Issue: 2017-04-19, PHOTO: Ron Pogue
Jessica Read is a yoga instructor and the owner of the Breath of Life studio in downtown Whitehorse
In today’s world, it can be hard to feel comfortable in our own skin. This is, in part, due to a growing plague of diet and fitness advertisements hinting that our happiness stems from a leaner version of ourselves. These advertisements have accumulated to the point where body-confidence is an issue in our society.
I asked local yoga instructor Jessica Read about this problem.
Read has definitely earned her title as a local. After falling in love with the Yukon while visiting in the summers of 1999 and 2001, Read eventually made a permanent move up North in 2002. She has taught yoga for 10 years, and opened the yoga studio Breath of Life in 2012.
Her yoga journey began with simple curiosity about the practice; she gathered information by reading books and following videos at home.
Yoga became an ingrained part of Read’s life while working on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean in 2006, where she wrestled with insomnia; yoga was a sleep-summoning answer.
Her next step was to take the Adventure Tourism and Business Management diploma program from the College of the Rockies at the Invermere, B.C. campus – but later discovered it wasn’t her passion. Unsure of where to take the step next in her life, Read went back to the basic framework of what she wanted: she wanted to help people.
Read combined her desire to help, with her love for yoga and came out with her Yoga Instructor’s certification with Yoga Alliance, which is an international network of certified schools.
Her first formal yoga instruction was at the Sivananda Ashram in Netala, India in 2006. Over the years she has continued her teacher training.
“I never stop – I just did 200 training hours in January,” Read says. “I’ve already completed 750 hours plus, and I continue my training with Yoga Alliance in different philosophies of yoga.”
Read has had a diversified yoga career. She has worked for a couple of different yoga studios in Whitehorse and the Better Bodies Cross Training Centre and taught monthly yoga classes to elementary school age kids, teenagers and adults in Teslin before opening the Breath of Life studio.
Read says yoga is a practice of connecting the mind and body. Over the years she has seen the issue of body image from many perspectives. Through her own practice and through working with a variety of teachers and students, she has come to believe that body positivity is self-acceptance.
“When someone says five positive things and one negative thing, you always remember the negative,” Read says. “The same goes for your inner self.”
Read even brought up the issue past body positivity. Without self-acceptance people aren’t able to truly “be” with themselves, meaning they’re not able to truly be aware of their own inner feelings. Read hypothesizes that this inability to be with one's self prevents people from going on the journey of self-discovery. Ultimately, she says, this renders them unable to uncover their passions and chase their dreams.
Read also theorized that when we don’t have self-acceptance, we project that insecurity onto others. This occurs in different forms, from snide comments to outright bullying. Therefore, she says, the solution to bringing more kindness into the world begins with individual self-acceptance.
But, she has an idea where to start.
(If you guessed it involves yoga, you’d be correct!)
Yoga can be the partial key for some to widen the crack of the door to self-acceptance: yoga can help us become aware of our “inner landscapes,” as Read calls it. It’s a process of one genuinely listening to their own inner voice. Then, responding to what we hear without judgement, only love and acceptance to what our body needs.
Read also says that if coming to the mat and practicing yoga isn’t a feasible option, there are other routes to practicing self-acceptance. The simplest of which involves finding a comfortable place of stillness. And meditate for five minutes. The word “meditate” can be daunting, but, at the basic level, all it involves is following your breath. Noticing every inhale and every exhale. Acknowledging when thoughts flood the mind and return the concentration to the breath.
According to Read, being truly present with your breath is an effective start on the path to truly being with yourself and ultimately the start of the journey towards self-acceptance.