Anna Lee Beyer had lived nearly 40 years in her body before she discovered something very important about it: She’s good at yoga. While that may not seem like much of a revelation at first, the new mom says she had always counted herself out because of her weight.
“I don’t look like anyone you’ve ever seen posing in Yoga Journal or on Gaiam TV, but I’m good at it,” she writes in her essay for XO Jane, How I Learned That Being Thin is Not a Requirement For Being Good at Yoga.
“Every body, in every shape and size, has its quirks,” she continues, “but I’ve given up excuses like, ‘That looks hard,’ or ‘I’ll feel silly.’ The hard poses make me feel triumphant; the silly ones release emotional tension and check my ego.”
I too have talked myself out of things or minimized what I could do, because I thought my body wasn’t “right.” (Whatever that even means!) But the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized that our bodies are amazing creations, no matter what shape and size they come in and I’m capable of so much more than I think.
Sadly, Anna and I aren’t the only ones to limit ourselves based on tired stereotypes and low self-esteem. I hear it all the time in the gym: “I could never do step class, I’m too uncoordinated!” “I can’t do Zumba, I have two left feet!” “I can’t lift weights, I’d drop them on myself!”
Yes you can.
Sometimes we just need someone to give us the permission to try. It’s OK to try and fail — that’s how we learn and get better! — but I think you’ll find you can do more than you ever dreamed. So here you go, permission to let go of these worries about your body:
1. You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga
Can’t touch your toes? So what? Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not about doing the splits upside down or balancing on one toe or any other pose that looks like it belongs in a circus or Fifty Shades of Grey. Yoga is about connecting to your body, as simple as that. You have a body, you can do yoga.
2. You don’t have to be fast to run
One of the first times I went running with a running group, a woman told me, “Anything slower than 9-minute miles is jogging, not running.” I definitely wasn’t running that fast yet and I started the class feeling like I didn’t belong. But years later I’ve learned that you’re a runner if you love to run. You don’t have to be fast, you don’t have to go far, you just have to run.
More: ‘Fat girl’ challenges runners’ stereotypes
3. You don’t have to have rhythm to dance
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people comment while watching a dance aerobics class, “I could never do that, I have no rhythm.” While that might be true for the Rockettes, trust me when I say your average Zumba class is not made up of former pro cheerleaders and dance teachers. You don’t need rhythm or a grasp of choreography to dance for fun, you just need the desire to learn. (Also, a willingness to be silly helps too!)
4. You don’t have to be strong to lift weights
Ladies, we lift weights to get stronger. We don’t wait until we’re strong to venture onto the weight floor. It sounds so simple yet many women are scared to try lifting weights because they’re afraid they won’t know what they’re doing and hurt themselves. In the end, lifting weights is just about picking stuff up and putting it back down. Technique helps but start small and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The more tough chicks in the world, the more we all benefit.
5. You don’t have to be coordinated to do Pilates
Whether you’re worried about falling off the step in aerobics, tripping over the ropes in boot camp or not knowing how to suck in your core and lift your legs during Pilates, you can let that go. Because the truth is that everyone messes up sometimes. Coordination, agility and balance don’t come naturally to most people and so the people you see who are nailing it have likely been practicing for a long time.
6. You don’t have to be thin to do what you love
This one may be the most important item on the list. You don’t have to be skinny, ripped, young, beautiful or in any other way resemble a fitness model to enjoy moving your body. I believe everyone can find an exercise that they enjoy doing. And in the end it’s not looking beautiful that allows you to do what you love — it’s doing what you love that makes you beautiful!
Have your body insecurities ever held you back from doing something you love?