The last month or so I have been keeping my exercise light but consistent. A little running, but nothing long distance, some yoga practice, some weight training and lots of walking. This seems to be the prescription I have been given during my IVF by my acupuncturist and other complimentary therapists I have seen.
My diet has been good and so I was feeling in a good place physically and mentally for the yoga retreat I went to from 5th to 12th July. It is the third time that I have been to the Hot, Raw and Juicy retreat in Spain.
The week long yoga retreat involves two yoga classes a day; a mixture of Bikram method, vinyasa, yoga Nidra, yoga therapy and Bowspring method. The range of different, but complimentary classes really works and on top of that there is meditation, daily juices and raw vegan food.
Every year Naomi, the yoga teacher who holds the retreat, asks each person to think about their sankalpa. This is the intention for the week.
I chose for my sankalpa to be body positivity. When I attended this retreat last time, a few years ago, I felt terrible about my body. I was taking Quetiapine then which made me gain 2 stone in weight and I felt really down on myself.
During that retreat I was self-deprecating and would make comments about how fat I was, how horrendous I looked and I would bathe in those words of self-hatred.
One of my fellow yogis pulled me aside one day and called me out on it. They asked ‘how can you ever expect to feel good when you are always so nasty to yourself?’.
I can be so guilty of this. Outward and inward self-loathing, criticism, body hatred and abject meanness. How can I feel good if I don’t love myself?
My body isn’t perfect, but whose is!!?
Together we have been on a long and complex journey. My body deserves my kindness and love. We have run a marathon, many half marathons and 10Km races, we have climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, overcome challenges and grief and learned to love and feel and grow. Why do I choose to be so unkind to myself?
So my sankalpa was ‘I love my body, I am healthy, fit, strong and beautiful, I am body confident.’. I tried to push myself into further confidence by practicing each class in a swimsuit rather than covering my body. It felt liberating.
I later saw photos of me practicing and the old mindset crept in, ‘you look horrendous’, ‘your body is disgusting’, but I let those thoughts go as quickly as I could. Because it is the thoughts that creates the feelings, and as long as I chose to perpetuate the thoughts the longer I would feel bad. Choosing to stop thinking bad thoughts about myself would free me from the negative feelings.
Over the week I attended all the yoga classes and tried to acknowledge that the struggle I felt with my practice was from having done no Bikram classes in 3 months, and that it was ok to not be as flexible as I would normally be.
I learned to be patient with my body and to appreciate the improvements I began to see over the week. Things I couldn’t do on the Saturday I was able to do by the Thursday. I began to feel lighter with the reconnection I made with my old friend, my yoga mat. I felt contentment.
I was recently asked why I love Bikram yoga. The answer I gave is:
Over my life I haven’t always felt as supported as I would have liked. I feel at times people failed me, didn’t show up for me or would disappoint me. I lost people I loved and grieved deeply for them. When I started yoga I made a relationship with my practice that is always there for me. My mat is always there, even when I don’t want it and push it away, still it waits. Then when I am ready to practice again the yoga embraces me lovingly. I feel at one with my practice despite the breaks, the difficulties, the avoidance. When I practice I feel complete.