I’m a Strong, Fit Yoga Instructor—and I Still Get Insecure About My Belly

How we can all recognize our bodies for the awesomeness they are

Five years ago, I auditioned for a yoga video. A few weeks later, the DVD producer called me to tell me that she couldn’t hire me—even though she thought I was the most qualified for the job—because I had a tire around my waist. I listened as she rattled off the many reasons why I would never be “camera-ready” and sucked back tears as I let her drag me across the coals, only to burst into sobs the second I pressed “end” on the phone.

I had never let someone freely body bash me like that. I’m fully aware that I don’t look like a 5’10″ ripped fitness model, that I’ve never had a six-pack. My body leans toward the softer side, even for someone who sweats daily and dedicates herself to regular physical activities.

RELATED: Why Everyone Needs to Stop Saying Yoga Doesn’t Count as a Workout

But I’m not chopped liver, either. I’m a strong woman with a fit body—even if you can’t wash laundry on my abs. I can gracefully hold a handstand, pump out an impressive amount of pushups, and knock the wind out of someone with my kick. I am a strong, disciplined, and beautiful woman.

Of course, all of this slipped my mind after that phone call. All I could feel was pain and how worthless the producer made me feel. The experience left an emotional scar that made me constantly doubt myself. I found myself wearing loose tees and absentmindedly fiddling with my waistband on a regular basis.

"I’m a strong woman with a fit body—even if you can’t wash laundry on my abs."

I searched for a way to feel better about myself. I didn’t think I needed to up my physical activity, as I was already practicing daily yoga on top of my other passions. I knew I could start a strict eating regimen, but I’ll never be that person afraid to have a glass of wine or indulge in dessert when out with friends. I make daily healthy choices and eat clean, organic, non-processed food, but what’s the point of living if you can’t enjoy yourself? This is called “sweet balance.” It’s also called “taking care your body so it will perform well instead of just looking good.” So anytime I’d catch myself making choices dependent on how I looked versus how I felt, I decided I was going to stand up to myself. I told myself I didn’t need to fit society’s (or this woman’s) idea of what a yoga teacher or fit woman should look like because there is no generic yoga teacher or fit woman.

Cheyenne Ellis

I am currently 5’2″, a size four, and strong as a bull. I may not be fat-free—and I may still be insecure about my belly at times—but I am full of life, experience, and determination. I wear my confidence like a favorite fragrance, in hopes that it will captivate and encourage anyone who smells it to do the same.

If I were to ask you what body part you’re most insecure about, what would it be? Place your hand on that area in acknowledgement of the history connected to that location, like mine, that’s brought you to feeling this way. It’s time to leave those stories in the past and move on to the next chapter in your life.

RELATED: Why I’m Still Excited About Yoga After 14 Years

Still holding on to that insecure body part? Please do this: Squeeze it lovingly. Thank it for being part of the entire team of parts that make up your amazing, perfectly imperfect vessel. Tell this area that you’ll no longer trash talk it or wish for it to change, but rather embrace it as it is so that you can step forward, empowered as a team. Your acceptance and strength will encourage others to drop their insecurities and pain. Make a dedication right here and now. Any time you have a wave of insecurity, stop—take a deep breath, hold that body part, and remember your dedication. Forget the story, strip away the layers of insecurity, and honor your body as the amazing temple that it is.

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