I am honored today to share a guest post to my blog by Annette Sloan, a health coach and yoga teacher with a passion for empowering teens to embrace healthy living through her business, (w)holehearted. She is gifting us today with her story about how yoga helped her offer herself something that is so integral to its essence: compassion. Even when you’re struggling with food or body image issues. Especially then.
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Have you ever been to a bad yoga class? Maybe it was a class where the teacher wasn’t sure of her instructions and kept fumbling over her words.
Or maybe she talked too much, which made it hard for you to quiet your mind, or she talked too little, which made it hard for you to know what you were supposed to be doing.
Bad yoga classes are the worst. You take the time in your day to get to your mat, hoping to move your body and calm your mind – and then the instructor ruins the whole experience.
I am a yoga instructor, and I have a confession to make: I once taught the worst yoga class ever. Ok, maybe not the worst class ever. I didn’t make fun of anyone or tell them their body was wrong. No one got hurt. But, I did do an absolutely terrible job of leading the class. I forgot my sequence, mixed up left and right multiple times, and fumbled over the instructions on pretty much every pose.
Not even halfway through the class, I could tell that my students were just humoring me. They wanted to roll up their mats and leave, but they were too polite. It was my first class out of yoga teacher training, and I was screwing up it, big time.
Even worse, this wasn’t just a regular class – it was an audition. One of the polite yogis in front of me owned a yoga business, and I was supposed to be proving my chops as an instructor.
When the hour finally ended, my students gratefully rolled up their mats and departed. I was left with Bonnie, the yoga business owner. Telling myself that I could cry in my car in a few minutes, I looked her in the eye and waited to hear my fate.
Bless Bonnie. Instead of diving into the long list of everything I had done wrong, she kindly asked, “How do you think it went?”
I was honest and brutal in my self-appraisal. Bonnie waited patiently for me to finish, then nodded.
Without agreeing or disagreeing with me, she said, “But did you see how they stayed around to talk with you at the end? If they hated you, they would have left immediately. They liked your energy.”
Once again, bless Bonnie. Talk about compassion.
I didn’t get hired for the job that night. But I didn’t get dismissed either. Bonnie recognized that my nerves had played a huge role in my less-than-stellar performance. She gave me a list of areas to work on, and suggested that I do another audition in a few weeks. Later, she hired me.
The moral of the story is that on the night of my worst yoga class ever, Bonnie embodied an essential component of yoga: compassion.
In my opinion, when a yogi steps onto his or her mat, everything that takes place is in service to a higher goal: to connect mind and body to the present moment – and to be compassionate with whatever comes up.
Downward-facing dog too rough on your shoulders today? Try table instead. Table isn’t feeling good? Child’s pose is always available. The underlying message is: wherever you are, right now, is valid. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. Honor your journey.
I started practicing yoga in high school, and continued through college and my twenties. During this time, I was struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food. (Learn more about my story here, or here for a more detailed version). Thankfully, I’m now on the other side of the struggle. And I can honestly say that my practice of yoga was essential to my healing.
Yoga connected my mind and body in the present moment. It regularly reminded me to practice self-compassion and to honor my journey. My subconscious received the message that I wherever I was, it was ok for me to be there. I was worthy, just as I was.
Eventually, my journey led me to yoga-teacher training, where I found the courage to share the story of my struggle with food.
It was terrifying to make myself so vulnerable – but in airing my shame, I found healing. I summoned up the courage to share my story with others, and eventually, with everyone I knew. Today, I have my own business, (w)holehearted, which specializes in compassionate health coaching for teen girls.
I have yoga to thank for it all – and for that, I will be forever grateful.
Annette Sloan owns (w)holehearted, a Denver-based business specializing in compassionate health coaching for teen girls. Her work as a coach and speaker empowers teens to discover their happiest, healthiest, most authentic selves. Soon, Annette will also debut a program called Empowered Moms, Empowered Daughters, which will help moms to heal their relationships with food, body, and self so that they can be positive role models for their daughters. In addition, Annette co-leads a workshop called “Yoga, Food, and Love: A Compassionate Journey to Healing your Relationship with Food.” Learn more at www.healthyteengirls.com and www.fb.com/healthyteengirls.