When I was in high school, I was so slim that the history and government teacher took my best friend aside to ask her two questions: 1. Was I anorexic?; and 2. If not, was my family too impoverished to feed me? (Neither was the issue, I was just thin and a dancer.)
I became mostly sedentary in my adult life until I started race walking in my late 30’s. Helpful peer pressure pushed me into half marathons and two full marathons. Then I started running intervals, and completed many races, all the while talking with my friends about our bodily functions, our relationships, work, and love. In the past few years, it’s been more difficult to find my mojo for those long distances, and my weight is creeping up.
My body has always had the quintessential “apple shape” that physicians warn against. I refuse to measure my abdominal girth because I already know that it’s too big. It’s simply where I’ve always gained weight, just like my parents.
Feeling the need to move in a different way and not walk those long distances, I took my body to private yoga lessons with a lovely woman who is half my age, and nearly half my size.
In the beginning, I came to yoga lessons wearing a running skirt, a sports bra to tame my ample cleavage, and a technical shirt. I couldn’t stand seeing any cellulite on my legs, my face so close to my thighs in forward fold, so I switched to yoga pants. The cellulite was banished from my eyes, while the elasticity made my legs look shapely. Not bad! My svelte yoga teacher, meanwhile, wears those adorable strappy tops and no sports bra. When shopping for clothes, she does not have to consider whether a particular style emphasizes or is able to de-emphasize a particular body part.
Forward fold, downward dog, and shoulder stands, positions that were long gone from my body’s vocabulary and abilities were now becoming my moves. As I worked to master those asanas, my front body kept getting in my way. I had to adjust my belly to bend over, and I thought on more than a few occasions, that I might be smothered by my own breasts, my face engulfed as I bent over. Sometimes this made me sad, remembering the slim body I used to own, and sometimes it made me laugh and feel proud. Some women would give an eye tooth for this boobage!
There are many times that I’d like to get rid of my belly, but now that I’m in the midst of peri-menopause, it’s become a stubborn companion. The eminent humanistic psychotherapist, Carl Rogers, said that you must accept yourself completely before you are able to change. I’m working on that, and laughter is a part of it. I’ve come to see that taking care of myself is a big deal. I continue to do forward folds, and I try to laugh more than feel sad when my breasts are in my way. I try to be amazed at what my body does for me, where it can take me, and be grateful for the health that I have. I work to treat my body gently and lovingly. I am beginning to see that I am not my body, that it is merely a carrier for all of what is important to me.
Leah Forster Gauvin is a longtime pediatric oncology social worker who is always on the lookout for beauty, love, and meaning. She finds those things not only in her work, but with her husband, Scott, and their retired racing greyhound, Annie. Leah also hooks traditional rugs, practices yoga and meditation, cooks, writes, and teaches.
Vulnerability via the written word can be daunting, but after sitting at the bedsides of dying people of all ages, Leah knows that people mostly regret missing out on the things that they were too afraid to do.
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