At the end of most days, as I put my daughter down to bed, we share three things from the day we feel grateful for. One of my most consistent responses is feeling thankful for moving my body. This gratitude reminds me of the journey that brought me to this place and how yoga has helped shape that journey.
It’s hard to believe that I was once a chubby kid with a fantastic afro in the 1970s, always last to be chosen for a team in gym class. The exclusion I experienced at that time seemed to stem from living in a larger body. It followed me from gym class to the playground and into my relationships with my peers. I hated my body for the embarrassment and loneliness I felt. I despised that I looked different and couldn’t perform to the standards of sports teams or games at school recess. As I said, I was a chubby kid, and this was not okay living in a society where the thin ideal is the appearance and power standard for girls. For my teen years and too much of my young adult life, I internalized the judgment I heard from the outside world. Any pursuit of physical activity was predominantly focused on getting rid of the calories I had eaten. The last thing I wanted at that time was to stand out. If only I were thinner, I would be accepted by my peers, and I could blend in. As a result, I spent my first decades of life detached from my body and found little joy in eating or moving my body.

Fast forward 15-20 years to the other side of restrictive eating, with some sense of realizing that bodies and beauty can come in many forms. I somehow managed to form a different relationship with physical activity. I became eager to move my body to tap into the positive effects of endorphins. To counter the wear and tear on my body and mind from my day-to-day stressors and physical endeavors (i.e., running, mountain biking, skiing), I found myself in my first yoga class.

Unfortunately, the tendency to compare and judge myself was still there. There was still the residue of my body not meeting society’s ideals, especially not a yoga body. I listened as the teacher cued us through different shapes, and as I followed their words, I looked around to see what others were doing. My mind told me that my body didn’t move as it should. I wasn’t flexible or fluid enough. I strived and pushed myself to achieve the perfect yoga shape. And I remember now that if I could not reach the fullest expression of the form, judgment would arise, and a perfectionistic mindset would ignite. Thank goodness for some early years as a ballet student; otherwise, I may have needed a stretcher to exit some of those yoga classes! I remember being coaxed into shapes my body was simply not meant to be in. Funny, despite the promise of yoga, I don’t remember ever listening to what my body needed most or allowing myself to take a break. Yoga became another way for me to detach from my body and another form of performative movement. Somewhere along the way, I finally realized this is not a competitive sport.

Woman Stretching On YogaMat

Every body is a yoga body!

Twenty years later, I am grateful to be moving gently, allowing my breath to flow, noticing what my body is saying, and responding to what it needs most. My awareness now is most often on my own mat and in my own body. The dialogue is between me and my body, not between me and everyone else’s body. So what shifted my relationship with movement and body aside from 50+ years of life and wisdom? The following guideposts summarize what I’ve learned and how yoga is helping me to incorporate movement into my life. The benefits of yoga are many. Not just for exercise, but everything from stress relief to heart health, better sleep, and the list goes on. Yoga classes are for everyone and can connect you with others, so don’t let your inner voice tell you something else.
guideposts for yoga

Guideposts for Yoga that have helped me:

  1. Find a Type of Yoga that Provides Pleasure:
  2. Find a style of yoga you enjoy doing, and that matches your energy levels for the day. Some classes are designed to counter the effects of stress. These tend to be called “gentle and restorative” or have Yin in the class description. Others yoga styles are more vibrant and raise your heart rate. These are called Vinyasa or Flow. Online classes are great for dipping your toe into the experience of yoga in your own home. Read the class description to help decide what feels like a good fit for you today, at this moment.

  3. Make Yoga a No-Judgement Zone:
  4. Instead of judging yourself or others, try adopting a curious mindset. Curiosity sounds like: “I wonder what will happen if I move this way; I wonder what will happen if I speed up or slow down.” If you start to “should” yourself, you’ve moved out of a curious mindset and into a critical perspective. What would it be like to make a U-turn back to curiosity?

  5. Don’t be Afraid to Rest:
  6. Build in rest during the class. This may mean staying seated or lying down even when others aren’t, or the yoga teacher continues to cue movement. Again, listen to what your body is telling you.

  7. Your Yoga, Your Choice!:
  8. Remember that the yoga teacher’s cues are merely an invitation. You still get to decide what will serve your body best in this moment and on this day. You live in your body 365 days of the year, so allow yourself to be in charge of whether your body will move forward or stay there and breathe.

  9. Breathing is Important in Yoga:
  10. Inhale, exhale, repeat. If the teacher guides you through any form of breathwork in class (aka Pranayama in yoga), you can try it out. However, if you find it too activating or not what feels best for your body today, try resuming your natural breathing.

  11. Pain:
  12. If anything hurts when you do it, then don’t do it! Listen to your body’s cues if you get a gentle or deep stretch. Stay with this and breathe. If you find it hard to gauge pain until you’ve gone too far, try paying attention to the pace of your breathing. Fast breathing or holding your breath may signal that the body has moved past other cues to back off. Notice this and respond with care.

  13. Sense and Feel:
  14. The studio you are in may have mirrors. Position yourself away from the mirrors to support sensing and feeling what is happening on the inside rather than outside of the body.

  15. Consent:
  16. If a yoga teacher does not have consent cards for you to place on your mat, allow yourself to share with them whether you are comfortable or not with hands-on assists during class. Your body is your body. You choose (not the other way around).

  17. Yoga Supports:
  18. Experiment with support props even if you do not need them! When the body is supported, it trusts the movement, allowing more ease to emerge. Yoga support includes bolsters, blocks, straps, and blankets.

  19. Kindness:
  20. Notice if your inner critic tries to make its way onto your yoga mat. Thank it for trying to protect you, then let it know that you’ve got this!

My experience is based on the body that I am living in and may not reflect your experience. That is okay. I’d love to hear what has helped you to embody movement in the body you’re living in! Please send your thoughts on your experience of embodied movement to or leave a comment below.

I hope you continue to embody movement in a way that provides joy and ease!


Natalie Murphy is a 200-hour registered yoga teacher and certified ‘Yoga for All’ instructor. She is the founder of Brave Revolution Yoga and Wellness, which offers trauma-informed, inclusive yoga classes. Reach out to her at or 541-213-8333 if you’d like to learn more about current Body Kind yoga offerings or Body Positive nutrition sessions.

Ruby Health and Wellness