Day six everyone. Day six of my 30-day yoga challenge with You Tube star, Adriene Mishler, and today is the day I've been dreading. Why? Because today's theme was 'Kindle'. Still why? Because I know (having been inviting Adriene into my living room for many a morning over the past couple of years) that day six is traditionally all about 'six pack abs' (shudders).
I also know that the lovely Adriene's approach is a far cry from the harder, faster, stronger, insanity-style madness that you might see in body blitz gyms or overpriced DVD compendiums. Thank. God. She's all about becoming centred as you get stronger, and being grateful for your body no matter what stage it is at. Yes, it's ok to want to be strong and fit, but not at the expense of missing out on the experience as it unfolds or tapping into that kindness towards yourself.
So, like I've been practicing since the year dot, today I smiled at my bulging belly and stroked it gently before I began my yoga sesh in the partial peace and quiet of my spare room (the Lads had commandeered the living room and taken over the TV - that's what I get for hauling my ass out of bed at 10am).
As I eased into extended child's pose (which is supposed to be joyful and restorative), I was unhappily confronted with the way my belly hangs down and almost touches the ground. I remembered years ago, doing the exact same pose in a yoga class and confiding in my teacher that I couldn't bear to look at my belly whilst doing this. I remember it because I was pleasantly surprised by her response. Whilst I'd expected her to say something typically 'yogic' along the lines of: You must smile at and accept your body in whatever form it comes. Instead she said plainly: "Why don't you close your eyes?"
So I closed my eyes and listened to Adriene's instructions. All the while knowing that gravity was helping my belly hang loose and low, but also knowing that if closing my eyes helped me work on my tendency to judge myself too harshly and miss the sensation of the moment, then so be it.
The rest of the practice consisted of a pretty tricky gate variation, some difficult but mindful mountain climbers and a good few planks thrown in for good measure. And although the fire in my belly was, without a doubt, being 'kindled', I did notice the distinct lack of any kind of back-breaking, neck-crunching, soul-destroying sensations. In fact, my back, neck and shoulders felt 100% better than they had when I'd hobbled into the spare room not twenty minutes before. I was certain my abs (they were in there somewhere) would ache tomorrow, but for now I felt lighter and brighter and pretty damn chuffed with myself.
Towards the end of this splendid experience, Adriene got me to lie on my back and rub my 'sweet belly' in a circular motion to give it some love. It was as if she'd known, all along, what emotional baggage I was bringing to this. Then she observed, quite rightly, that this area of the body does tend to receive some 'strange and interesting attention . . . sucking in, buttoning up, negativity'. And she suggested that we all (not just me, but the millions of other You Tube followers she has) owe it to ourselves to lead by example and help shift the way we 'see' this part of the body. Honestly, if I hadn't been otherwise engaged in an open-kneed savasana I would have totally high-fived the telly.
So, in a metaphorical high-five for Miss Mishler and everybody else out there who needs to give their belly some love, here is a loving picture of my belly, in all its saggy glory (excuse the age-old tattoo). And if you don't like what you see, do what I do - close your eyes and pay attention to what's going on.
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