Disembodied to Embodied: How Yoga Transformed My Relationship with My Body

Ashley R Brown
Aug 20, 2020 · 5 min read
Courtesy of Unsplash

Like many of us, body shaming was a part of my upbringing. I scoffed at my chubby thighs and prayed for a flat stomach as a child. I watched my parents and relatives judge others for their weight or clothing choices. I cowered as family members and peers made flagrant judgments about my body and overall appearance.

I absorbed images from TV and film about what was desirable and acceptable, which I concluded was not me. And then I went on to make judgments about people’s bodies (in my head and out loud) due to my own insecurities.

This clearly was not a self-love concoction, at all.

For nearly 13 years, I suffered from living life disconnected from my body for those reasons. Shopping was my least favorite pastime. I was an emotional eater. Dressing up for school dances in middle school was a chore. I had a phase where I only wore dark colors because I didn’t want to be seen. Living in my body was a complete nightmare.

After a seemingly incredible year in 2018, I decided that I had to do something different to make myself feel better. I say “seemingly” because on the surface, 2018 was a great year. I booked two incredible internships, I studied abroad in Panama for two months and my grades during each semester were pretty good. But I had never experienced anxiety like I did that year.

I was worn out.

I was riddled with feelings of imposter syndrome. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I felt inauthentic and misplaced. I was overworking myself to build my resume. Frequent trips to the bathroom to take deep breaths might as well have been added to my work calendar.

I was confused.

How could I be so drained after such an amazing year? I should be grateful for all the opportunities and experiences, right?

The truth is, I still don’t know the answer to these questions — and I’m not sure that it matters anymore. What matters is that I decided to do something about it — to embark on a new journey: I picked up a yoga practice.

To be clear, I did not start my yoga practice thinking that it was going to change my complicated relationship to my body. I simply started it because I needed a change, and yoga was an idea that was in my rear view for a while.

I searched for free yoga channels on YouTube and came across Yoga With Adriene. Because I was a new student of yoga, I decided to challenge myself and I tried her 30 Days of Yoga program.

I didn’t know that when I finished the challenge that I would experience such a profound shift.

Here’s how:

Self-Awareness

Yoga forced me to be aware of every placement of my hands and feet as I flowed from pose to pose. It taught me how to adjust if my hamstring was too tight or modify a pose if I was feeling sore. It taught me how to be present by taking deep breaths. It taught me to be gentle with myself. It taught me how to discern what feels good and what doesn’t. It taught me how to listen to my body.

It also introduced me to chakras — the 7 energy centers of the body. Learning about each chakra’s meaning forced me to contemplate and accept the ways in which almost all of my chakras were imbalanced or blocked and how to balance them with different yoga poses plus meditation and journaling.

Self-love

About halfway through the challenge, I experienced a shift. It was something that I randomly noticed one day. I woke up feeling light. When I looked in my full-length mirror, I didn’t have a single bad thing to say about my body — or myself as a human being. I danced around a little bit. I felt silly and safe. I felt balanced and free.

I had fully developed a deeper bodily and energetic awareness.

Yoga taught me that there was nothing inherently wrong with my physical form; rather, there was something flawed about how I thought about it, which wasn’t my fault. Frequent messaging taught me to not love parts of myself and it would take deeper self-inquiry and forgiveness to unlearn it.

I finally reached a point where I accepted myself and my body as it was. I started eating healthier and with intention. I set plans and goals for myself instead of complaining about my weight. I stopped shaming myself, because shaming never helped anyone, so why would doing it to myself help me change any of my habits?

Yoga truly taught me that I am a spiritual being having a physical experience and that my body is a fundamental part of living out this experience.

Duh, right.

I mean, I’m sure to many I’m simply stating the obvious. But for those who have lived disembodied due to trauma or toxic messaging from society in general, this is something that is often learned a little later.

I decided that I could no longer live in my head for the rest of my life. I could no longer be unkind to myself. I had to be in my body — embodied.

Self-discipline

Yoga taught me how important discipline is — not only with external things like work and school, but internal things like accountability, self-inquiry, discernment, compassion (for others and myself) and consistency.

It grounded me. It taught me how to live fully in my body, off the mat.

I continued practicing after the 30-day challenge. For once, I had finally found a level of intimacy and familiarity that I didn’t know was a possibility for me.

Nowadays, I often step on the mat and lead my own practice — without the help of a teacher — because I know exactly what my body needs.

This is not something I could’ve said growing up or in 2018.

By no means am I an expert yoga practitioner. I don’t always practice the yamas and niyamas. I still haven’t mastered a headstand. I can only hold Kakasana (crow pose) for 6 seconds. And I don’t practice everyday, although that is my intention.

But I am so in tune with my vessel and thus my spirit — and that is the greatest gift that yoga gave me.

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Ashley R Brown

Written by

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Ashley R Brown

Written by

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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