I bought a membership to a hot yoga studio when I finally felt ready to start exercising and taking care of myself again. After signing up a couple weeks ago, I made a goal. I saw the beautiful women with perfect yoga bodies coming to class in just a bra and shorts and I decided that I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to have the perfect abs and the confidence to show them off.
Today in class as I was dripping sweat (its hot yoga so the studio is over 90 degrees) I started thinking about the goals that I made. How will I know when my stomach looks good enough? How will I determine when I am ready to let other people see it? Maybe it was the heat that got to me or the fact that my shirt was drenched, but I decided that my stomach looked fine and now was as good a time as any.
Although taking off my shirt and standing in the middle of the classroom in only a bra felt like this monumental moment for me, surprisingly the world didn't stop. In fact, not a single person in my class even looked at me. They were all in deep concentration, working on their own poses and centering their own thoughts. It seemed that the only person who cared about what I was wearing or how I looked was me.
Leaving class, I started thinking about the goals I made for my body. I've made hundreds of similar goals before, but every time I reach a point where I give up on myself. Because there is never a way to determine when you're thin enough or pretty enough or confident enough, creating these kinds of goals always leads you down a path of inevitable failure. Even after learning this lesson over and over again, why did I continue to subject myself to such unfair pressure? Why did I think that goals like the ones I made were even goals worth making?
I decided that the purpose of working out should be to find balance. Whether that means relieving stress, improving the way my body functions, or connecting in a spiritual way, exercising should be an avenue for growth, not punishment. Going into a yoga class with the mindset that I'm not good enough and that I'm doing it to "fix" myself completely contradicts that. I should be doing it to take care of myself, not to push myself to look a certain way.
Even though I met my goal this afternoon of being one of the women in class in just a bra, it felt very empty and anticlimactic. It actually made me feel silly to know that I put the confidence I'd need to do this up on such a high pedestal. It seems that I actually had the confidence to do it anytime I wanted to. Somewhere along the way I must have forgotten that and started looking externally for a sign of this strength. When in reality, I didn't have to go any further than looking within myself.