Can I admit something? I go to the gym almost every single day. I squat and deadlift and lunge until I’m so sore, I cry using the bathroom the next day. I curl and burpee and rep and sweat, and I keep going back for more. I’m a mom who works out.
But I don’t always do it for the right reasons.
Although I have always exercised and worked out, my motivation behind it has pretty much been the same: to try to escape my body. When I was training for a half-marathon, I would put on my music and just run, willing the postpartum rolls I was sporting to disappear by the time I got back. When I am squatting, I can forget just for an hour, how for the rest of the day, I’ll avoid looking in the mirror at all costs.
The truth is, I hate my body and have used exercise as a way to escape it.
I know as moms, we’re supposed to love and appreciate the bodies that gave life and nourished little people, blah, blah, blah. But can we be real? That’s not always easy. So much of motherhood is sacrificing at the most basic level; that doesn’t always leave time for appreciating the scraps, scars, and stretch marks that are left after all that giving.
And my efforts to love my body by taking care of it have been a bit misguided. Instead of facing what I have, I turned to heavy exercise in the hope that it would take my body out of the equation completely. Every time I squatted, lifted a dumbbell, or did a burpee, I was escaping what I saw as a flawed body. So exercise, for me, has become a way of mentally and physically “checking out” out.
Yoga has always been one of those things I “should” do, as a never-ending “I’ll get to it one of these days” to-dos. I think I put it off for so long because I knew deep down what it really meant. Yoga represented finally making peace with my body, instead of punishing it with a barbell on my back. It meant being fully present with, and in my body. And that’s not an easy task for someone who’s spent 30 years trying to forget their body even exists.
I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in my body image struggles. I’m not the only mom who dreads shopping because she hates trying to find clothes and looking in the mirror. I’m not the only mom who’s never felt comfortable in her own skin. I’ve envied people like dancers or gymnasts, who seem to truly be “free” in their bodies.
I can say without a doubt, that while all of my previous forms of exercise were a way to forget my body for even an hour, yoga forces me to be fully in it. It’s forced me to get to know my body, face all the issues I have with it, and learn to check in with every nook, cranny, and ugly part I’ve been avoiding for so long. And It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s maddening, and I still can’t believe how being “still” is harder than squatting 250 pounds, but it totally is.
My yoga practice is nothing glamorous, let’s be clear. I’m a true beginner who falls with every balance pose. I grunt and sweat when other people seem to levitate. I don’t look “zen” in the least bit, and I’m not practicing in some idyllic studio with candles lit and tranquil music playing with an ocean lapping outside. I’m taking the most basic steps in establishing my regular yoga practice (hello, free YouTube videos in my basement while my preschooler climbs on my back). But the point is, I’m finally taking those steps.
I’m a little embarrassed that it took the tragedy of miscarriage for me to finally stop the stress-fueled life I had been living, but I’m grateful for finally listening to that small whisper inside that’s been questioning what I’m running from, and begging me to slow down a little.
And for now, I am here on a yoga mat, getting to know the body I have today. It’s not the body I have always been kind to and it’s definitely not a body I have always appreciated, but it’s the body I am living in that has loved and lost, nourished life, and let it go. Here, on my mat, I’m done running; ready to forgive and love my body — maybe for the first time ever.
Thanks to a few downward-facing dogs, a whole lot of vinyasas, and more than a couple awkward headstand attempts, I’m finally learning what it means to be truly present within myself. You could say it’s the ultimate introduction to my mom bod — and it’s about damn time.