I was always insecure about my body. A good percentage of my conversations were spent dissecting a celebrity’s favorite features and imagining them on my body. In hindsight, I could have probably found a better use of my time. Still, how many of us have done this? I’d kill for Cameron Diaz’ legs! I wish there was such a thing as a fat transplant so I could donate mine! Sound familiar? While I went to gyms to try to improve myself–I never stuck with it. For one thing, I found traditional strength training tedious. This led me to look for other means of getting fit. I tried everything from flag football to fencing. They were alright but they didn’t pull at my heartstrings. I needed something I could develop on my own, versatile, and something that transforms me as a whole. I was looking for my Ikigai, my reason for being.
Which first begged the question, What did I want to be? There’s no genie that can make me have my dream body. I had to make the most of what I had. I am petite in height with curvy features. I have some ballet and dance training which made me more flexible and coordinated but I was about 30 lbs. overweight according to health standards. Lastly, I had no endurance. What could I realistically do if I started with these features? Yoga. it ticked all the boxes for me. I could improve on my strengths and slowly work on my flaws. It worked. I fell in love with it as a form of physical and mental exercise. I tried different types of yogic disciplines as well. Ashtanga, Bikram and Vinyasa. Finally, I chose vinyasa for it’s variety and closeness to dance. Then came aerial yoga. I get to fly too? SOLD! Within 3 years into my practice, I decided to change my day job. From English teacher to Vinyasa and Aerial yoga teacher in one fell swoop.
Why am I telling you this? What makes my story relevant to yours? I want you to know what happens when you find your passion practice. Obviously your body will change or you’ll drop a size or two. Perhaps there’s more to it than just fitting into clothes. What if finding your flow shows your yellow brick road; only the wizard is you? In this article, I will present you with some of the amazing things that happened to me when I found my thang in yoga and the aerial arts in hopes that through my example–you set out to find yours. Sounds good? Let’s get to it!
What Happens When You Find Your Passion Project ?
Aesthetic is fleeting, skill last.
I have wide shoulders and big arms. All my life I wanted dainty ballerina arms that made you look delicate in a sleeveless shirt. I thought that circus training and vinyasa would give me that. It did in a way. I got stronger as my body moved more fluidly, the best part was that I loved myself a little bit more everyday. In place of “look at me.” I said “look what I can do!” . Within 3 months, I noticed my clothes getting baggier, I had a need to shop for extra small, and I received more attention; but they were all reduced to byproducts of my hard work. I learned how to fly! How many people can say that? Fast forward to today, We are in the middle of a pandemic. My body has changed again. I lost my once athletic build in place of a little more adipose tissue where my muscles once were. What remains is my knowledge, my muscle memory, and I know that if I went up there again–I will soar as I’ve always done.
Your body will change and that's ok!
I remember a conversation with a friend over taking up indoor climbing. She said that she wanted to take up climbing but she didn’t want to end up too muscular. I thought, What does it even mean to be too muscular? Why are we so afraid of how our bodies will evolve when we undertake anything? It’s our body’s job to adapt. When we dance our bodies become svelte, when we lift heavy our muscles grow, when we have a desk job, we gain padding in our rears. Our bodies will adapt to our primary activity. As it should. The moment this process halts, it’s called atrophy. When I started with Lyra, silks and aerial sling, one of the first things I noticed was a ripped upper back. My mom called me Schwarzenegger when I showed her my videos. Knowing that I always wanted a lithe body should have compelled me to find a more suitable discipline. Instead, I wore my transformation proudly because this new build allowed me to progress in my abilities. Your body will change. Maybe into what you’ve always wanted, maybe into something different but trust me whatever the turnout, It will be beautiful because you found something you love.
Your perspective on food will change.
As I developed, my body required a different type of sustenance. I studied nutrition, superfoods, and healthy supplementation to keep up with my advancement. I lived healthier without even realizing it. I learned how to optimize my nutritional intake so I could spend more time in the air. Tweaking my habits to maintain my sport made more improvements on my body than any diet. Neither was it a drastic lifestyle change. I simply added on to my eating habits little by little as I got to know my body in a more athletic light. I started with increasing my water intake. After 2 weeks I started packing bananas before class because I heard potassium improved grip strength and dexterity. After which I addressed the muscle soreness by taking more protein and less carbs. I only corrected my intake, every time I needed to address a performance issue. To this day, I apply the same principles. Since the pandemic, I couldn’t train as much.I also went through a few issues with my health which is another story for another day. Nevertheless, the knowledge I acquired helped me even through this transition period. I managed to maintain my health by eating right during the lockdown and nothing can take that away.
You become more organized.
When you develop a practice you love, you find a way to make it work. When you’re not that into something, you make an excuse. I had my teaching as a day job, my blog and writing projects, my physical practice as well as a personal life. My schedule was very much like a plate spinning act. Still, If I wanted to have it all, I had to make it work. I conceptualized a daily agenda. I had to factor in my peak energy levels to practice and write, my meals, most importantly my mad dash to the studio for classes until 9 pm. I was knackered everyday but it was with purpose and that made it exhilarating. Routines became a comfort instead of a bore. Adding something to your daily life takes commitment. Your day-to-day will go topsy-turvy for a spell. What did you expect from going out of your comfort zone? Will it be difficult? Yes at first. Will it be worth it? Only one way to find out.
You start caring for yourself.
Between all the time management, changing my diet, taking my discipline to the next level, I became a better version of myself. I learned to say “no” when something didn’t serve me; which was no easy feat since I’m a perpetual people pleaser. I let go of people who fed my insecurities in lieu of support. I also became a better instructor because I taught from both an educator’s capacity coupled with a student’s perspective. When you find fulfillment in something, you start doing away with complications. Simply for the realization that you don’t need them anymore. Think of it as Konmari for the soul. Suddenly you shop less and invest more, your time takes precedent, and your friends will be reduced to a chosen few. Temptation becomes a non-issue because you are well-fed. In my case, I was building a brand from my main interest. This meant protecting it from potential saboteurs was key. From there my life’s spring cleaning followed because I ultimately saw my value.
You will make connections with people like you.
When you fall in love with a craft, the desire to search for more knowledge grows exponentially. You’ll find yourself collecting books, seeking workshops near and far, meeting like-minded individuals for you to have those never-ending shoptalk conversations, all enriching your horizons as you seek them out. You come out of your shell and form bonds of friendships stronger than you have imagined. I started out as the shy non-Spanish speaker in a circus school in Madrid. Eventually I discovered that many English speakers wanted to learn the aerial arts just like me. They wanted a mix of circus arts and yoga so I conceptualized an exclusive aerial yoga class in English. Things took off from me from there. My students led me to Aerial dance festivals, online schools for continuing education and Facebook groups that kept me connected with these wonderful artists from around the globe. It all happened much faster than I thought. Now I can say that I have a global circle of friends that keep my ear on the ground for anything new. Making new connections after you rid yourself of nay-sayers is a fantastic start to finding your place in the sun.
You become your own cheerleader.
Getting to know your inner athlete is also about knowing your limitations at the edge of each milestone you overcome. I remember every time I had to learn a new flip that sends my life flashing before my eyes, I went through several hard lessons before I got there. As much as my peers can give me all the tips from their playbook, that ‘aha’ moment was mine alone to make. It wasn’t like the movies where the scene cuts to a montage and you come out swinging. You will feel the full force of your injuries–to your ego or otherwise. There will be times where you go home with tale between legs and others where you will feel akin to Rocky Balboa. Yet all these moments won’t come to pass if you don’t condition yourself to keep coming back to your training. For me, this was the hardest part of my practice. It was about vanquishing your worst enemy everyday. How do you do it? By being kind to yourself. Affirmations, daily doses of positivity and motivation are essential for your daily routine. Soon enough, you will believe your own words. From there you will shine at everything you set out to do.
As cliche as this sounds, Finding yourself is a journey. Discovering what you want, the path to get there, and choosing to keep true to that road everyday is part of it. This article was created so that I could present you with what you gain along the way. Improved self perception, kindness to yourself, maybe even a place to belong. It’s not easy, it’s never-ending, still, everything you pass will stay with you forever.
If there was ever something you’ve always wanted to try. It doesn’t matter how unprofitable or seemingly useless it may be. Do it! You’ll be surprised how often it will come in handy.
Cheers Misfit Yogis!