I Am A Yoga Girl - Larissa Ranft

I am… a Yoga Girl. And being brave enough to shout this out in public feels so damn good.

For a long time, I have been confused with identifications of “Who or what I am“. Being identified as a woman, as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a partner. I‘m identified with my profession, my age, my lifestyle, my looks, my opinions, and so much more.

We are all searching for these senses of belonging, for these connections to a larger social body.

Our options of orientation seem wide and colorful, and it‘s easy to get lost in them – especially in times of social media and its sparkling temptations to tell us how we should look, behave, and consume.

I have struggled with finding a sense of belonging all my life. Recently, I‘ve realized: maybe the question is not so much about “who I think I am or who I am not“ but about who I let myself be.

I believe that questions of identity and belonging thrive from a human desire to allow ourselves to be seen as who we truely are. After all, this is the ultimate goal – and gift – of the practice of Yoga: self-realization. For me, this has been and continues to be a long and shaky journey.

“Who am I?“, “Who do I want to be?“ “What is my unique gift that I want to bring into this world?“, these are questions, which are forcing me to face a deep sense of vulnerability. To touch ground with these questions means acknowledging an essential truth within me, which hurts to speak out loud: my low sense of self-esteem, even self-hatred. Only lately have I been able to admit this, only lately have I been ready to feel it – this is how deeply rooted it has been at the core of my being.

Feeling it means facing it. I might not be alone with that but that doesn‘t make it less fundamental.

Since I can remember, I‘ve struggled with letting myself be seen. Hiding, shutting down, saying yes, or playing small are only some of the safety strategies I‘ve used over the years and which have become part of my identity. They were safe options to not be confronted with dislike, rejection or rage against me – and safe options not to show my true self and take up space. Stemming from a family background with alcohol abuse, violence, and mental illnesses, emtional trauma was coining my childhood, youth and early adulthood. I‘ve long felt like I do not own enough worth to be seen, appreciated, and most profoundly, loved for who I am.

I‘ve overcame some dark years of eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem but I‘ve pursued my journey of self-growth and experienced the gift of some wonderful people guiding me along the way until today. Today I can proudly say: I am now living a healthy and happy life. I‘ve awakened to conquer the “demons“ that make their way into my mind many times during the day and sometimes during the night, mindfully and with a whole lot of self-compassion.

The practice of yoga has played a big role in that.

Finding yoga in 2013 after a long and painful break-up was an epiphany for me. I have not stopped since then. I‘ve never been good at sports but somehow yoga convinced me to throw all my self-doubts over board and stay at a steady practice. Today, I believe what has kept me going was the special feeling of yoga bliss. You all know it. That grounding sense after a strong and sweaty practice. That long suppressed cry, which comes out when you are lying in Savasana after some gentle heart and hip openers. That warm shower of self-esteem, which sprinkles over you when you have managed to keep your focuse in a tricky balance pose. That practice of “Nadi Shodana“, which calms you down when anxiety won‘t let you sleep. That meditation, which keeps you sane after a buzzing day of work. And the list goes on… Yoga is all of that for me and so much more.

I have found healing in the teachings of yoga philosophy. By realizing the ever-changing impermanence of our human world, I find freedom. I am not my emotions, nor my thoughts. My emotions are always fleeting, and so are my thoughts. I can take up the seat of the observer and watch them play.

My sense of who I truely am is far beyond all of that. It‘s like a deep humming of my soul.

Now, I am able to unravel layers and layers of protective covers – and I arrive at a place that I call my soul home. Actually, it‘s a dance: it goes back and forth, back and forth – covers, soul home, covers, soul home, …

Whenever I am in the state of what I call my soul home, I shine.

I shine from the inside. I am full of trust, confidence, and love. I feel a sense of deep belonging. I feel myself in my living human body and at the same time I feel myself as part of everything.

This is why I am a Yoga Girl.

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