February 2, 2016

Body Love Now Photo Project | Lisa

Passion Projects

I am excited to introduce to you to Lisa Papez aka the Fat Yogini who so kindly accepted to be part of our Body Love Now photo project for the Love Your Body Summit 2016. Not only did Lisa have such an amazing personality, someone I felt I could have talked to for days, but she also had two super cute dogs, and I love me cute puppies! Lisa share so much with my that day, and I am so happy to see much of that has been captured in her answers to the questions we asked her. I hope you take time to read her wise words, they are really inspirational.

Lisa thank you so much for welcoming me into your home, and being part of this project.

What challenges have you faced in your relationship with your body?

I was a tiny, petite child. Small both in height and weight for my pre-pubescent years. And do you know what I remember about those years? I remember how self-conscious I felt when the whole class would line up for our weight as part of our annual school health exam and I weighed the *least*.

And then puberty happened. And I started getting ‘chubby’. And from then on, I would feel self-conscious because I worried I weighed the *most* among my peers.

Whether I was thin or not, fat or not, I felt self-conscious and at odds with my body. It never felt right. Or good enough. Guess how much of that had to do with my actual weight? Very little. But it was what it was, and it was the only thing I knew. And so I hated myself because I did. And I hated my body because I did. And maybe I will never know all the reasons why I struggled so much with body image, though I have identified a great many of them.

These are some of the internal challenges I faced.

Some of the external challenges are hard to describe. I know I felt I was treated differently. Sometimes, I felt I was treated differently because I was the fat kid, girl, woman. Sometimes, I felt I was treated differently by other lesbians because I didn’t fit what was the stereotype at the time, being more feminine in my appearance then was popular at the time.

How has your relationship with your body changed because of those challenges? What have you learned?

My relationship with my body, or more specifically with my Self changed in teeny, tiny, mostly imperceptible baby steps. But there were some defining moments that I may never forget. And most of those were experienced on my yoga mat…. in the context of my yoga practice. Some of those moments are hard to put into words. Others are easier to talk about. But the crux of it, for me, was discovering that I deserved better treatment… from myself. And that, in turn, led to the understanding that I also deserved better treatment from others.

It’s been a difficult and emotional journey, but a worthwhile one. I haven’t reached the destination yet, if there is such a thing. One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was that there is no ‘right’ way to like myself or my body. Some days, liking my body means remembering that my chunky thighs aren’t “gross”, though perhaps society’s perception of them is. Some days, I affectionately rub my own belly like I’m a Lucky Buddha statue, or as I imagine pregnant mamas may rub their bellies. Some days, it’s all about noticing how I feel on the inside… strong or light or poised or balanced or free. But most of the time, the hardest thing is just remembering that the *way* I choose to love my body may be different for me than other people – and that’s okay.

What words did you choose to describe how  you want to feel in your body, and why did you choose them?

*Relaxed* and *peaceful* are both words that summarize how I most enjoy feeling in my body, physically. I am an introvert. I like to curl up with coloring, a good book, my journal, or a tv show. I love standing in the wind and looking out at an ocean shore and feeling that sense of deep calm. This deep desire to feel calm and safe and peaceful is one of the reasons yoga spoke to me so strongly. It’s why, when deciding on the first yoga pose I wanted to highlight in the photo shoot, I chose a restorative pose. Because that place of calm and peace is my home.

I chose the word* playful* because one very key piece to discovering that I am okay exactly as I am, was embracing the inner child in me. I used to feel so self conscious about my ‘little’ side. I used to feel like people would make fun of me, or not treat me like a real grown-up because I jump up and down and squeal happily or clap my hands when I get excited. And yes, I do this even when I’m teaching yoga and get excited about something my students do or accomplish or try. This little self is also my most vulnerable. And so, for me, embracing the playful side of me – the one that collects Shopkins (a toy marketed to the 5 and up crowd), the one that likes to color, the one who still loves Unicorns – is a wildly political act! Because no one gets to tell me HOW to be myself. Playful. Silly. Free. All wonderful words to express this side of me.

I chose the word magic because I believe in it. I believe in magic of many varieties. I believe in the unseen and in things we can’t explain, even though I like to find the parallels between the magic I experience and perceive and real science. For me, feeling magical is about my love of Tarot Cards and my belief in a spiritual world or alternate reality or dimension. I believe that we shape our realities. I believe in spiritual growth that extends far beyond this single lifetime. I believe in unicorns. Yes… actually.

Exposing these sides of myself is actually still terrifying – partly, because of the vulnerability of it, and partly because I am revealing my most political self. I’m a big fluffy bunny and I’m all rainbows and unicorns and sparkles, but I’m also an activist. I’m a quiet activist. My activism is presented in the way I voluntarily expose my vulnerabilities again and again, because THIS is how I hope to give permission to other people I encounter to do the same. Whether I’m exposing my queerness or my inner child or my silliness or my love of magic or unicorns, I expose and reveal *because* doing it is terrifying… and it shouldn’t be.

What advice would you give to your younger self about body image?

Dear younger self,

Be you. Be unabashedly and unapologetically you. Do not be someone else to please your parents, your siblings, your friends, your lovers, or your higher power.

The you that you already are, without making a single change is worthy… worthy of love, respect, compassion, kindness and safety. You are enough. As you are. Right now. You don’t need to lose weight, fit into a particular size, do a certain thing with the rest of your life, get a degree, or prove yourself in any way. You already are exactly as valuable as any other human being on the planet. No more valuable. No less. And that’s what makes you perfect. That’s what makes everyone perfect.

You are perfect.​

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