Today we're back with another installment of our monthly series of personal essays from members of the YBC Community. I personally love to create content, but I don't want YBC to be the Candace Show. I firmly believe that everyone knows something I don't, and therefore, we can always learn from others. My hope is that through these personal essays, we develop a deeper bond within the YBC Community, connect with one another, and learn from each other. In today's post, I am sharing an essay from Marisa Mohi, a writer from Oklahoma. Hope you love it. xo Candace
Marisa Mohi is a writer and she teaches Business Communications at the University of Oklahoma. She lives with her boyfriend, Chris, and her dog, Rosie. Her favorite acts of self-care are yoga and reading under her Snuggie.
Any time someone mentioned self-care, I knew I wasn’t worthy of it. At least not yet. Someday, some glorious day, I would have the body that deserved nice things like new clothes and spa treatments. I would have the body that was allowed to go to the gym for a yoga class. As it was, I had the body that only deserved grueling hours on the treadmill, or heinous hour-long tabata boot camps. But if I kept working, if I just ate fewer calories, if I indulged the shame that seemed to drive my entire self-image, I could lose enough weight to deserve these things. I would deserve a yoga class.
After a summer spent attending cardio classes, my self-image started to change. I wasn’t losing weight, but I started to regard myself more highly. It’s pretty amazing what a good, regular workout can do for your self-perception. I’m not sure why, but one day I stumbled into a gentle yoga class and it functionally changed my life.
In the months that I attended that class, I became a lot stronger. I could feel my hamstrings lengthening every time I folded. I could see and feel the difference in my shoulders and biceps in every chaturanga. And finally, during one class, as “Do You Realize” by the Flaming Lips played as I lay still on my mat, I cried quietly because I finally knew that I was worth a whole lot more than what I had previously believed.
Even though I had been working out all my life in an attempt to change my body, I had never been mentally present during a workout. I always turned off my brain and went through the motions, the music in my headphones drowning out everything. But yoga was different. It wasn’t some punishment I was meant to endure because my body wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. It was nourishment. I was present. I was aware of what my body was doing. I was grateful of the things my body could do. Shortly after, I started attending more advanced yoga classes.
Last fall, the morning class I always attended got a new instructor. I attended the class religiously, just as I had with the previous instructor. In fact, I was the only person who attended religiously.
Everything changed the day a student showed up to class with a cast on her leg. As we sat on our mats waiting to begin, the instructor began to talk to us about how important it was to do yoga that your body needed at that moment. She gestured toward the student with the cast. “So, if you have a broken foot, make sure you aren’t doing anything that would hurt that foot.” Then she gestured to me. “And when you’re going through a pregnancy, make sure you’re doing what your body needs.”
I froze. I tried to process what she said. Did the instructor just call me pregnant? I quickly scanned the rest of the class. There was absolutely no way that she could’ve mistaken anyone else in that room for a pregnant woman. I thought about leaving. There was no way that I was going to have a good yoga class after that. But I stayed so as not to draw more attention to myself. I went through the asanas, but I didn’t think about them at all because I was too busy replaying what the instructor said. By the end of the class, I was a seething ball of rage.
By the time I got back home, I was more concerned about how I was processing what happened than I was about what had happened. A yoga instructor had basically just called me fat. In the past, I would’ve been inconsolable. I would’ve cried and begun the sort of crash diet that enables you to lose 20 pounds in a month, only to be regained just as fast. I would’ve spiraled into a lot of unhealthy workout habits. But I didn’t feel the need to do that this time.
It occurred to me that all the changes in how I felt about my body—the changes brought on by attending yoga classes were what enabled me to not dive into all the unhealthy habits I used to. And rather than punish myself with hard workouts, or binge on unhealthy foods to make myself try to feel better, I chose to continue with healthy habits and practices. I chose to continue to take care of myself.
I haven’t been back to that particular yoga class, and don’t intend to. I do, however, plan to continue practicing yoga, and I have plans become an instructor someday.
Has anything like this ever happened to you? What would you have done if you were in my situation?