How Yoga Helps Me Love and Accept My Bodies

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The first time I was told my body wasn’t good enough, I was six years old. My mother was braiding my hair alongside her sister, who was braiding my cousin’s hair. She had long, black, shiny ringlets hanging down her back. I hardly had enough sandy-brown, spongy fuzz sitting on my head to catch and braid to my scalp.

My mama looked over at my cousin’s hair and said to no one and everyone at the same time, “I don’t know why this child ain’t got more hair than she do on her head. I had hair swingin’ down my back and her daddy had a headful of thick curls.” I looked over at my cousin and she stuck her tongue out at me and mouthed, “baldheaded African booty scratcher.” I didn’t even know what an African-booty-scratcher was, but I knew it wasn’t something to be proud of.

It wasn’t meant to make me feel pretty or accepted. It made me feel like I was something other than what my mama wanted, and that hurt more than anything.

After leaving home, attending college, getting married, having children, and becoming a householder in my own right, I decided it was time to break the cycle of mothers making their daughters feel as if they aren’t enough. Like they have to do or become something other than who and what they are to be worthy of unconditional love. It was my desire to give that to my three daughters, and that led me on my own journey to self-love and acceptance.

My body had gone through so many changes after carrying and passing three souls into being. I was surprised I could even recognize myself when I dared to look in the mirror. I was in the thick of being a working-outside-the-home-mom. Living it up in suburb-a-hell, driving a minivan to cart children to after school activities, grabbing food on the go, spending money I didn’t have, and burning a candle that had no wick or wax. By the time I stopped long enough to take stock of my body, it had become riddled with disease and broken by excessive weight.

It was during the height of my own self-destruction that I was reminded – and not too subtly – that the physical body is simply a vessel designed to house and act as a conduit for the essential, infinite self. I was also reminded – very rudely in my opinion – that like any container, my physical body is expendable; not necessary for the continuance of my essential being. Hmmm. That made me sit down. Be still. Listen to whatever was doing all of this reminding and pay attention to what was being shared with me.

During the first three years following the diagnosis of lupus, fibromyalgia, narcolepsy w/cataplexy, Sjogren’s, Raynaud’s, and chronic migraine syndrome, I learned several truths about my body(ies).

I’ve been living with all these diseases within my physical body for the last eight or eighteen years (pretty sure they were present during my early twenties) and yet, I have never looked as amazing as I do right now. When I got sick, I weighed 252 lbs, and today, I’m trim and fit at 155 lbs. Then, I lived with stress, anxiety, and fear. Now, I accept what is and practice gratitude as my religion. My physical body experiences untold pain, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction but because I feed and nurture my spiritual, mental, and emotional bodies, I’m able to ride the physical storms that attack what is expendable.

What led me to this overwhelming love and acceptance of my body was and is the practice of yoga.

Through the practice and study of yoga, I’ve come to love and appreciate all of my bodies for the amazing abilities they have to move in time and space. To be moved by compassion, hope, and bliss.

I’ve come to value my physical body’s desire to be whole and limber.

Even when it isn’t able to get out of bed, it stretches and contracts. It breathes without being reminded to do so, and in each breath, it lives an eternal moment.

I have learned to accept the limitations of my mental body.

I’ve always been an intellectual thinker, an erudite, but my mental body has been given the opportunity to learn new ways of thinking about thoughts. New ways of experiencing the world as a sentient part of my physical being.

It’s amazing how very pliable my brain is. Having narcolepsy with cataplexy is the trippiest thing in the world. I sleep when I’m still awake. I dream vividly and have the ability to not only recognize I’m dreaming but can control what happens in the dreams. My brain has the ability to bring what’s usually stuck in dreamscape into my waking reality…it’s not funny to see an eight-foot, winged demon with red scales and horns the size of small cars standing over your bed breathing smoke and fire into your face. Oh, and having no way to scream or move because even though I’m fully awake, my body is still in sleep paralysis. 

Tree Pose: Promotes grounding energy, strength, and vitality through connection with Earth, and the sky.

Then there’s the emotional body.

My emotional body is a hot stinking mess on the best days, and on the worst? Forget about it. I try to. Yoga has taught me to forgive myself my transgressions. I’m learning just because I’m on the Yogi path, doesn’t mean my husband and children won’t make me want to set them out on the curb from time to time.

Yoga is also teaching me to appreciate and listen to my emotional body, and not discount it because I’m a woman; attributing my moods to being hormonal. The emotional body is like the bumpers in the bowling alley; there to ensure I don’t go too far left or right and fall into the gutter. This body is sensitive to shifts in energies, moods, auras. I’ve learned to pay attention when this body takes center stage because, in this body, my sense of balance and contentment lives. From this body, I emote love, passion, compassion, anger, fear, and hope. I know that there are more emotions than those listed, but those are the ones I deal with the most.

The most amazing part of my yoga journey has been the confirmation of what my spiritual body has always known; has always shared with me.

Yoga training has confirmed for me that I am not separate from what created me, nor am I separate from those created by the same source. We are all here in this physical space to experience its wonders and through our collective experiences, the Universe shares therein. Prior to starting this journey, I started a podcast, Enchanted B.E.A.S.T. Podcast, as an extension of my writing platform. I wanted to attract women who would enjoy reading my contemporary romance with a decidedly spiritual undertone.

The podcast is my endeavor to raise feminine divine energy of creativity by encouraging women to connect with their enchanted Bold. Essential. Authentic. Spiritual. Truth., or their higher selves. My B.E.A.S.T. presents as a large black wolf with ice-blue eyes; she answers to Lillyth.

I didn’t expect to find so many connections within my life with my practice and study of yoga. However, the most profound connection I’ve made so far is how to appreciate, accept, and trust that all aspects of my body are working together for my highest good and will continue to move me toward my soul’s desire to enchant humanity by raising divine feminine energy through my creative endeavors.

What benefits have you discovered from doing yoga?

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Ella Shawn is a contemporary women's fiction writer with a fondness for complex characters and happily-ever-afters. She also produces a podcast aptly named, Enchanted BEAST Podcast where she elevates, encourages, and empowers women to connect with their higher self and live the enchanted lifestyle they deserve to live. And because she's a mommy of three beautiful daughters, she writes for a mommy blog once a month. If she's not writing, podcasting, or blogging; then you can probably find her sitting in her favorite chair with a ball of yarn, her wooden crochet hooks making something bohemian-inspired for her Etsy shop, Browns-n-Barnacles PCD. Ella married the boy she fell in love with during her senior year of high school. They started dating in 1992 and either they both were too lazy to look for other options or were lucky enough to find their happily-ever-after at the age of seventeen. Ella says it the enduring love she shares with her husband that allows her to write romance novels with hard-won HEAs. After developing systemic lupus erythematosus and narcolepsy w/cataplexy, she and her husband decided it was time for her to come home and learn how to live as healthy as possible with the new reality their family was now facing. It turned out to be a blessing, because a few years later, her youngest daughter developed two of the rarest neurological sleeping disorders in the world (Klein Levins Syndrome- a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty Disease and Sighted Non-24). Not only is Vickey able to be at home with her daughter while she attends South Carolina Virtual Charter School and when she goes into KLS episodes, she is also free to pursue her passion as a romance writer, podcaster, and blogger under the pen name; Ella Shawn. Her enchanted platform is an extension of her philosophy of living, loving, and evolving. She writes to gain understanding of the hard choices women often have to make. She endeavors to create enchanted spaces in which to disrobe and see the whole of who she is, and who she isn’t. Vickey shares her journey of self-discovery through writing romance novels, on her podcast, and in her blog. She loves connecting with women who enjoy seeing glimpses of their truth wrapped in sexy happily-ever-after’s. Vickey uses her platform to encourage women to reconnect with their true and essential selves. To cultivate and nurture spaces where they cease being simply women of flesh and bone and become Enchanted Beasts. When she’s not being Ella Shawn, or learning coach, or caregiver, or being taken care of… You may find her painting, crocheting, meditating, or sweating it out in a hot yoga class. But she’s a wild and free spirit who would be just as happy living in a converted van and tooling around the country—sleeping where she runs out of gas. Landing wherever she lands and meeting whoever she meets. However; she’s pretty sure her husband and children wouldn’t be willing to pack up and hit the road with her and, anyway—where would all the piggies go? So, she indulges her nomadic, bohemian spirit with planned travel, mother-cation weekends, and her ever-growing imagination.

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