Most recovery programs suggest we don’t compare our insides with other people’s outsides, but for me, that’s a tall order. Accepting the body I was born with remains a challenge. For as long as I can remember, I’ve avoided mirrors and dressing rooms, refused to have my picture taken, hated myself in a bathing suit, and missed out on a myriad of summer activities. For years, I’ve looked at other women and come away “wishing I looked like her.” The origins of these feelings and the resulting behaviors that have plagued me for a lifetime are not as important as my experience with the offerings at Body Positive Works. When my friend and yoga instructor, Karen suggested I try her yoga class, I laughed out loud. Not at all flexible or athletic, I was immediately closed off to the idea. Months went by before I considered learning more about it. “You don’t have to know the poses or turn yourself into a pretzel,” she’d said. “Just come, sit on your mat, and see if you can quiet your mind.” Knowing that the chatter in my head was typically negative, she gently urged me to try. I arrived to my first class tense. The fact that I was unable to relax right away didn’t help. I found every reason to set myself apart from the others in the class. I was more focused on what the other women were wearing or how perfectly they stayed in position than the intention or message of the class. “I’ll never look like that,” I told myself. “I’ll never be that flexible.” Consumed by the shape and size of my stomach, my thighs, my arms, my butt, my [fill in the blank], my discontent was overwhelming. I decided that coming to class was a waste of time. As much as I wanted to please the instructor, I knew my heart wasn’t in it. Stuck in self; I was incapable of hearing the message of hope, peace, and joy. Then life got harder. My back was against the wall and I had no way of numbing my feelings. There had to be a way to get quiet long enough to see my way clear. “Pain is a great motivator,” I’d been told. It was time to try again. This time, I entered the studio with a new outlook. As Jen greeted me with her genuine smile, I was struck by the motivational sayings all over the walls and bulletin boards, the handmade trinkets, hearts, stones and pillows for sale in the area surrounding the check-in desk, the pleasing scents I’d not bothered to notice previously, messages of love and light on the stairs leading up to the yoga studio. Collecting my mat, bolster, blocks and sandbags, I surprised myself when I didn’t bolt the instant I saw what I perceived to be a perfectly built woman in a perfectly fitted yoga outfit. How could I judge her without even knowing her? Didn’t she have as much a right to take part in the class as I did? Could I appreciate her beauty without putting myself down in the process? Setting out my mat, I was more aware than ever of the sanctity of the room, the soothing music and chanting that I’d not even paid attention to for the months I’d attended previously, the calm voice of the teacher as she shared wisdom, affirmation and grace. “Downward Dog or Puppy Dog,” she reminded us. “Whichever you’re most comfortable with.” I was becoming comfortable on my mat. What had changed? I was willing. Willing to consider that my way wasn’t working. Willing to trust someone else. Willing to appreciate the power in our thoughts. Willing to focus on gratitude and acceptance. Willing to make a beginning. “I choose peace...always.” This intention was repeated regularly by our instructor before class concluded for the summer months. In choosing peace, always, I am willing to peel the onion layer even further. I’ve taken chances I never thought I would in a community of courageous women. Body Positive Works has opened my mind and my heart to new possibilities. Thank you, Jen and Melanie, for understanding, for acknowledging, for supporting, and for creating a space for change.