Once Upon A Time: A Reflection on Body ImageOctober 5, 2015
The following blog post was contributed by YA author and yoga instructor, E. Katherine Kottaras. Kathy is deeply interested in the link between the contemplative and spiritual practices of yoga and meditation and the writing process, and how we move our words to express these personal quests and journeys.
Once upon a time, I hated my body.
Once upon a time, I was the girl picked last in gym, the girl who couldn’t keep up in ballet class, the girl who hated the way my body was shaped – it’s mostly round and soft around the middle with broad shoulders and short muscular limbs. Clothes didn’t look right one me, at least not in relation to the magazines I poured over.
Once upon a time, I was the child of parents who had to fight against their bodies. My father was a war veteran and a heart patient; he died when I was seventeen. All throughout my childhood, my mother fought against diabetes, gallbladder issues, heart failure, and ultimately, kidney disease; she died when I was thirty.
Once upon a time, I was an adult who started fighting against my own body. I restricted my diet, counted calories, attempted starvation, only to fall back into pints of ice cream; I joined gyms, hired trainers, hurt myself, pushed myself, only to find, even if the numbers moved on the scale, my body didn’t really change its shape and I still hated how I looked.
Once upon a time, I hated the way I felt.
And then, once upon a time, I found myself on a yoga mat. I don’t remember the very first day, but I do remember the feeling of that time, about eight years ago, when I first found my way to the local yoga studio and then found myself returning, weekly, then daily, and as much as I possibly could. I fell in love with the geometry of each pose, with sound of my breath, with the settling of my mind. When I was on my mat, moving through the asanas, breathing deeply in pranayam, settling into savasana – sometimes crying sweet tears of release – I felt a completely unfamiliar sensation; I was strong and whole and at peace with my body. Another strange thing happened as well: when I looked in the mirror, I no longer hated what I saw.
Once upon a time, I told myself stories about my body: stories about how it looks, how it’s supposed to look, how it’s supposed to feel. Once I committed to my yoga practice, I discovered beauty in my body, this one body, the one I was given and for which I am grateful.
I want to respect this gift, this poem, this story that is my body: this construction of elegance of the blood and the arteries, the lines, the muscles, the joints, the sometimes aches and pains, the varying degrees of curve, the breaks in the lines like those of a sonnet. I want to revel in it for I only have one: this one body.
My body contains many stories. The old stories are just that:
There are the stories of my childhood: the hurt, the fear, the insecurity. There are my parents’ stories –their wars, their illnesses, their battles, and defeat. These are not the stories I live with today. I have let them go now. I have settled into my body, with many thanks to the philosophy and tradition of yoga. This new story is mine: a yoga teacher, yes – but more so, a student of the mind, of the body, of love. That knowledge is mine now, too.
E. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, but now she writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine and teaches writing and literature at Pasadena City College. She is at her happiest when she is either 1) at the playground with her husband and daughter and their wonderful community of friends, 2) breathing deeply in a full handstand, or 3) writing.
Her debut novel, HOW TO BE BRAVE, launches November 3, 2015.