I don’t remember when I had my first session of yoga, most probably from five years ago, but what I can remember is the awkwardness and the self-consciousness feelings that I had every time I moved my body. Every time I went to exercise or attended any kind of a session to exercise in order to lose weight, I had this overwhelming experience.
I have been always intimidated by my weight. It is the result of a long history of being bullied by the elders and the strangers. Throughout the years of my younger age and till the current moment, I lived many embarrassing moments and shame. For long time I avoided anything that can reflect the image of my body. Later on I started as an action of self-acceptance, to walk naked and to stare at myself in the mirrors of my room.
While doing the only exercise that I felt a bit ok with, yoga, I used to haste out the posture before everyone does, in order to untag my underwear, pull down my shirt and look around after each movement or pause, fearing the gaze of anyone around to my big body on move.
Of course, being veiled for thirteen years, didn’t help me to feel more at ease. To add to the embarrassment of being fat, I had to cover up and to adjust my veil quickly after each movement. I think I grew this imaginary fear of the man gaze to any part of my body: leg, arm, or hair. Honestly, I am not sure if I grew this fear from being veiled for long time or from being a woman raised in this part of the world, or even from my conservative catholic education.
After all, I have to admit that despite that I ended up taking it off, I never questioned the hijab nor trashed it. I have been very proud or let’s say convinced by wearing the veil all over the thirteen years, except of the last four years where my dilemma grew. Since I was twenty-one, I fought for it and challenged every one, until I took it off after a long struggle with my consciousness, my faith, my ego and my woman identity. What I question now is my intentions for wearing the veil so long without really embracing it.
Partially, now I reflect, I was hiding underneath wishing not to be seen, terrified from being considered as a woman who might be rejected, I wished unconsciously to just disappear or to vanish. I have to add that with the peer pressure and the constant underestimation of the veiled woman intelligence and freedom, I continued wearing it to prove, to every “pretending-to-be” liberal person, that I am a free and smart woman and that I send them all to hell. It was controversial and contradicting, I wished to disappear as a woman but to shine as a “different” and “interesting” person. There was a mix of ego, vanity from one side, and faith and humbleness from the other side. It was simply confusing and complicated.
This confusion lasted for long till a certain point, where all the external world and the “others” vanished and I started deeply to think about my intentions and the reasons for wearing it. The usual “stories” and “argues” that I carried and used to challenge the others with, started to lose their meanings and edge, they stopped to be as illuminating or convincing even to myself.
What kept breathing, was this shy little girl who used to cry alone fearing the darkness and used to get herself isolated in the corner escaping the mean and ugliness of those who fed their ego and power by bulling and criticizing an innocent child. The hidden woman kept in the shadows was struggling under the layers of fat, curves and fabric.
Long struggles, therapies, and self-reflection; exercises, trials and errors, despair and anger; long nights of insomnia, sad mornings and heavy heart; long travels, new experiences and discoveries; returns, anger, vicious circles of ups and downs and fears, many fears; continuous anxiousness and tiredness and again despair; enlightenment, awareness and again returns to core believes, anger and fears. If only life can stop and brings me peace!
However, in today’ morning session, I enjoyed every stretch of my limbs, every crack, every twist. I moved swiftly, stopped at my ease and most importantly I didn’t pay attention to what is revealed or not from my body : my curves, my rolls, my big belly nor my arms. I simply enjoyed the embedded flexibility in this body that I hated and shamed for long. Secretly, and in my deep inner self, I tapped my shoulder while throwing my head backward and breathed deeply from my stomach.