stephanie on Facebook to learn more about her yoga journey.