Tag Archives: yoga

When Releasing Body Shame Feels Like Letting Go of a Bad Relationship

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Crouching Cat. Photo by Kelsey Finkle.

Sometimes when I feel so disgusted with my body, I am reminded of what it’s like to be in a bad relationship. The kind where you walk on eggshells around each other and forget anything else can possibly exist. It’s the one you just can’t bear to part with because you are afraid. Self-loathing becomes your security blanket, where it’s all you know. It’s your default because it feels safe. Who knows what terrors could happen should you dare to toss the blanket aside and find a new one.

Just like walking away from a bad relationship, turning off the self hatred switch is easier said than done. It will be hard as fuck, will make you scared shitless, totally vulnerable, and naked to the world. At the same time, it is something you never regret and it is one of the best things you will ever do for yourself.

Consider the way you talk to yourself. Be completely honest – what are the kinds of things you say to or about yourself? It is not uncommon for most men and women to verbally self-abuse. Imagine if you started speaking this way to the people in your life. They wouldn’t tolerate it for one second.

We default to negative self-talk because somewhere along the way we learned it is bombastic or pompous to think we are attractive. We learned we are not entitled to have an honest, clear view on ourselves. We have to first go through a filter, after which point it is then appropriate to determine our worth. And even then, we still suck. We are conditioned to act this way because we have gone through years of training and so this paradigm is far easier to exist in than changing our ways.

In the exact same way, it becomes easy to fester in an unhealthy relationship. We get accustomed to the silence that speaks volumes. It is seemingly effortless to tweak who we are for the sake of pleasing someone else, while we know damn well this person is not serving us.

The negative self-talk does not serve us either. Who told you to determine your self worth based on whether or not you have a thigh gap? Or that stilettos are objectively sexier than birkenstocks? It’s time to erase their message from your mind, permanently. The way you would erase a voicemail from an ex-lover on an old answering machine, and then throw away the tape for good measure.

How do we begin to redefine beauty? How do we release old beliefs of what our body should look like? How do we make up our own body beautiful rules?

One thing we can do is choose an empowering modality, such as a postural practice like Bowspring, to connect with the body. Move in a nourishing manner. Whether you select yoga, zumba, running, or hiking, the movement is not for the sake of weight loss and changing who you are but instead to wake up to who you already are. We want to wake up the little light deep inside.

Find a modality to wake up and be present within the body you are given. When you move, embrace the shapes you create. The shapes are beautiful not because anybody else says so, but because you believe so.

If we always try to comply with certain rules and regulations about what we should look like, or a certain way we should behave, we will live in the drone of an unhappy relationship. Only this time the relationship is with ourselves. Changing habits and patterns is hard work, but much like walking away from that stifling relationship, it is worth the pain and the effort.

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BodyLoveCT video with lululemon athletica

Please join me for this very special event.

With Love,

Maggie

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From foundation, finding freedom in the body

How is it that we can be so cruel to ourselves that we wish we could chop off a handful of body fat?

I shot a short video this week for my upcoming workshops on body image. Lee, the videographer, had it all organized and planned out, she told me exactly what I needed to do. It couldn’t have gone smoother in that regard.

She prompted me to write down the good and the bad about my body. Both of which caused a different kind of dis-ease: I felt deeply saddened to see how easily I could conjure what I dislike and on the other hand slightly embarrassed or pompous for what I did like. Am I being bombastic by saying I’m damn sexy?FullSizeRender

Lee suggested we do a shot with me just in yoga pants and a bra. Sure thing! I’m comfortable practicing this way, so why not?

Before we shot I changed into a “better bra” – it made no difference but as I was pulling the black bra over my shoulders I realized I was doing this in an attempt to look slimmer. Oh my god. I stopped myself. I realized it made no difference which bra I chose or how I looked – what mattered was this internal dialog. This manipulation of my mind that I could care SO MUCH about which bra I wore for the shoot. Which bra would be more flattering to my tummy? Which bra would dig in the least on my back? This was what I was really looking for.

Now there were practical purposes: I wanted a black bra since the shoot was black & white and I thought that would read clearer on camera.

As I stood against the blank wall, holding my #BodyLove sign, belly exposed, Lee with camera in hand – I felt terribly uncomfortable. Lee asked me to smile. I thought “from where?” I felt like a lump standing in front of the camera. I felt like a TOTAL JOKE. I didn’t have this body image shit down at all!

But this is the reality of our relationships with our bodies: we are always going to have those moments, days even, where we can be really down on ourselves.

The last thing Lee had me do was a very brief yoga practice to get some movement shots. As I angled into side chair I could feel the little side rolls where my tummy and back meet. These rolls have been a sore spot for me. As a child I would look at myself in the mirror, tilt sideways and see how much fat I could gather in one hand. I wished I could cut it all off.

This time though, instead of hatred for the rolls, I had nothing but love and support.

It’s difficult to describe but this part of my body that I have tried for so long to make disappear is now one of my most favorite things about me. My perspective has completely shifted so that when in a side bend I feel the rolls building one on top of the other and like a solid foundation beneath a house, they hold my heart up. From foundation I find freedom.

When I stepped into my yoga practice during the shoot, I reconnected with my body. It felt like “Phew, OK, this is me. I am home.” I disconnected from the self-loathing thoughts and was able to transport myself to reveling in the shapes my body created. These shapes are unique to my body and mine alone.

The contrast is remarkable: between the judgement over the image I see in the mirror and that of feeling love for my body radiating from the inside out. It is such a full feeling that even the nastiest thought about my body can’t ever compete. A learning moment came from this video shoot which was to reinforce how powerful a yoga practice can be for appreciation and acceptance of our bodies.

When approached with an open mind and an open heart, the practice connects you with your body. This connection is pure and free from criticism, judgment, or hate. This connection is about love.

A deep thank you to Lee Tripler for her time and talent on the video shoot.
If you are local please check out my events page for information on the lululemon launch class & party (July 17) and a workshop at Catch a Healthy Habit (July 30).
#SummerofBodyLove

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It’s Safe to Feel What You Feel

2442995055_97a02d8124_z It was my second class this week at the eating disorder treatment center.

There was already a palpable tension as I walked in, like the feeling of seeing a someone hold a knife over someone’s chest the moment before a major surgery…you just don’t know what might happen.

A soft sobbing shape quietly whimpered.  Women filtered in to do yoga with heads hung low. The crook in their torsos and abdomens hinted at a deep dark secret concealed below the layers of uncomfortable skin and shame.

Arranging the women so everyone had their space, pillows, blocks, etc., I placed a kind hand on the shoulder of the crying woman. A gesture to ask “are you alright?”, and let her know “you’re going to be okay”.

As I settled in to teach, I had an urge to spill my guts to these these women.

Read the full piece on Elephant Journal by clicking here.

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Triggers: Our Bodies Speak Volumes

Chin up! Photo credit: Ellie Tonev

Chin up! Photo credit: Ellie Tonev

When I hear the word triggers I automatically think of my migraine triggers: stress, the weather, excessive heat, excessive cold, tomatoes, eggs, pork, nitrates, msg, to name a few.

But I never truly considered triggers in that the way in which I hold my body has profound affects on my emotional and psychological health. That when I spend my day with my chin down, shoulders slumped – let’s call it the “I GIVE UP” posture – well, I feel like fucking giving up.

I never considered these triggers until my teacher Tracy really took us down that path Saturday afternoon in Bowspring class. When we meditated on our triggers.

Bowspring (for me at least) is all about holding a steady posture where you feel both solid and light, sturdy and at ease, confident and at home in your own body. We hold the Bowspring posture during a class so that we can find it with greater ease during life.

The triggers we notice are things such as:

  • Do I drop my chin and always look to the ground?
  • Do my shoulders curl forward?
  • Do I draw in my belly so as to feel smaller?

For most of my life, my answer to pretty much all of the above has been a resounding YES. Yoga and especially Bowspring Practice though have slowly helped me find my way out of these patterns and triggers. This path out has not only helped me feel stronger and eliminate pain, but also has given me a newfound sense of confidence – where I feel more at home in my body.

Growing up I was taller than a lot of the kids in school. I would wish every night to wake up skinnier and shorter. My tallness and gargantuan feet were a travesty at the time. While classmates were still shopping at Gap Kids, my mom started bringing me to Eddie Bauer and The Limited.

To say that I did not embrace my tallness and size would be an understatement. All I wanted was to feel small. I was desperate to fix:

  • my tummy so that it would quit sticking out (before I learned about the birds & the bees there was a period where I questioned “am I pregnant?”)
  • my feet to stop growing already (I’ve been a size 10 since about 5th grade – there, it’s out there, I have big feet!)
  • my thighs to not rub together when I wore dresses or shorts (they still rub together somewhat and when I run long distances, they chafe, ah well!)
  • my boobs to disappear (I wore baggy tops to conceal them until some of the other girls caught up)
  • and somehow I thought if I slouched enough, I would be shorter like the cute short girls.

I notice that even now, as I make my way into my early 30s, I still hold onto some of these beliefs that have manifested as triggers in my body.

Like the tummy trigger – oh the amount of time I have spent trying to suck that darn thing in! I spent years in high school and college perfecting a posture that would make my tummy appear concave or hollow. And I wonder why my back started spasming…

At the time the only part of my body I probably loved were my shoulders because there I noticed – bony protrusions! Ah-ha!

I’m not going to say that I have fully addressed all of my triggers. I’m not sure I ever will. But I notice them, oh do I ever notice them.

For instance when I was running the other day, I spotted my reflection in a window and immediately said to myself “EW, GROSS!” I said it out loud, right there on Knight Street. Why? Because I noticed my belly was sticking out.

So what did I do? I first tried with all my might to suck my belly in to make it go away. As I did this I started feeling totally uncomfortable in my body, realized “there’s a trigger for ya!”, and decided fuck it, who cares, I’m going to let my belly be free. Breathing feels better that way anyway and – cool fact – I have also noticed that when I let my belly be free and stop trying to suck it in when running, it is MUCH easier to lean into the run and to keep a faster, steady pace.

The greatest gift is that when I pay attention to my triggers, I feel a greater sense of “I’m at home” in my own body rather than wanting to fix or escape it. I give myself permission to be exactly as I am and to honor the very shape of me.

I encourage you to notice how you are sitting, standing, walking right now. How are you HOLDING your own body? Do you feel empowered in your own body or do you feel diminished and small? Perhaps simply try this cue: keep your chin up. And just see what happens when you make that your mantra throughout one day.

With Love,

Maggie

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We Are in the midst of a body shaming epidemic. Let’s change that.

Our society is in the midst of an epidemic of body shaming and self-loathing. There is a scarcity of self-acceptance.  6097785133_02db3aeb1b

Many of us learn, from a young age, that we are not alright just as we are. That our bellies could be flatter, our teeth whiter, our houses bigger, or our hair straighter. We struggle to look in the mirror and simply accept what we see, let alone love what we see.

I spent my late teens and early twenties battling bulimia. My self-loathing reached a point that I was creating physical harm to my body. I will say that the one thing that pulled me out of a lot of darkness was a regular yoga practice that helped me shift my belief system. I went from believing that my thighs were too chunky to feeling grateful for all that they were capable of. It is a work in progress, that I still struggle with from time to time to this day, but I now have the tools and capabilities to shift my thinking from body shaming to self-acceptance.

Imagine what life would be like if you could look at yourself in the mirror and notice each and every part of you as something that is beautiful. Imagine if you could recognize your “flaws” as the greatest parts of yourself. Imagine if you talked to yourself the way you talk to those you love the most – with words of utmost encouragement, kindness, and love.

This is what I work with people on through the modalities of Health Coaching and Bowspring Yoga.

Let’s start to make our own rules so that we see the rolls, spare tires, cellulite, dimples as markers of beauty rather than shunning them. All the while being more efficient in the way we move our bodies and treating ourselves better as we are getting healthier.

I invite you to join me this spring to start to see yourself through a fresh pair of eyes and with a more loving heart. I am offering a special to you as well as anyone you refer to experience Health Coaching with me:

3 Health Coaching sessions for $200 (phone, valued at $375)

OR

6 Health Coaching sessions for $385 (phone, valued at $750)

All sessions are for one-hour duration.
Click here to read about what you can expect from Health Coaching.

If you’re considering health coaching but are on the fence, I offer a 30 minute complimentary sample session. Click here to schedule your session.

Please email me maggie@maggieconverse.com or comment below with ANY questions. 

With Love and Gratitude,

Maggie

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Crushing It, Softly

I did a yoga photoshoot yesterday. I was asked to be the subject in a local photographer’s shoot entitled “Crushing It: Portraits of Women Athletes.” My first reaction to even being asked was “Wait, what? You think I’m an athlete? You think I’m crushing it??” Hello gremlins!

In the days leading up to the shoot I was sure I would nail it. And not nail it in the sense that the photographer would get a great shot – I knew she was talented and would get the shot she wanted. I mean nail it in the sense that I would feel like a million bucks, comfortable in my own skin, as if I would all of a sudden magically transform into a total yoga babe.

But as the day of the shoot arrived, I started doubting myself, again. I still can’t hold a handstand in the middle of the room. Nor can I run very far or fast at the moment thanks to a knee/hip injury I am trying to heal. And I have to take at least one of the races I’m signed up for this year off my calendar due to said injury…

So … let’s get the straight … you still think I’m Crushing It? You still think I’m an athlete? Okay…

And then of course I had to analyze my body. No, wait, I had to deeply criticize my body.

I do not have the defined muscles like some of the other incredible subjects in the project. Even as I changed into my outfit for the shoot – a sports bra (suggested item) and yoga pants that I tried on that I picked out believing yeah I can totally rock this – I started to doubt. No, I went further than doubt – I started to really tear myself apart.

I started to see the softness around my belly button. My familiar pooch – it’s definitely still there, and probably always will be. Thought to myself why won’t it just disappear? To me the sports bra dug in and created even more softness around my chest, arms, and back. I thought to myself “is she really going to want this in her photograph?”

I could feel myself sinking and slipping deeper into that bottomless pit of self hatred.

As I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror at the studio where we were doing the shoot, I felt that familiar lump in my throat and the tears started to swell. Tears of shame about my body. That somehow the fact that I have a softness to me means that I am bad, that I am a failure, that I cannot possibly be an athlete who is crushing it. You can’t crush it with softness. Right?

But the tears were also a sadness that I could beat myself up in such a way. That I have been conditioned to criticize. To constantly look for my flaws even when at first glance I don’t even see them! I fast forward past “You look great!!!” to “What the fuck were you thinking Maggie picking a SPORTS BRA for this photoshoot??? You can’t pull this shit off.”

As I gathered my things and started to leave the bathroom, I gave myself one last glance in the mirror, I saw where my underwear cut into the softness around my hips leaving a dent, and said to myself “It doesn’t matter what you look like. That’s not what they see, that’s not what they care about.” And if I’m being totally truthful here, it’s not what I want to care about.

And then I started to do the yoga. I started to do the poses. I started to wash away the bullshit…. almost immediately. It felt like I was coming home in my body. I loved the softness of my belly that lengthened as I curled into a backbend. Conversely the strength in my back that supported me while being soft enough as if it were uttering “I love you.”

It was like all the mindfuckery had vanished. Just like that, it was gone.

The next day I put on my clothes to go or a run. There was that familiar puffiness around the top of my waist band. I took a moment to look at myself in the mirror, then felt, palpated the puffiness. I thought to myself, it is what it is. It’s me and it’s beautiful.

I know through this work that I need mantras. I need positive self-talk to pull me out of my own bullshit and shame. And the cherry on top is the yoga asana practice. Somehow it just seals the deal. It eases me into a perspective on my body and my self that allows me to really believe “hell yeah, I am crushing it.”

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Bowspring in action. Letting my belly be! Photo by Alley Maher. Another very talented local photographer.

Why can’t we see ourselves in the same light that others see us? Why oh why is it so terribly challenging? And why do we habitually resort to the self-criticism and judgement? It’s second nature to us.

Can you imagine if we talked to our friends and loved ones in the same manner we talk to ourselves?

I will say that through years of working on this I recognize the struggle may never fully go away. That I will have those moments where I define myself and my worthiness based on my appearance. Where I find myself slipping into ripping myself apart. But the work of practicing self-love comes and sweeps me up like a good friend picks you up from a bad breakup.

And I begin to turn off the negative self-talk and turn on …. believing. Believing that I am worthy, I am capable, that I am a hell of a lot more than enough. And believing that I am crushing it … softly.

If you’d like to see Irene Penny’s photo that was selected for the show (and all the other subjects she features), it will be on display Thursday May 21 6-8pm at Athleta – Westport, CT, 103 Main Street.

 

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Letting My Belly Be

image1I have a confession. I have spent most of my life trying desperately to conceal or minimize my belly.

Even as a child, I had this little “pooch” that stuck out. I always took ballet and the leotards and tights dug their way into that pooch that wouldn’t budge. I wished on eyelashes that I would wake up with a perfectly flat, no, perfectly concave stomach. I would stare at myself in the mirror, sticking it out, sucking it in, pulling it in, flattening and spreading it with my hands as best I could – then I’d pinch all the belly I could muster. Oh, how I hated that thing.

As a teen I learned about sit-ups and crunches and ab-work and pilates and when I would put on my leotards I would hope in vain that the 25 sit-ups I had done the night before might have made a difference. More and more I started taking things into my own hands to rid myself of this abomination. I was taught, over and over again, that this belly just needs to go away. I so strongly felt that I needed to make it disappear, and then everything would be alright.

I went through periods in my twenties where I felt skinny and the belly was a little less of a problem. On those days I felt happier, more confident. But then I would wake up the next morning with it protruding over my pajama bottoms. What pants could I possibly wear that were both cute AND would hide my body? What could I wear that would make me appear different? What would make me appear better?

Now in my early thirties my relationship with my body has changed, mostly for the good. I have bad days and I have good days – the good days mostly outweigh the bad. But still I sometimes see my reflection in the mirror in an exercise class and all I notice is that darn belly trying to peek out of my lululemon pants that were supposed to be so slimming, they were supposed to make it disappear, at least for a brief moment. The deep-set belief of belly being bad as a child still rears its ugly head as an adult.

Five months ago I kind of fell into a new yoga studio with brand new teachers and a brand new practice. I fell into this studio during a period where a lot of change was happening in my life – everything felt like it was uprooted and of course this made me go back to old patterns of disliking my body. I almost didn’t go to my first class there because I thought to myself “No Maggie, you’re dealing with enough change right now, why add more fuel to the fire?”

Fast forward to class last week when our teacher Mitchel instructed for the umpteenth time for everyone to let our bellies be long, to let them hang out. When we are on all fours or in crouching cat (think downward dog with very bent knees) he often instructs us to imagine our bellies swaying side to side like a cat. And whenever he does this I can’t help but smile and think of my cat Milo who flaunts his belly like it’s his job. If he’s flaunting his belly, why shouldn’t I?

But the point is that for these five months I have been instructed to just let my belly be. To let it freaking hang out. To forget about the sucking in, the flattening, the diminishing, the shortening, the crunching. I can let my belly be itself – that little pucker toward the bottom of my torso that has held on to so much guilt, shame, and pain for most of my life. And the more I allow myself to let my belly be, the more confident I feel and the more solid I feel within the structure of my own body.

I am discovering a part of my body, my belly, for the very first time. With fresh eyes and a loving and wholly accepting heart. I know that my belly journey will have its ups and downs but what a great sense of relief to put my hand on my belly and say to myself, for the first time ever, “Hell yeah!”

 

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Give the Gift of Coaching & Yoga

This holiday season, give the gift of coaching or yoga.

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Three sessions of health coaching or private yoga for $300 (valued at $450).

Valid for purchase through December 24.


Read what are people saying:

I not only benefit from the flexibility, body strengthening and calming effect of Yoga, but Maggie is helping me with a variety of ailments that I have. Whether it be my back pain, migraines, balance or osteoarthritis issues, she always knows the correct poses to do, and how to adapt them to my needs.

Maggie is kind, sensitive to my pain, and is very conscientious. She corrects the tiniest movements in my body that make the difference between doing a pose correctly or incorrectly.

As long as my body can tolerate it, she also makes me work! I love that! After a session with Maggie, I feel calmer and my body feels better. I am lucky and grateful to be working with such a special woman and an excellent teacher.


Contact me directly at maggie.converse@gmail.com for your PDF gift certificate to a loved one – or to purchase a package for yourself!

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What is a Retreat?

The word Retreat derives from Anglo-French retreat, from the past participle of retreaire which means to withdraw.

A retreat is a very personal experience and the motivating factors for one person to sign up for a retreat will be very different from the next person’s.

For me the reason for signing up for the Radiant Retreat in 2008 was crystal clear: I was 25 and I felt totally STUCK. I was in a very fine job that paid well and paved the way for a career in the art world. But, to put it simply, something was missing – call it a “joie de vivre,” call it my mojo – I wasn’t feeling fully alive.

I received an email from Jennifer asking if I would join her on that retreat many years ago and it became very simple: in order for me to get “un-stuck” I needed to remove myself, or withdraw, not only internally but also from my external environment. I needed an extra boost and an opportunity to have the physical and mental space to determine how I was going to follow my true path.

The retreat helped me determine that it was absolutely acceptable for me to want to be a yoga teacher… and more! I will never forget one conversation Jennifer and I had during a visit in Philadelphia when I gave her a vague description of what I wanted my career to be – her response was “You should be an ease-maker.”

The retreat provided a foundation for me to slowly start to become that ease-maker. In work, in friendship, and in love.

It was that wonderful tipping point that allowed me to access truth and my very own authenticity.

There are many ways we can describe a retreat and the benefits it yields. But the most profound for me has been accessing authenticity.

A retreat allows us to peel back the layers and move the junk out of the way for us to realize what it is we want and then we slowly start to do the work to get there.

The heaping mounds of guacamole, superb yoga classes, and stellar company are just the cherry on top!

Join us March 21-28, 2015 in Tulum.

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