It was hot at yoga last week. So hot in fact, that I took off my t-shirt, something I never do. I always wear three layers when I know I’m doing serious exercise, and that morning, yoga was the precursor to the run I intended to complete when the class finished. My typical work out uniform is a sports bra, and then a tight, but long workout shirt with a built in bra. Over that, I throw on a baggy, off the shoulder cropped tee. I feel comfortable in this outfit, because my body is not on display, but I also have the support I need for physical activity. It also hides my stomach, and that’s the part of my body I’m the most self-conscious about.
It was 85 degrees and humid that morning, and even with the fan whooshing through the room, I felt stifled. The class was full, which added to my claustrophobia and ability to feel relaxed through the poses. After the first three rounds of sun salutations, I took my oversized tee off and threw it on my purse.
My first thoughts? Everyone is going to see my rounded tummy. Hopefully no one thinks I’m pregnant! I looked around. Everyone seemed focused on their process. I took the swan dive forward, stepping back into a plank position.
I looked up and that’s when I first saw it.
When was the last time I looked at my arms? Months ago? Maybe. I don’t often wear tank tops, and when I exercise, well, I’m always wearing an oversized shirt.
I was so shocked. As I went through the yoga practice, I could see the outlines of my biceps, of my shoulder muscles, of my triceps. My arms looked toned. They looked strong. And of course, right? I’ve been carrying around bags of things for kids and a 21 lb one year old for months. And I work out regularly. But I’ve never actually looked. I’m always so focused on the taut abs I dream of that I never actually look at the rest of my body. And I’d missed it. I’d missed these muscular arms, these arms that carry children and groceries and furniture. We squatted down and I made myself look in the mirror. What did I see? Legs that can squat and come up and squat back down again. Strong quad muscles and strong calf muscles that can balance and carry and run a few miles without getting tired.
I completed that class without my oversized t-shirt. In that hour, I recognized, as I always do, that my body isn’t perfect, but this time, I also recognized that there are parts of my body that are. That class was more than just a workout. It was an affirmation. I finally actually looked at myself and didn’t criticize but found where the strength comes from. That class was the confidence boost I really needed. And maybe that’s the point of yoga after all, and it just took me all this time to finally figure it out.