Cellulite and all!

 
 

I did something yesterday that I haven’t done in over 10 years. Whilst to many it will not seem like a big deal, trivial in fact, to me it was a big step.

So, I am not a water person. I don’t swim. In fact I hate swimming. I was forced to do swimming lessons every summer school holidays and of course every class ironically fell on the coldest mornings. My memories of being in the water suck. The ocean – well, when I was young I did the whole jetty jumping, jet skiing, boat jumping thing – but come teenage years when I felt as insecure as anything about my body – this all ended. Mostly because I liked to wear make-up and feared all the cute boys seeing me without make-up on. I wore makeup because I was, and still am, a freckle faced girl. I was so embarrassed by my freckles. I will never forget the day my big brother told me, “Jessica if you get one more freckle on your face you’ll turn into one big freckle!” Way to boost the confidence of a 13 year old. Thank you Marcus!

So make-up was to stay, and water was to go. There is nothing worse than mascara running down your face when you’re trying to impress the cute boys.

Then came the transition from girl to woman. Ladies, we all know what this means! Yup, skinny legs and mini waists are no more. We start to fill out, bums get bigger and the spare tyre around the belly begins to appear. I had many weight related issues growing up. I was never a big girl. My weight sat around 58 kilograms and I’m now at 60 kg, but I began noticing what all women fear – the big C word – yup! Good old cellulite! I’ve lost weight dramatically and gained it all right back – in every case, cellulite was there to stay. I might have less of it through training and healthy eating, but regardless, it’s there. And despite knowing EVERY SINGLE WOMAN IN THE WORLD HAS CELLUITE, I hated seeing it in my body. Hence, this was another reason why I stopped the bikini’s and decided to be one of those people who only walks on the beach or sits by the pool with my feet in the water. Enough to cool me off without the humiliation of having to strip down and bare all.

I’ve always admired those women who were so confident in their bodies that they were quite happy to lay on a beach or walk around in their teenee-weenie bikini. I wanted to have that freedom but felt so restricted by my own insecurities that I never allowed myself to do this. In my mind, I needed the perfect model like, size 8 body with not a hint of fat on it.

But this is not reality. Having a photographer as a partner has meant learning all about the modeling industry and the level of work photographers go to to hide those lumps and bumps. I’ve seen myself turn from a size 12 to a size 8 in a photo using Photoshop technology. Incredible! But totally unreal.

However, despite knowing these photographer tricks which are designed to heighten our insecurities to market a product or experience, there is still that deep, dark insecure part that stops me from accepting that I don’t look like one of these models.

Until now. After a long enough time of wearing skin tight clothing – and my goodness can yoga tights be all revealing – I’ve learned to really love and accept my body as it is. Sure, there are days when I would like to shave off a bit here and there, but feeling comfortable in my skin is a really lovely place to be. I use my body to demonstrate twists, turns, inversions – movement in all directions – and having such huge issues with body image over the years, it turns out this has been one of my best therapies.

And with this newfound confidence, I decided to try something I haven’t done in over a decade, and that’s go swimming at the local pool. I pulled out my Roxy bikini from a million years ago – basically still brand new as I wore it about thrice – and headed to the local swimming pool. The bikini bottoms were a little tighter than 10 or more years ago but of course the top fitted perfectly. Why does all the fat head for the bum and not the boobs?!

Feeling a little nervous at first, I stripped down. Looking around me at all the other women in their bathers, I realized just how beautiful we all look - just as we are. It also came to my attention that no one is pointing and laughing, or looking on with disgust. No one cares! The fear is mine and mine alone. My body is just like everyone elses and there is nothing to be ashamed of. I was here to swim and swim I did.

Turns out, I’m a terrible swimmer and was done within 45 minutes of being in the water. At the point of sinking more than swimming I decided to call it quits for the day. I think a few lessons might be in order… But that is a side point here. The message is that we are beautiful just as we are. And the neurotic fears we have about different problems like weight, skin, hair etc are just that – neurotic. In challenging those fears we can come to know ourselves a little more and expand our horizons exponentially. Whilst I doubt I will become a regular swimmer, as it’s still not a favourite pass time, experiences like these are teaching me to be more accepting of, well, Me. Even with the lumps and bumps.

On a closing note, ask yourself if there is something you’ve avoided in fear of ridicule. I challenge and I urge you to face this fear. You never know what pain it may release and doors it may open.

Sending hugs from me (cellulite and all),

Jessica xx

 

Breathe in love. Breathe out peace.

 
 

Do you know what it feels like to be trapped in your own body? How toxic it can be at times? How hopeless?

This past month has been such an immense challenge for me. The bar has been set higher, mostly in my own mind, which is intense. Choosing not to be a victim to my pain can be a catch-22. Sure it means I go on and challenge self-limiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours. But it can also mean I push too hard too soon. This past month has forced me to take a BIG step back and re-evaluate my boundaries. My personal limits. And more importantly, my ego. I have days when I feel I could run a marathon and my body can fly. The difficulty lies in not taking advantage of those days. Not trying to rush to the finish line just because it is in sight. For it is when I do this that I end up right back near the beginning again.

I have great flexibility in my body but not enough strength, pelvic floor strength especially. This means I am susceptible to injury if I’m not careful. I’ve spent these past two weeks taking it very easy as my back had completely given up. Just the slightest fold forward gave the sensation of a thousand knives stabbing into my lower back and left leg. It’s been confronting, upsetting and to some degree embarrassing. Feeling so trapped in my own body. Like there is a lock that is firmly fastened and holding me back. The moment I try to fold I’m jolted back just as a car seatbelt locks if it’s pulled too quickly.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. I felt amazing. Everything had relaxed, pain still there but a 4/10 compared with the 9/10 it has been this past week. So what does Jessica do? Well, I practice without boundaries, without limitations, only to clearly cross a threshold without realizing and end up virtually crippled again today. Whilst I want to cry – and I did for a brief moment – I always look for the lessons in these experiences. The pain hurts, but it’s the restriction of movement which hurts me more and can be so frustrating. But I need to accept this. I need to accept that these are all lessons, progressions in themselves. That mentally I am becoming stronger, more aware, more accepting. I’m learning limits by pushing them a little. Clearly a little too much in this case. We train for four hours a day six days a week and I’ve not missed a single practice because I will not give up on me. The challenge is not in the hours of practice, but in knowing when to pull back.

But whilst I can lay here typing away and say it’s good to be positive about the challenges in life – whether that be pain, heartbreak, loss, anything at all – the fact of the matter is, it’s still shit. I don’t enjoy pain. I don’t want to be like this, to be limited like this. To be trapped in my body as I am. But the thing is, I don’t have a lot of choice. I need to work with my body as it is. Through this trial and error I will learn how to strengthen my back, how to maintain a normal life regardless of pain and how to help others through my personal experience. If I don’t, then life stands still and that’s not much of a life.

So to those who feel pain – any pain – play with it. Challenge it. Learn to trust it. For it is when we can accept and observe pain in this way that we can work with it, heal from it and keep moving forward.

Sending big hugs,

Jessica xx

P.S. Thank you for all the hugs and supportive messages/emails sent to me last week in response to my blog post. I felt so loved and very comforted hearing from everyone. Certainly much less lonely! I'm so grateful to have such incredible people in my life. Again, thank you.

I am not my pain

I am not a gymnast. I am not a ballerina. Calisthenics? No. Martial arts? Nup! Growing up, I never did the sort of activities which helped children to gain amazing balance, flexibility or strength in their body. I tried ballet once (for about 8 weeks), when I was about 6, but the teacher told me I was fat and too old to start. You can imagine I left pretty quickly after that! (Hello life long self-esteem issues!). At school the Tri Skool came a couple of times over the years, letting us play on some temporary gymnastics equipment, but this was usually just for a lunch time. That was the extend of my gymnastics training!

Long story short - I played all the usual sports like netball, softball and basketball. I did sprint and cross country running at one point and even tried my hand at tennis (total fail here).  I was also a horse rider, which certainly didn’t help in the flexibility arena. Scoliosis also meant chronic pain in my lower back and limited flexibility in my spine… or so i thought.

You see - for much of my life I have defined myself by my past experiences.

I never did ballet or gymnastics so I can never do the splits.. or

I have a bad back so I will never be able to do a backbend..

On and on it went. I was my own worst enemy when it came to trying new things, or believing (which is more accurate) that I could try new things. I was extremely good at pigeonholing myself, labelling myself - making sure I did nothing outside of that label.

Turns out - these labels are not only extraordinarily unhelpful, but they are damaging too. Turns out, just like ballerinas and gymnasts learn early on, I too have the potential to move my body in amazing ways. Whilst this is a much slower progression as I’m about to hit 30 and my body is not as supple as a child or teen, turns out there is possibility to train my body to reach these new, seemingly impossible heights.

I never needed to be defined by my perceived weaknesses, because they are only that - perceived. It’s taken a little while, but I’ve come to understand (through experience) that I am the creator of my own reality. Should I want to be weak, then I can make it so. Should I want to be strong and flexible, then this too can be achieved.

At a time in my life when I felt like everything was falling apart, I traveled to India where I met a man, Guruji, who saw potential in me. Correction - he sees potential in all. One day, I went to this wise man privately, in tears, to speak about my back pain. How I felt so limited by it. He said something to me that day that I have never forgotten and that I will hold close for the rest of my life.

I am not my pain. My pain will only exist if I allow it to be so. Should I choose to be strong, then I will be strong. But if I choose weakness, then this is all I will ever know. Physically, mentally…. It will touch every aspect of my life.

An interesting thing happened after that conversation - not only did I begin telling myself positive messages about my back, about who I am in the world - but I began to notice changes. My body felt stronger, my mind calmer. I felt at ease with my body and mind, more confident.

This is not to say the back pain has disappeared. Absolutely not. It’s still there. But I am not defined by it and it does not haunt me the way it once did, for so much of my life. The pain fluctuates; but rather than give into it, I challenge it. I give it the most minimal attention.

So today I finally did Pincha Mayurasana on my own. The most difficult part of this asana, this posture, has been the bend in my spine. I’ve fallen more times than I can count and the pain in my back was intense at times. But finally, with a little self belief and determination, here I am. Every day my spine is becoming stronger and more flexible - because I believe it can be so.

 
 
 
 

This asana has been possible only because of three key things:

  1. Having the courage to face fears

  2. Finding the will to keep trying

  3. Being inspired by a man who could see beyond the surface. At the time, he could see what I couldn’t, and I will be forever grateful for his belief in me.

As a final note - we do not need to be our pain. We do not need to let it hold us back. If we do, then we lose the possibility of achieving amazing things in this lifetime. Ask yourself - “Why do you keep yourself small? Why do you play the safe card? What’s the payoff for this?” Whilst these questions are confronting, they could be key to unlocking parts of yourself you never realised existed.

Namaste xx