By Jaimee Hunter. Registered Yoga Teacher
When I was in elementary school, I received my first C in Physical Education class for not being able to run a mile in less than ten minutes. When I was in middle school, I quit ballet because my dance teacher told me that unless I lost 20 pounds I would not be able to advance to pointe ballet in the fall with the rest of my class. I interpreted these moments as failures and adopted a fixed mindset, telling myself, “I am not athletic.” This mindset that I couldn’t do anything that was considered physical fitness stuck with me for most of my life.
In my 20s I discovered yoga. My best friend Sarah suggested we check out a yoga class at the community center. I told her, “I can’t do yoga. Look at me! Fat girls don’t do yoga.”
After assurances and pleading, I agreed to try it out. The first class was HARD, and I can remember thinking that everyone was looking at me, judging my lack of flexibility, and finding me not worthy enough to join the class. The flip side to this negative self-talk was that I felt AMAZING after. The endorphins, serotonin and dopamine were having a party in my body, and I was thrilled to be invited.
In fact, we signed up and attended that yoga class each week until the center quit offering it. As each week passed, I started seeing how the yoga instructor’s instructions and modifications of poses, called asanas, were helping me to reach a little further and hold each pose a little longer with ease. I was really impressed by how she made yoga accessible to everyone in the class including pregnant women and those with special needs. I loved that yoga was for EVERYBODY and became addicted.
Additionally, I learned that not one person in that class was looking at me or anyone else for that matter. I figured this out when, after one particularly successful class, I asked Sarah if she had seen my pigeon pose. She responded no because she was tied up looking at her own pose and how it didn’t quite feel right to her that evening. Then it dawned on me that the members of the class were so focused on themselves and their personal practice that they didn’t even notice I was there. In yoga, there is no judgement.
It would be another 20 years before I read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. After years of studying successful humans, Dweck narrowed our thinking down to two mindsets: fixed and growth. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that characteristics like intelligence and talent are set traits that do not change. Conversely, people with a growth mindset believe that these same traits can be developed with dedication and hard work.
There is an entire chapter on the word “yet” and its power. The entire time I was reading the book, I kept remembering my defeatist protest to Sarah about not being able to practice yoga because of my lack of physical fitness and body size. If I had embraced a growth mindset in my youth, I would have said things like “I cannot run a mile in 10 minutes YET.” Then, with dedication and daily practice, I would have proven myself correct.
My youth’s fixed mindset about my body and fitness level, however, followed me into my life and played its part in me becoming morbidly obese. It was after reading Dweck’s book that I concluded that I could be physically fit. Unfortunately, I had let my weight overtake my mental resolve, and I knew I would need help to reach my goals.
It has been more than three years since Dr. Nick Nicholson and the Nicholson Clinic helped me regain my health through the gastric sleeve procedure. I have lost 130 pounds and maintained a healthy and active lifestyle ever since. I even took my passion for yoga and earned my yoga instructor certification after I struggled to find a personal trainer or yoga instructor who understood this lifestyle and its unique challenges. I needed someone with a growth mindset who could see my potential and train me in a manner that would help me find success. I became the solution to my challenge.
If you think you cannot do something, try adding “yet” to your negative statement and see how it changes your perspective. Then come join me at the Independence Nicholson Clinic office on April 10 and May 8, and let me demonstrate how you CAN practice yoga.
About the Author
Jaimee Hunter is a Nicholson Clinic patient and registered yoga teacher. Since her surgery in 2015, Jaimee has maintained a weight loss of more than 100 pounds by making healthy changes in her diet and lifestyle habits. She has received her designation as a Registered Yoga Teacher and instructs a monthly yoga class for Nicholson Clinic patients. To read more about Jaimee’s story, click here.