Emilie Littlehales

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 8.07.10 AMWhat are the benefits of your yoga practice?

My relationship to my body has changed dramatically. Yoga has helped me come to terms with the fact that any body is a yoga body, and that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” body. It’s also enabled me to find more comfort and safety in my body than I’d experienced before really getting serious about my practice.

On a physical level, getting the hang of a challenging pose, being able to kick up into a handstand, or managing to balance a little longer in crow is so satisfying. Finding joy in those accomplishments has allowed me to realize that you can experience happiness through your body, and that it doesn’t have to come from being thin or conforming to some arbitrary standard of beauty.

Of course, things aren’t always totally rosy. Accepting my body is still really hard, and might always be a challenge. But yoga has really helped me to identify ways to love myself, as well as tools I can use to fight back against some of my demons.

How did you find yoga?

In high school, I was obsessed with having a “perfect body” and started doing yoga because I thought it would help me to get the body I wanted. Over the years (and throughout all my struggles with my body image and my eating habits) I continued doing yoga off and on. It wasn’t until I was able to let go of the idea of getting a long, lean, lithe “yoga body” that I really started to appreciate what yoga was doing for me.

My practice has become especially meaningful to me in the past five or so years. It’s been instrumental in helping me recover from an eating disorder, and has also seen me through struggles with severe depression and anxiety. Even though my reasons for starting to do yoga might not have been the best, yoga itself has profoundly changed the way I look at my practice and its role in my life.

How have you overcome fear?

As cliche as it might sound, I think I’m most courageous in simply getting to the mat. On some of my most depressed days, showing up for a 15-minute practice can be incredibly daunting, and it takes huge amounts of courage to settle in and commit to that time. Sometimes, just showing up might be all I can manage.

The practice itself puts me face to face with some of my deepest insecurities about my body, and forces me to slow down and really bring my mind and body together. I’m someone who’s spent a lot of time trying to create as much distance as possible between my mind and my body, so taking the time to show up and come into my body and really be present there is, to me, a very courageous act.

What are your pet peeves?

All of the videos and selfies of gorgeous women practicing that popped up over the past year really play into the reasons why I think YOGAudacious is so awesome — it kills me the way some bodies are really glorified, and set up as ideals. Don’t women get enough of this everywhere else? Why does yoga have to be yet another vehicle for displaying gorgeous women doing complicated poses in amazing locales? It’s really, really important to me that we create spaces in which all bodies are welcomed and loved, and the proliferation and glorification of these photos and videos really works against that, in my opinion.

Favorite / Least Favorite Poses?

Like a lot of people, I have a love/hate relationship with hip opening poses. Nothing feels better to me than opening my hips, but people are not kidding when they talk about how confronting hip openers can be! If I had to pick a favorite pose, though, it would probably be half pigeon. I’m always a little disappointed when a class doesn’t include pigeon.

One of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done was a class of 108 sun salutations. It was so freeing, exhausting, and amazing. I wish I could experience it again.

Emilie Littlehales

Emilie Littlehales is a runner, yogini, and reluctant Manhattanite trying to make her way through the daily rat race. She blogs regularly at www.icametorun.com and hopes to someday get to the point where she can hold a handstand for more than half a second.

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