Today, the world knows me as Natasha Noel – a yogini, a fitness instructor, a champion of body positivity, and also a survivor of sexual assault.
Getting into fitness, for me, was about getting mentally stronger. When I first started dancing, it made me feel confident, and I started liking myself. The dancing stopped because of a knee injury, but then I got into yoga and sincerely began working on my mental health. That’s when changes happened with my physical body because, mentally, I was no longer putting myself down. Yoga was a whole new ball game of self-acceptance and self-healing, and I’m still on that same self-love journey. With movement, I’ve learnt to see what wonders my body can do, rather than what it looks like; it has helped my growth.
At one point yoga teachers told me I wouldn’t be able to do certain postures because of the size of my thighs, despite which there was still a lot I could do. I realized then that it’s not about proving them wrong, but it’s about working on a goal, being consistent and achieving it.
When it comes to fitness, if you care about yourself, you will respect yourself enough to be and get healthier. For fitness, one must always come from a space of love. Your workout or food is not a punishment for your body. Food is nourishment for the body and mind. And working out is to get those endorphins kicking. For me personally, Pranayama and acrobatic movement have helped in getting my mind and body to work together.
Here are some thoughts for people starting out on their fitness journey.
Ask yourself – Do you really want to do it? – If yes, then you would do everything to make that possible. You will stop feeding yourself excuses and start making a habit out of fitness instead of being lazy about it. You may like to hit snooze on the alarm, but your inner voice should be going strong enough to tell you to get up and start the morning.
Do what works best for you
What works best is an activity you enjoy. If you don’t like gymming, then no matter how many dumbbells you lift, you are always skip going to the gym. But, if you like to dance, you can dance in your living room, in your bathroom and you will want to go to a dance class, no matter what.
Create a reasonable schedule
Don’t be over-ambitious. Attempting to work-out three hours a day right at the beginning is humanly impossible. Make a small beginning, with maybe 10-minute walk and work your way up. Also, it’s not about how many hours you can do something, but how well you are doing it.
Deal with negativity
Understand that negativity is part of life but, you must not be subdued by your own negative tendencies. Understanding your numbing devices, your self-destructive patterns, and consciously pulling yourself out of that or making new patterns to rewire the old ones is the way to deal with it.
Understand the limits of your body
It’s taken me a while to understand. I would work out so much because I hated my body, and then I hated my body so much that I didn’t want to move at all. It takes time for you to know where and when you need to push your body, how you need to push it, and you can only do that by making a start. If you do not start you will never know how far your body can go. But remember, it is important to give your body a break as well.
Social media. Possibly filter out and follow those accounts that make you feel better about yourself. Understand that you are unique. We are all different and comparing will not get us anywhere. Realize that if you’re happy with yourself, you will not need to look for external validation. This takes time though and we must be patient with ourselves.
Set practical goals
Start by having small goals. When I started writing in my goal journal, I began with ‘I want to just brush my hair’ and ‘walk from one room to the other’ – basic things, but which were difficult for me to do. The next was to walk down the stairs, and next walk for maybe a minute, in the house first and then outside. And then, moving that goal up from 5 minutes to 10, and more. Understand that your goals do not have to be the equivalent of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Build yourself up so that it gets easier because when you look back, you’ll see that you come a long way.
Embracing one’s flaws is not easy. I have a gratitude journal to remind me to be grateful for things, for who I am. Self-healing is a process. If it was easy everyone would be healed, and the world would be a better place. But that’s not the case. What’s important is to keep being consistent and be aware.
All images: Courtesy Natasha Noel