If you’ve ever thought you’re too old, or too big, or too something (insert your own adjective here) for yoga—or any other endeavor, for that matter—I’d like to introduce you to Abby Lentz. Abby is an Austin, Texas yoga teacher who doesn’t fit the mold of your stereotypical yoga goddess: she’s in her 60s and clinically obese. Her mantra is “do yoga for the body you have,” and she is a true inspiration for valuing yourself exactly as you are and for following your own internal compass. I hope you find her self-care secrets as enlightening as I did.
In the spirit of Abby’s lead, leave a comment and share one thing you did that you initially told yourself you couldn’t do. If I post your comment in the next Vegimental, you’ll win a copy of her latest DVD, Heavyweight Yoga 2: Change the Image of Yoga.
How do you take care of yourself?
It’s a long list of meditation, yoga, cycling, supplements, water, study, music, dancing, family, friendship, yearly check ups, healthy foods (I’m off gross sugar like desserts since mid-May. My goal is to go a year without processed sugar products.) The trick of course is being consistent.
What made you realize that you needed to learn how to take better care of yourself?
Fourteen years ago I had a severe colitis attack. Only having a baby was more painful. It helped me to recognize that no matter what else was going on in my life, I had to take care of myself first if I wanted to be able to do the rest.
What was your first exposure to the world of mindfulness?
After my son was born I went to Mother’s Day Out at the local YMCA. One of the things we did was yoga. It was 1972 in Charleston, West Virginia, so there wasn’t much yoga being taught and there weren’t yet VCRs or DVDs. I was fortunate to find Lilias Folan on PBS and that changed my world.
How do you integrate your wellness endeavors into a typical day (or week)?
The most consistent thing I do is meditation. I find it keeps really brings the start of my day to a place of calm and clarity. After that I do my personal yoga practice — which may be so short it takes place while the tea water boils. Once I’ve got my cup of green tea, I journal and set my intentions for the day. I’ve been journaling since 1976, so it’s a necessity by now.
How do you invest in your own, personal well-being?
When I hear the word “invest” I think of time and money, the harder to manage being time, which is limited. Making decisions on how to integrate everything I want to do into my day is really about my having a sense of what’s important and doable, both in the long and short views. After that, it’s also about being able to toss out all of the planning and do something entirely different — being spontaneous without judgment. I almost hate to say it, but being flexible and striking a balance helps me to invest my time wisely.
What do you do to take care of yourself on days you don’t feel like doing anything at all?
I listen to my body and I don’t do anything at all. That said, I don’t let many of those type days happen in a row. I love to bicycle — it makes me feel like a kid again — so after a day off, I get myself back on the bike if only to ride around the neighborhood. Of course, after riding, I have to do yoga to stretch it out and before I know it, I’m back on track.
What do you do on insanely busy days?
Deep belly breathing in the car at red lights. I know it’s a really busy day when driving is relaxing.
How has your wellness practice changed since you first started?
I’m no longer looking for perfection, but wanting to enjoy the journey. It’s not about conquering the poses but savoring them.
What have your forays into the world of wellness taught you about yourself?
Anything is possible! After all here I am at 61, obese with a new hip and I’m teaching yoga and creating wellness not only for myself, but also for many others.
Have you had any major breakthroughs? What were they?
I think the major thing is to be my authentic self. I know I’m an acquired taste, after all not everyone is okay with having a heavy yoga teacher. I have to be okay with that type of rejection as long as I’m being me. I’ve taken what many would say is a disadvantage, being fat, and turned it into an asset. The other breakthrough I had was that teaching yoga is not the same as doing yoga for myself. My personal practice has to be separate from what I do for a class.
What books have helped you learn how to take better care of yourself?
All of my role models have published yoga books that I refer back to over and over again. However, the book that really helped me believe in my dreams is Gregg Levoy’s “Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life.” When I am doubtful about what I want to do, I go back to his words of support.
Who have been your role models or teachers?
Lilias Folan has been the major force in my life. I first met her at the Feathered Pipe Ranch for her Women’s Circle. I never miss an opportunity to study with her in person. She is so amazing! Erich Schiffmann taught me about taking yoga off the mat and making it work throughout the day. I studied Restorative Yoga with Judith Lasater and learned not only how to give permission to find yoga in “doing nothing” but also how to be clear in my language with students. My students have been my best teachers. I’m always learning something in every class I “teach.”
What are you working on in your practice these days?
I’m beginning to work on the yoga poses that I like the least. At the top of that list is Sun Salutations. So, not only am I working on it for myself, but I’ve decided to make it the theme of my next DVD in 2010.
What’s your favorite vice?
I grew up watching TV and still love it. My favorites are many of the HGTV transformation shows. Guess whether it’s bodies, kitchens or backyards being done over, I’m loving it. Also, I enjoy watching the TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress.” Usually it’s all about new beginnings and the joyful coming together of a couple, but also, I love it that when the right dress is found, the bride knows it, she feels it as much as anything she sees in the mirror.
Congrats to Sharon Rubinstein!
She wrote in with a great suggestion for dealing with capital-D doubts, and won a copy of The Beginner’s Guide to Buddhist Meditation. Here’s her quote:
“First, I educate myself. This can mean good old-fashioned research or speaking to others who may have experience to offer or just some wise perspective. Then, after I’ve exhausted all efforts, I back off. I step away and clear my mind as best as I can, for as long as I can. When I finally get to the point where I surrender all effort and thought, my gut begins to speak to me. It may even come to me in a dream, so I keep paper and pen by the bedside.”