No one comes to yoga because his or her lives are perfectly put together. Being human is a messy task and suffering is part of living. When I first started taking yoga classes I was suffering, and as a result I always felt a little guilty, like I was trying to get away with something.
Everyone is familiar with the commodified version of yoga by now. It’s sold in the package of a 20 to 30-something year-old woman, with the socially-deemed perfect body dressed in $100 + yoga apparel and performing some impossible looking acrobatics—all while looking unquestionably at peace.
I looked nothing like that woman.
Let’s be clear: that woman does not exist. That woman is not yoga. Of course, when I started my yoga journey almost 20 years ago, I did not know that. I wanted to be her. I wanted to look like her and exist in the world just as I imagined she must.
Externally my 5 ft. frame, regardless of what it weighed, was never going to fit the image I believed it must become in order to be a true yogi. And internally, I was struggling with a number of demons including anxiety and PTSD.
Recently Rachael Shultz, a writer at Women’s Health Magazine, reached out to me to find out more about my yoga journey and the transformation I’ve experienced from my practice. She asked about featuring my story on the Women’s Health Magazine site. My initial reaction was, “What an honor!” I was so touched to have the opportunity to share my experience with their readership. Then came the task of telling the story.
I did not expect the experience to be as difficult as it was. I have shared my personal story with many friends, and I have even posted openly about my experience with sexual assault on my personal FB page, but sharing my story publicly was terrifying. I second-guessed my decision no less than 100 times before it was published and even considered asking Rachael not to run it.
The fears that plagued me included:
- What if the story hurts my career?
- What if it affects the way my peers view me?
- Could it be used against me in the future somehow?
- Will I lose credibility as a professional?
But every time I thought about writing Rachael my mind was drawn to a card I drew the very first day of my yoga teacher training at Love Hive Yoga almost two months ago. It had a single word written on it: Authenticity.
I keep it on my meditation alter where I can see it every day. When I drew the card I didn’t know how it applied to my training, but now realize how important living authentically is. Leading an authentic life is key to being the best version of yourself, living freely, and being able to offer up your most precious gifts.
This was my opportunity to be my most authentic self, which is important because the most vulnerable parts of my personal story are key to the transformative moments on my yoga path and the true story of my yoga journey.
Having the opportunity to look back on my journey was just what I needed to reinvigorate my passion for the study of yoga and propel me toward my dream of teaching women, just like me, the practice.
While sharing my story with Rachael and then waiting for it to be published was difficult and frightening, I’m so happy with how it turned out. If you are interested in finding out what my experience was like and getting some tips for your own practice, please take a moment to read my story here.
Then go get on your mat.
November 14, 2017
Annette Benedetti struggled with panic attacks and negative body image before finding peace on the mat.