A Question of Feeling

Post by Fanny Priest for the Kind Kindred series.

print by AlightArts on etsy

A Question of Feeling

Back in the fall, I began to feel something shift in the way I view my body. It started with this piece by Vivienne McMaster, in which she calls for women to stop bullying and fat-shaming ourselves, and start loving ourselves, just as we are, today.

I have been overweight pretty much my entire adult life. As a yoga teacher, I find this particularly hard, as I don’t fit into the stereotypical image of the tight and toned lycra-clad teacher, and I have struggled to not let my weight define my worth as a teacher.

Two years ago I had a beautiful baby boy, who was born through a very difficult C-section. The emotional and physical trauma of his birth, along with the havoc wreaked on my body by breastfeeding and sleep deprivation and constant care of a little one added new layers of complexity to my relationship to my own body.

When my babe started sitting up, I started going to the gym, both to get a break (my gym offers childcare) but also to begin to exercise a measure of control on my out-of-control mama life and mama body.I tried to cut back on sugar, to count calories. I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to look the way I wanted to feel as a mama: competent, sure of myself, at ease, at peace. Trying to manufacture those feelings from the outside in was a losing battle from the first step I took on the treadmill.

By the time I read Vivienne’s piece I was ready to be done with it. Her writing resonated with me so deeply because the shift had already began to happen within me. A little voice started whispering in my ear.

What if you chose foods based on how they make you feel, not on how they might make you look?

What if you chose movement because of how it makes you feel, not on how it might make you look?

That little voice sounded nothing short of revolutionary.

I could sense a new day dawning in my relationship with my body, one rooted in freedom and feeling good in my own skin. I intuited that if I felt good from the inside out, I’d feel a whole lot better about how I look on the outside.

And then, something happened. I got pregnant.

Since I teach prenatal yoga, I know how for many women pregnancy is a time fraught with body issues, especially since so many OBs place undue importance on weight gain. But for me, pregnancy, especially the second time around, when there are fewer unknowns, and less anxiety, was wonderfully freeing.

All of a sudden, decisions became exquisitely simple. What I ate, and how much, how and when I moved my body were no longer in service of a dubious weight-loss goal but were all about gaining strength and health for my baby and myself.

When I say simple, I don’t mean easy. With the constant seasick feeling of the first trimester and its peculiar food fetishes and aversions, it was still pretty tricky to figure out what to eat. But what felt freeing was to no longer be concerned with how such-and-such a food would make me look, rather I was responding to deeper internal instincts of what would make me feel good.

Pregnancy is a long journey, weaving its way through various, radically different landscapes. What felt like freedom and confidence in the early days after finding out I was pregnant turned into misery and exhaustion and eating nothing but cereal (the only thing that made me feel good) in the thick of the first trimester. Add to that a hamstring injury and a nasty 24-hour stomach bug and the second trimester wasn’t off to that great a start either.

Now 6 months in, with my pelvis feeling like it’s going to split in half at any moment and wicked Braxton-Hicks contractions squeezing my belly every time I try to go for a walk, I’m not moving as much as I’d want to be and, um, Cadbury Creme Eggs are back in stores. I am not the glowing picture of pregnancy health one would wish to be. But I’m not that bad, either. Spring is upon us here in Central Texas and it’s time for green smoothies and salads again, and for spreading one’s toes in the sunshine. Once again, I can feel an inner shift.

And on a deeper level, still that small potent voice is speaking into my ear. How do you want to feel? How do you want to feel? Danielle Laporte writes that “knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have.” I want to feel healthy, alive, energetic, whole, beautiful, sexy. I want to feel vibrant. And I feel that one of the lessons of this pregnancy is to let the inner clarity of that desired feeling inform and motivate my choices when it comes to nourishment, movement, rest, and self-care, instead of being influenced by the elusive goal of a sleeker outward appearance.

Are all my body issues miraculously resolved? Hardly. But I feel like I am moving into a phase of deeper acceptance, inspired by this question: How do I want to feel? I want to feel at peace with the way I look and invested in generating my core desired feeling of vibrancy. I want to feel love and gratitude for my body, for its ability to conceive, bear, bring forth and sustain life. For the pleasure it brings me, and brings my husband. For the comfort it brings my toddler. For the strong and smooth way it flows through a vinyasa. For its glorious ability to enjoy a light breeze, a warm ray of sunshine, the tickle of grass on my toes. For the way it carries me, grounds me to the earth, and bears my head in the direction of the stars.

Fanny Priest is a yoga teacher and writer. She is the mama of one little boy, and is expecting a second child in 2013. She lives in Central Texas, and blogs about motherhood and mindfulness at MamaHereNow.com.


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