I remember about 10 years ago I was at a hotel in Palm Springs at Yoga Teacher Training. There were hundreds of tight little bodies, yoga bodies swarming around the vast patio which was home to several pools and hot tubs. I was sitting on a beach chair reading and a woman, between 50-60, walked by me. She had on a very simple black swim suit, a very normal-healthy body, much like mine is as I approach 50. What I noticed about her was how confident she was, how unapologetic about her age, her body, herself.
The other day after teaching, Gary, who'd been in my class asked me, "You okay? You seem sad." I was sad, and tired, and frustrated. A few hours later I took a class and had a strong reaction to my image in the mirrors. I did not like what I saw. I had many, many complaints and it took me a while to get settled into my practice and find my flow.
A few months ago, I was standing in the kitchen with my partner Nancy. "I'm fat" I whined in my most sad puppy voice. "You're not fat" she said, "you're sad." I don't remember what was going on at the time, why I was sad, but I was. The first place I go when I feel bad (sad, dejected, frustrated) is to self-criticism. For me, it's way easier to focus on something tangible, like my belly that will probably always have, as Lucia calls it, "a little hump." On more emotionally rational days I say to myself, "Laura, you are healthy, strong and whole." But on days when I am not feeling emotionally stable, the first place I go is to my body.
I'm forty-six years old. That feels solidly middle-aged-sort-of-old to me. I'm at definitive point where I truly recognize that I will never be viewed as young. I am getting older, grayer, wrinklier. I am in a stage of life where I should be grateful and happy for my wellness. I have enough friends who have lost parents, spouses, even children. Thinking about this, I feel really silly for wasting my time on "feeling fat."
Ironically, the times I feel best about my body are in the mirrored Yoga room. It doesn't always start out great, even when I'm in the best of spirits. An internal comment----"Oooh. I maybe shouldn't have worn these shorts....." --might lead me down a dark hole for a few moments, but I eventually come back, and soon enough, I've forgotten about the shorts. The mental/emotional is outweighed by the physical practice. Sometimes when I struggle to find my bearings, when I'm not in Yoga and need to get my shit together, I think about that woman in the black tank suit in Palm Springs. It wasn't her outside beauty that invited me to notice her. It was the energy she carried, the self-acceptance she exuded. If you're like me and your emotions hijack your physical perception, take note. That day when Nancy said, "You're not fat, you're sad", it was an AH-HA moment indeed. It doesn't mean I have eliminated my whiney kitchen moments, but naming the connection between the emotional and physical has given me a chance to see myself with a different lens. Maybe in 5 years I can be just like the woman in Palm Springs.