Kathryn’s strong arms hold her steady during yoga poses. (Photo: kathrynbudig.com)
International yoga teacher Kathryn Budig is known for her ability to make yoga accessible and playful through her teaching and writings. Below are excerpts from her new book Aim True: Love Your Body, Eat Without Fear, Nourish Your Spirit, Discover True Balance, out in March 2016 but available to preorder now. (Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers.)
A strong body comes in all different shapes, forms, colors, and sizes. I
know this, as I teach and see thousands of different body types, all capable of amazing and strong postures and transitions. Most people struggle with some aspect of their body image — whether they openly admit it or not. I’ve struggled myself on and off for years, and have learned so much through the highs and lows. I’m a yoga teacher living in the midst of the health world, who doesn’t possess the typical “yoga body.” I’m not tall, long, and lean. I’m five-foot-two, incredibly driven and strong, and possess a body that isn’t prone to getting super lean. Honestly, I feel like I would have thrived in the Botticelli era but seem to be short a time machine, so I love myself as I am in this current time and place.
I’ve always been praised for my “normal” body. In fact, my first big photo spread in a mainstream magazine was given to me because of that. The photo shoot was focusing on several challenging arm balances, which I happened to be particularly good at. These yoga postures required ample strength, and they loved the fact that I could do these postures with a smile on my face. A compliment is a compliment, and I’ll always accept one with a receptive “thank you,” but what is a normal body, anyway? I was 24 at the time; I practiced yoga for two hours a day and ate incredibly clean — I can’t say that’s the most normal of lifestyles, yet it was mine at the time. People kept commenting on how normal and real I was. I said my thank-yous, but thought, Wow. Good thing I work out as much as I do, and eat as well as I do, or my “normal” body would be a train wreck.
Flash forward to my 30s: I don’t have the luxury to practice daily for two hours, and still eat clean but have learned how to find a good balance in life. My current popular compliment is “You’re so brave! I love that you’re the curvy girl in yoga! It’s so great to see a person who clearly likes to eat! Wow, I love that you’re OK with showing your belly.”
Brave? I thought brave people battled monsters, not posed to be
photographed having fun in a bikini.
It can feel virtually impossible to peacefully exist when the world is constantly throwing out labels — curvy, skinny, slender, athletic, round, normal, etc. Some people are praised for being thin, then called anorexic the next moment, while others are being celebrated as “real,” then critiqued for being too big.
People love to judge, and there’s an unfortunate power in labeling another person, as it seems to take some of the pressure off of the person delivering the slam. “If I can find flaws in you, it alleviates the flaws in me.” It might make someone temporarily feel better to pick out what’s “wrong” with someone else (think gossip magazines and all the fashion faux pas), but ultimately it’s a way of deflecting pain instead of dealing with your real emotions about yourself.
So what can we do? Start simple and stop labeling each other. Things like pant size, hair color, and body type hold no weight over the bigger picture. Drop the judgments and see people for their character and energy they give off into the world. Challenge yourself to let up on the judging of others so you can get to what really matters — learning to accept and love yourself as you are.