I remember vividly the moment my ballet teacher said "Rachel, you have no grace." I was eight, embarrassed but not surprised. When I looked at my ballet classmates, I knew the painful truth.
My body type didn't look like theirs.
So with my less-graceful body, I went down the athletic road, diving into two seasons of soccer a year and basketball in the winter. As I gained weight through my teen years, I still played, because I felt my body-type was more suited to the rough and tumble the sport required.
On the field, I was a rock. Off the field, I just wanted to feel graceful.
For years I looked at yoga with curiosity, but reservation. Ingrained was my shame of never being graceful, of being too stocky, too big, for the more refined arts.
My first yoga class was terrible. I couldn't keep up, slipped my hands off the mat, felt exhausted and certainly didn't experience a shred of grace. But I returned, week after week.
Something began to emerge the more I kept taking yoga class: I lost the idea my body wasn't graceful.
Today, I practice yoga three times a week and 98% of the time, am the largest woman there. But every time I step on to the mat, I'm not only practicing the art of strength and grace with my bodies movement, I practice the more important grace of loving and accepting.
To begin I sit there quietly, some of the only moments in my life where I'm not brainstorming my next move. I move with power, dynamism, strength and intention - I allow my body to lead and flow naturally, gracefully. I rest at the end peacefully, and a bit more whole then when I arrived.
Yoga isn't some fad for me, or a way to stay fit. Yoga is my 5 hours a week of personal space, prayer, joy, struggle, enthusiasm and peace.
It's where I've learned what Rachel's version of grace means and I carry that knowledge with me even off the mat.
I'm a big yogini and a gracefully powerful one too.