Inspired by the first pillar of the Eat Breathe Thrive programs, "Function vs. Form", Vicky Cook and Marianne Erena came together with Kathleen Telesco of Parenthesis Photography to create a new kind of #yogachallenge.
Read the inspiring interview with Vicky and Marianne, and take part in the #ILoveThisBodyTribe challenge today!
How did you become a yoga teacher? What led you to want to do this?
Vicky: I did my first teacher training in 2006. I found yoga when I was pregnant with my (now, thirteen year old) son. During pregnancy, I wanted to continue exercising, but I wanted something a little easier on the body. Yoga changed everything about my life. After a few years, I knew I wanted to share the practice with others.
Marianne: I started doing yoga 15 years ago after hurting my back. And ten years later, it was the only consistent form of exercise that had stayed with me. It was then that I realized, I wanted to share that gift with as many people as possible.
How did you first hear about Eat Breathe Thrive?
Vicky: Sarah Higgins and I were in a mentoring group together and she started sharing information about Eat Breathe Thrive. At the same time I had a student struggling with anorexia, and I realized it was time for me to learn more about this work.
Marianne: Vicky Cook, my co-facilitator, brought Eat Breathe Thrive to our home studio and asked me to be a part of it. I was honored – this is exactly the healing practice I want yoga to be – so, of course, I said yes!
"Eat Breathe Thrive is for anyone and everyone who could use support in creating a more compassionate relationship with their body – and that includes men!"
Is Eat Breathe Thrive just for women?
Vicky: Not at all! I’ve noticed my son is very self-conscious about his body, and I personally know men who are obsessed with the way they look.
Marianne: Absolutely not! Eat Breathe Thrive is for anyone and everyone who could use support in creating a more compassionate relationship with their body – and that includes men!
What is your trouble body part – that is, the body part that you criticize most? And why is that body part actually amazing?
Vicky: My thighs are my least favorite body part. They are thick and I have cellulite. There was a time I wouldn’t even wear shorts. Although I am still self-conscious about them, I am getting better. My thick thighs are very strong, and used to give my son airplane rides when he was little. My thighs take me hiking, walking, biking, and they are great in all warrior poses.
Marianne: My legs. From the soles of my feet all the way up to my big, broad hips. My legs are thick. There's no other word for it. And I've spent a lifetime comparing them to what I considered lean, long, "lady-like" legs, such as those that walk runways or cover the pages of a magazine. In my mind, I was always losing that game. But the truth is, my legs have never let me down. Even when I shattered my kneecap at age 18, my legs still managed to do every single thing I've ever asked of them.
Vicky, what's the story with your Boston College shorts?
Vicky: My niece with whom I am very close is at Boston College. She really looks up to me, so I thought it would be cool to honor her in my journey to loving my body, in the hope that I may inspire her to do the same.
What are your hopes for #ILoveThisBodyTribe does? Why did you want to be involved?
Marianne: I would like this #ILoveThisBodyTribe to be the antidote to the harmful images and messages that are filling the social media feeds of men and women, young girls and boys, like a virus. I hope it shows the consumers of those images that there is more than just one definition of a "perfect" body. A "perfect" body is one that is well loved, well taken care of, and celebrated – regardless of its size, or thickness, cellulite, or scars.
Vicky: I would love for people to find their way to a healthy body image. I hadn’t realized just how fractured my relationship with my own body was until I began this work. For a long time, I hid behind the idea that I wanted to be strong, when really I wanted to have the "perfect" body. I figured it is time for me to walk the walk, not just talk the talk – and that is why I wanted to be a part of this #ILoveThisBodyTribe.
Do you think yoga can contribute to negative body image? And how can yoga heal it?
Marianne: I think anything can contribute to a negative body image if it is presented as being useful solely for the purpose of thinness. Yoga starts to heal those negative body images when one realizes that regardless of size (etc.), your body is capable of gifting you the experience of peace. Yoga doesn't have a weight requirement.
Vicky: Yoga is a practice of embodiment; it asks us to be present and be reflective, to not to worry about the way we look. I believe that we have the power to create a real intimacy for people in yoga classes, to offer a safe space for people to heal from many struggles.
What do you love most about facilitating the Eat Breathe Thrive Six-Week Series? And what is difficult about it?
Vicky: The sacred space of the Thrive Tribe is palpable; there is a real bonding that happens among the participants very quickly. The community which is cultivated allows each group member to be supported through their experience, and to hold one another accountable. There is a real intelligence to the way each week is set up that builds upon the previous week. Each individual becomes empowered by the group and vice versa. I wouldn’t say there is anything difficult that I have found thus far, but I will say that there is a lot of healing going on, so it is very important to ensure that I am taking care of myself too.
Marianne: I love the way that participants come into this experience with their masks in place, their defenses up – but how quickly cracks in those masks begin to appear, once they realize that they held in a safe space, in which no one is expected to say or do anything that doesn't feel like the truth to them.
That can also be be the hard part. Letting everything hang out, metaphorically or not, is not an easy thing to do.
Do you practice what you preach? Has helping others with their body image helped you accept yourself, or are you still critical of your own body?
Vicky: Yes, I do the exercises the week before the group and make sure I am taking care of myself. Helping others with their body image forced me to take a good look at myself and the way I was seeing my body. I am still critical at times, but I my relationship with my body continues to improve. I used to be very obsessive about constantly weighing myself. Now, I haven’t stepped on a scale in over a year.
Marianne: I am still critical of my body, but there is a very real shift happening in that thinking for me right now. And when I look at myself these days, there is far more softness in my heart toward my body than before I started this journey.
What do you think is the most important factor in starting to love your body?
Vicky: Being honest with yourself. You have to start where you are, so just recognizing the relationship you have with your body gives you a place from which you can begin.
Marianne: For me, the most important factor in starting to love my body was making the commitment to treat my body as if it were beautiful and strong, whether or not I actually believed it.
What sort of things do you teach in the Eat Breathe Thrive Six-Week Series?
Marianne: We begin the series by examining preconceived ideas of what a "good body" is supposed to look like, and how pervasive those messages are in our culture. We propose the idea that those messages don't have to be swallowed whole – and if we choose to reject those ideas, there is the space to decide for ourselves how we want to view our bodies.
The series offers yoga and meditation practices to bring those ideas into a very real context. The asana practice gives us the physical experience of being in our bodies, and meditation allows us to drop into the soul. Both show us how to transfer an idea from being an intellectual exercise into a very real, transformative experience.
Join us by uploading your photos to Instagram with the hashtag, #ILoveThisBodyTribe
We want to know, what is your most-criticized body part, and why is it actually amazing?
Tag your friends to get them involved!
(You don't have to be in a yoga pose – yogis and non yogis welcome!)
Find your local Thrive Tribe