I recently discovered Wordle and it has been a very entertaining time-suckage of late. One of the many “wordles” I put together was the one at the top of this post with the words most often heard by those who enter the Potentia world. I believe in the power of words – spoken and written – and how they can do great good and also great harm. At Potentia, we use words to heal, to challenge old ways of thinking, to fight back against the lies we have been told and are telling ourselves. If I missed any words you think deserve to make Potentia wordle-status, post the word in the comments below. And please share any wordle you make that is meaningful to you.
(Image via Etsy: Dazychic’s store)
By Kelly Schauermann, CPRYT, Yoga Instructor, Potentia’s Yoga Coordinator + Founder of Beulah Wellness
In the past weekend I have come across 2 separate forms of media that emphasize the danger of yoga. As a yoga instructor and practitioner, there is a bit of me that wants to turn defensive at anyone that puts down a practice that has changed my life.
But when I allow myself to step back, and listen to the wisdom and words of others, I see a greater whole that definitely needs to be addressed. In a way, this mirrors my post from Friday about grace; but this grace is more specifically for your body.
What I have gathered from these different sources is not that yoga is necessarily bad to practice. There are SO many different styles and levels, it’s likely that just about anyBODY can find a physical practice (Asana) that will enhance their journey to knowing their bodies. Instead, it’s more about being cautious.
I was speaking to my husband about this, and I likened it to skydiving. I have been once, in the Swiss Alps, but not alone. Having never been before, I had to go tandem, or I probably would have died. Since you don’t know what you’re doing, but you really want to learn to skydive, you find people that are well trained, certified and knowledgable to help guide you through the process. You don’t jump onto the first plane you can catch, strap on a parachute and jump, right?
Yoga is the same way. In the West, yoga has become so prolific, that it’s difficult to know if what you’re doing, where, and with whom, is going to benefit your body. But here’s the thing: yoga isn’t necessarily about finding your guru, accomplishing the splits or being vegan. It’s about being present FOR, and listening TO yourself. If you are practicing that, you will know, from the inside out, that how you’re moving your body is helpful or harmful. If you get consumed with the competition and fitness aspect of yoga, you will likely stop listening with the same intent, and get injured.
A wise teacher, Soleil Hepner, who I have had the pleasure of meeting and gleaning wisdom from put it very well: the word YOGA (in this NY Times article) should be changed to ASANA. She gives a great explanation of her thoughts on her blog, and it’s well worth the read, but it essentially states what I have mentioned here all along: Yoga is more than just moving your body. Asana is prep for meditation, as a part of the 8 limbs of yoga. Asana is an opportunity to value your body as an innate teacher during your precious time on earth. Seen in that light, wouldn’t you like to do everything you can to care for it?!
So, have some grace. If you are in Down Dog and your hamstrings are screaming bloody murder, bend your knees! If you have a sensitive neck, don’t practice shoulderstand, please, dear God, don’t practice it. If one day you can touch your toes, and the next you can’t, it’s OK. We aren’t judging you, so maybe ease up on yourself and question the judgment you may be passing on yourself.
All that said, relish every moment of your practice this week, whether seated in meditation, upside down in headstand or resting in savasana. This journey is a lovely one, and you don’t want to miss it.
PS. If you want to check out Potentia’s Yoga classes make sure to register soon, as space is limited.
I had the chance last weekend to meet Jess Weiner, a self-esteem and body-acceptance expert. It was a real treat to meet her as I have been aware of her advocacy work for some time and I have come to really respect her voice on issues dear to my heart. She authored an article published in Glamour that hit the stands on Monday in the states that is bold, courageous and honest. I encourage you to check it out.
Jess expressed some trepidation with being so transparent about her shift in ideology that involved a newly focused attention to her weight and her labs. I could see she was bracing for criticism and comments of betrayal by many as she boldly stated her previous definition of health was keeping her very unhealthy. Personally, I think Jess’s story brings up some important issues around health and numbers.
As an eating disorder treatment expert, I have worked for years helping men and women detox from the diet mentality and the shaming effect of our “thin” obsessed culture. Part of their recovery journey is the process of letting go of the stronghold of numbers (on the scale, sizes on their clothes, calorie counting) which have become entrenched in their identity. For many, the Healthy at any Size movement created a space to seek true health while not focusing exclusively on scales and charts, such as the antiquated BMI.
I speak and advocate to my clients and large groups on theses principles of the HAES model:
1. Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes.
2. Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include
physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects.
3. Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of all sizes.
4. Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger,
satiety, appetite, and pleasure.
5. Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather
than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss.
Yet, discussing numbers is a touchy zone for those of us treating those struggling food and body issues. On one hand, there is an importance to letting go of the numbers that can plague us and rob us of our peace and true worth. But for many, if and when the individual is ready to manage this information appropriately, gaining awareness of how one’s body is functioning and performing ( ie: knowing labs and weight) can often be an important part of recovery in healing one’s relationship with food and their body. Truly empowered body acceptance involves making sure your body is operating at it’s best.
This can be a scary place for many who spent years obsessing about the number of calories they ate or burned at the gym. Many people, like Jess, who are in recovery from an eating disorder, understandably swing to the other direction and want to avoid numbers and doctors as they were a significant trigger and source of shame. It comes as a welcome break to not think about the numbers and many end up avoiding good health care for fear their brain will grab onto the numbers like the jaws of life if they go there.
Yet, denial is not a part of true health.
Neglecting your health is not true health. It may take a while, but finding the right doctor, as Jess did, who is knowledgeable and not shame based about such matters may be an effort but is necessary.
I remember when I was first asked by a client, “Is it ok for me to want to lose weight?”. I have since heard this question frequently in my office from women and men of all shapes and sizes. I respond by asking “What are your motivations and what is the meaning for you if you lost some weight?” Flushing through the answers to these questions is important to assess as you seek to make sure your definition of health is not going to keep you stuck or do your body harm.
The sole focus on weight in regards to health has and continues to be harmful. Shaming someone for being overweight does not motivate someone to make true change and reduces the chance of someone hearing important information about their body.
I still despise the scale. It really is a trap. Yet, totally neglecting our physical health in the name of health is not wise or recommended. For many, if their labs are ok, it gives them a reason to still engage in their eating disorder behavior. I see this a lot. If an individual is using numbers as a reason to avoid doing important deep soul work, than it is time to re-think this approach to living life because it will eventually spiral to a dark place.
I believe Jess is adding an important and much needed dynamic to the size-acceptance discussion. She is taking ownership of her choices and putting herself out there sharing what she has learned. I also believe she is doing this responsibly by giving out information with full disclosure and context. I am excited for a provocative discussion to follow up as a result of her leadership.
This is a nuanced and highly personal topic for many. I am always inspired when I meet someone who walks their talk. I especially admire those who have put themselves out there and adjust previous held beliefs while holding their head high and standing strong. The journey towards true health in the public eye is a gutsy one and I thank you, Jess, for being you.
In The Name of Health
In the last several weeks, I received news about amazing women I know fighting for health in their lives. One family member is fighting for her baby’s health as he struggles to eat and maintain his weight, another friend is planning for a radical surgery as a preventative measure against cancer. A newer friend of mine recently discovered a mass in her lungs and has begun chemo therapy to tackle the cancer in her body. All three of these women greatly inspire me with their courage, passion and strength. In their quest for health, they face challenges, uncertainty and a roller coaster of emotion. Their stories have unwritten chapters ahead of them as they seek to do what is best for their health. Yet, my work has taught me that our quest for health can look completely different from person to person.
Health. We hear this word a lot: In the news; in commercials for products and diets; in research findings; in schools; on magazine covers with claims of the best in the name of what is healthy. When looking further into the meaning of what all of these voices are calling healthy, I find such a wide-range of definitions. Marriam-Webster online defines health as the following:
1 a : the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially : freedom from physical disease or pain b : the general condition of the body <in poor health> <enjoys good health>
2 a : flourishing condition : well-being b : general condition or state <poor economic health>
If I use this definition as a platform for discussing health, then that leaves many I know operating from a warped and inaccurate view of what is truly healthy. Many of the men and women I work with are striving for health, but in a way that actually depletes their health body, mind and spirit. 50+ billion dollars annually are spent every year in our country on diet and “health” related products. Many of these products make a lot of promises but rarely deliver. Others leave people in bondage so that they are fearful of living life without sticking to a specific plan.
This is a big theme as I seek to propose ways we can (re) define health as we know it. We crave, hunger, desire for so much more. Diets, health food, fear of fat, control, deprivation, denying who we are called to be for fear of rejection, alienation are some of the many ways in which we try to manage our pain and our fear. Yes, we have choices on how we feed, move and care for our bodies and souls. No, there is not a quick fix to being able to sit with the tension of it all. But if we are operating from our passions, are in touch with our true identity – not one sold to us – then maybe, just maybe, the diet industry may go out of business (OK, a girl can only hope…) and health, quality health, can be achieved.
(re)Defining Health with Respect
The news is not lacking with stories about the “obesity epidemic” and television shows focusing on radical weight loss in the name of health are very popular. I will add my voice to the discussion on:
- the disordered eating spectrum,
- Orthorexia and how the quest for health can turn into a debilitating and often deadly obsession,
- EDNOS (Eating Disorder not otherwise specified)
- the HAES (Healthy At Any Size) movement
- Intuitive Eating and a non-diet philosophy
Challenging various definitions of what is “healthy” can be volatile and feel very personal. My hope is to respectfully challenge some of the beliefs, philosophies and motivations behind the many definitions of health out there with the goal of moving the discussion away from fear, prejudice and misinformation towards true freedom and health with passion, love and respect. There will be other contributors to add additional perspective to the effort to (re) define health. Stay tuned. Some good stuff is coming! I also hope you will join in this important discussion. Your voice matters.
- How do you define health?
- What do think about the struggles of obesity in our culture?
- Do you think an over emphasis on weight will prevent obesity or create more food and body issues?