friendship

'How yoga helped me love my bigger body.'

I remember vividly the moment my ballet teacher said, “Rachel, you have no grace.” I was eight, embarrassed, but not surprised.

When I looked at my ballet classmates, I knew the painful truth: my body didn’t look like theirs.

So with my less-graceful body, I went down the athletic road, diving into two seasons of soccer a year and basketball in the winter. Despite an active life, weight from an early age became my problem.

By the age of 12, I was already seeing a nutritionist who insisted I track everything I ate. I was afraid to write “water” down – was I even allowed to have that?

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Rachel Estapa. Image via @Rachelestapa.

After a few months with little change despite following a regimented plan, I remember my father saying, “Rachie, you don’t need to worry about all this, OK? Just keep moving.”

All through my teen years, I played active sports, and my body type was more suited to the rough-and-tumble they required.

On the field, I was a rock. It was one of the only places I felt my larger body did me well. But off the field, I just wanted to feel graceful.

For years I looked at yoga with curiosity, but reservation. Ingrained was my shame of being too stocky, too big, for the more refined arts. (Post continues after gallery.)

My first yoga class was terrible. I couldn’t keep up, I slipped my hands off the mat, I felt exhausted, and I certainly didn’t experience a shred of grace. But I returned, week after week.

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Despite echoes of ballet class, of embarrassment, something deeper inside began to emerge: maybe I just needed to make yoga work for my body, not the other way around.

I was often the largest woman in the room, but off the mat, I was welcoming in my own revolution of body acceptance. I decided to feel more committed to my own well-being than to a number on a scale. As I went deeper into yoga, I went deeper into the connection with my body.

Today, yoga is one of the only times during the day where I’m completely attuned to the present moment. I move with power, dynamism, strength, and intention – I allow my body to lead and flow naturally, gracefully. I rest at the end peacefully and a bit more whole than when I arrived.

Through practicing yoga in a bigger body, I found not just grace but poise, calm, strength, compassion, empathy, humour, resilience, community, and hope. Every time I step onto my mat, I practice the more important grace of loving and accepting.

"Every time I step onto my mat, I practice the more important grace of loving and accepting." (Image via Instagram/Rachelstapa)
“Every time I step onto my mat, I practice the more important grace of loving and accepting.” Image via @Rachelestapa.

Yoga isn’t some fad for me or a way to stay fit. Yoga is my personal space — it’s sacred to me. It’s where I’ve learned what Rachel’s version of grace means, and I carry that knowledge with me even off the mat.

I’m a big yogini, and a gracefully powerful one too.

Why do you love yoga?

This article was originally posted on Huffington Post. Read the original article here.

Rachel Estapa, founder of More to Love, works to educate and empower plus size women to apply body acceptance to their daily lives. She is a certified life coach, writer, body-positive activist, social entrepreneur, and was recently named one of the Best New Faces With Big Ideas by the Boston Globe. In June, she is studying at the renown Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. To learn more, visit www.moretolovewithrachel.com

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