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Aqua Yoga – The Joy of Being Back in the Water

Guess who’s back in the water? Me Honey Child! Mmhmm.

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve taught or practiced Aqua Yoga and my body, mind and spirit felt sooo good being in the water again. And to add to the deliciousness of my oceanfront experience, I had the enTIRE pool and pool area all to myself. It was divine!

So why, you may ask, has there been such a lapse in my aqua-fun time? In a word, Rona and his ugly behind. The COVID-19 pandemic was the cause of so many deaths, sicknesses and the shut-down of public/private places nationwide.

In the fall of 2020, I let go of my regular classes at East Portland Community Center (my fave pool), to teach full time at Rosemary Anderson Middle School; a private alternative school of POIC + RAHS. (Prior to Portland's intense gentrification situation, Peninsula & Dishman pools were my favorites but that’s a whole ‘nother blog for a whole ‘nother day.)

Right before the pandemic shut down in March 2020, I was subbing and teaching Aqua Yoga/Movement classes at Columbia Pool, something I did occasionally as my schedule and energy allowed. I had finally gotten to the point where active movement was something that I did for enjoyment, as well as for my mental health, instead of as a means of losing weight. This rendered a return of the joy that I once felt as a child, when activity was something done just for fun. Diet Culture began robbing me of that joy in my teenage years. A joy that would be lost for a major part of nearly four decades. That is, until I decided to take the course to become a water exercise instructor.

In 2015, when I first started teaching at both Matt Dishman Indoor Pool and North Clackamas Aquatic Park, weight loss was my main reason for becoming a water fitness instructor. I knew that if I was teaching, I would show up for others and indirectly reap from the benefits of regular movement. (I hadn’t quite learned how to be present for myself yet.) Plus, I was constantly injuring and re-injuring myself in land movement activities and sports.

One of the other two reasons was also rooted in the patriarchal views of weight loss. For one, I had spent years constantly injuring myself from participating in medium to high impact exercises, which I generally did whenever I was on a mission to make myself smaller. My body needed the low impact that most folx experienced in water movement activities.

Finally, the third and least of my reasons was to have fun.

And I have to admit, I did have fun. Yet, because I lived a disembodied life, I over-exercised and began to take on more and more classes. As my skills improved and more classes opened up for me to teach, my body size decreased. My inner people-pleaser was elated with the countless compliments I got during this process from family and friends. Even from the patrons at the pools.

However, in 2017 while dealing with a PTSD episode which almost always drove me to disordered eating, I discovered and read both ‘Health at Every Size/HAES’ and ‘Intuitive Eating/IE’ books while in an outpatient eating disorder program. A program very much rooted in whiteness. These books weren’t the answers to all of my challenges, especially as a Black woman, but they were good resources that exposed me to new ways of thinking and being in my body. They were useful rest stops on my recovery journey.

The biggest blessing of my very short-lived out-patient experience (thanks to my insurance company that stopped paying when I was actually getting better, just because I gained a few pounds) was that it led me to Be Nourished. Originally, I arrived at Be Nourished for trauma therapy but soon after, discovered a practice that would positively affect my recovery journey, Body Trust at a Reclaiming Body Trust® weekend retreat. I continued to learn more about Body Trust as many of the concepts resonated with me. I even became a Certified Body Trust® Provider.

The other huge blessing that I experienced was when I applied for--and received a scholarship for Sola School for their 200 hour yoga teacher training immersion course. This was when I began to become more embodied. This was when I learned to return to my breath. To be in my body, just as it was. When my movement in the water for weight loss slowly began to shift.

After I received my certification as a yoga teacher, I began to practice Aqua Yoga and Bay-bies, my life in (and out of) the water began to change for the better. I studied from the two or three water instructors within Portland Parks and Recreation that taught Aqua Yoga and spent lots of time on my own modifying land yoga poses into water yoga poses which eventually led to me having my own Aqua Yoga class.

When COVID hit in 2020, all of the pools were shut down and I was back to land exercise. With all of the deaths, isolation, stress, racism, etc. I needed to get outside for fresh air and to move for my mental health. This took me right back to injuring myself which was so depressing. Most days I couldn't tap into the HAES 'joyful movement' idea because of all that was going on. So I began to establish a deeper gratitude practice and organically developed what I call Grateful Moves™️ which uses the tool of gratitude to encourage accessible movement that honors the body, inspires healing and uplifts the mind, body and spirit.

Fast forward to 2021. I didn’t realize how much I missed being in the water until I received a complimentary float from Float North which is basically a full body Epson Salt bath in gigantic tub within a quiet and relaxing environment. The owner, Dana was running a Black Lives Matter special and my sister in recovery (another blessing from my eating disorder treatment program) contacted me with a link for a free ‘float’. Hence, April of 2021 was the first time since Rona reared his ugly head, that I was able to fit my entire fat body into a body of water, unlike the standard-sized bathtub that I have in my home. Apparently that ‘float’ tickled my water movement fancy and in May of 2021, I was back in the water.

First, I continued to schedule floats as a means of wellness. Then I was blessed to experience the water in a large outdoor hot tub which soothed my aching joints. Finally, and also the icing on the cake, I got in a full-sized outdoor pool while at the coast where it was just me, Black Jesus and Nature. It was then that I practiced Grateful Moves via my first Aqua Yoga flow since February 2020. An experience that brought back the joy I once felt from water movement as a child and in recent years.

Now that I’m a Certified Body Trust Coach, Yoga Teacher and Life Coach with a whole lot of recovery experience, you can no longer experience me for $5.00 per class at the local community center. You can, however, consider partnering with me as I walk alongside you on your personal, professional or spiritual journey Honey Child. Mmhmm.

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