All photography by Jo Eckler
I envision a world of peace. Peace within. Laying down the harsh words and cruel deeds we inflict on our bodies and spirits. I envision people rediscovering the joy of movement, the power of breath, the sound of their own voice. I envision stillness and deep rest being given their due. I envision you, taking the time and energy you used to use to diminish and degrade yourself and turning it towards creating a life full of beauty, ease, joy, and greatness.
I have never been thin. I was not born with the long sleek limbs of a professional dancer. My chest was too big to comfortably swing a bat or pull back a bow; my feet developed plantar fasciitis which prohibited me from running. Yet, something in me yearned to move. I threw myself into weightlifting and aerobics, diligently measuring myself each week and collecting numbers that would tell me if I was good or bad. I counted fat grams and Weight Watchers points. I prayed at night that somehow parts of my thighs would be gone in the morning. I have never not had my thighs rub together. I despaired.
I finally found hatha yoga and practiced at home with videos, feeling too big and nervous to set foot in a yoga studio. I did this for years, along with aerobics and dancing in my living room, finding some level of peace with my body. And then, mysteriously, the pain started. The intense fatigue. Feeling like I constantly had the flu. The left side of my body going numb, burning in my sacrum. After a slew of doctor's offices and tests, I was told I had fibromyalgia, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and spondylothesis with a bonus cyst. I was told I was not allowed to twist (nor to do backbends, although this was later changed by my third physical therapist). I collapsed as much as I could given my already collapsed state. Couch. Sweatpants. Novel. Popcorn. Repeat. I gave up on everything for quite a while. Heck, I had already left graduate school with an extra hundred pounds hand-crafted from depression, lack of sunlight, and comfort foods. It wasn't tough to slide back into that state again.
But something in me refused to quit for long. I found my body would only allow me the tiniest of tiny steps at first--five minutes of slow pedaling on the recumbent bike, gentle walking in the pool, my PT exercises. Over the course of a few years, tiny movement by tiny movement, I built myself up to greater stamina. I discovered ecstatic dance/Five Rhythms, which allowed me to learn new ways of moving around my injuries and reopened joy. I was led to Kundalini yoga by a doctor, and finally took that step into a yoga studio, where I found a patient teacher who found modifications for me. Building on that, I stretched further, kayaking and hiking at times, daring to enroll in reformer Pilates at (gasp!) the ballet school in town, taking weekend-long dance workshops. I was encouraged to and enrolled in Kundalini yoga teacher training.
Then, as we with chronic health issues tend to do, I crashed. Slowly I allowed stress and life and work to come between myself and all the ways I cared for my body and soul. This time I recognized it faster and am working my way--slowly!--back again, this time with new challenges of neuropathy, dysautonomia, and autoimmune disease. Healing is a spiral path indeed.
I thought for a long while that I needed to be perfect in myself before I could teach anyone anything. That I had to be perfectly emotionally stable and healed before I could be a psychologist. That I had to be perfectly fit and trim and enlightened to teach yoga. That I had to be athletic and strong to dance and help others find their dance. These are all mirages, no matter how solid a roadblock they may appear to be. I'm here to tell you--it's all possible. YOU are possible. I know. I've been there, and I'm there with you. Let's do this!