The idea behind Caroline Rivera's and Katie Heath's latest yoga workshop stemmed from typical New Year's fitness pledges.

Now I have to lose weight. Now I have to go to the gym. Now I have to eat healthy. 

"Everything you see is this inondation of 'How can I be better looking this year than I was last year?'" said Rivera. "The thought behind that is somehow we're not OK with just the way we are. The language they use in advertisements or the language people use to talk about themselves is, 'How can I turn this inferior version of myself into something better?'"

Healthy goals may be difficult to reach, she added, and could likely be hindered by our own negative attitudes toward ourselves. 

Rivera further explained the goals of the Body Positive workshop to the Weekender. The two-day sessions begin at 6 p.m. Friday (Feb. 2) and 1 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 3) at Studio 83 Holistic Wellness.

How does the workshop fit into the 'New Year, new you' attitude?

Every year it's "How can I be skinnier and better looking and more socially acceptable?" It's like if I broke my arm and I took a bunch of pain killers, I may not feel my broken arm but my arm would still be broken, right? So if I feel like I'm overweight or my body doesn't look how it's supposed to look, let me go to the gym and stop eating carbs and then I'll be skinny, but not really tackling what is the underlying issue that's brought you to this place of ill health.

So what's the primary idea you want the workshop to get across?

The idea is that we all suffer from not knowing that we're worthy and that we're wonderful and that we're smart and that we're funny and that we're so many other things than what size shirt we wear or what size pants we wear or what number shows up when I step on the scale. The idea behind this workshop is to skip that part where we want to be better and just get to the point of loving ourselves and how we are now.

What happens after you learn to love yourself?

If we feel like we're worthy and we're loving, we're going to want to do healthy things. By understanding that we're worthy and that we're wonderful and that we're beautiful, good health will follow that because we wouldn't treat ourselves poorly by eating bad foods or being lethargic or not exercising if we knew we were worthy of feeling good.

So the focus is more on the inner self?

Yeah! To recognize the beauty we already got exactly how we are today right now. On January 24 at 4:31 p.m., I am Caroline and I am worthy, I am beautiful, I am wonderful, I am smart, I am great, I am deserving of good things. And if I really believe that more than I don't believe it, then all my other habits that are maybe unhealthy will fall by the wayside. Because if I'm worthy and wonderful and beautiful, I'm worthy of treating myself well, which is eating healthy, having some kind of exercise. We're not really focused on the end goal of looking a certain way. It's more important to feel a certain way. 

So what will the workshop be like?

It's going to be a group of women who are are going to get together and take a really honest look at who we are and delve into those opinions we have about ourselves where we put ourselves down. Where does that come from? When did that kind of thinking start? How can we reframe the way we think about ourselves?

Do you have your own personal take on the class?

I've always struggled with body image issues. I developed earlier than all my friends and I've always been larger than all my friends. A lot of times I would feel like I was somehow inferior to all of them. Why do I feel that way? Why am I not as worthy as anybody else regardless of how I look? I took a life inventory. What I discovered is that starting from when I was a kid, one kid says something to you in school and you remember that. That sticks with you, right? I was in the eighth grade and I was at a swimming pool. This kid yelled about me about my size and bathing suit. That has stuck with me and I'm 35. That moment is where I started to really become conscious about how I looked. It's been a constant reaffirmation of that growing up.

What did you learn looking back on that particular experience?

I started to understand that isn't how I'm defined. The larger I am, the more full of life I am. I started to look at that space that I take as something positive and it transformed the way I think about myself, my confidence. And I started adopting healthier habits because I felt good about who I was. There's a body positive movement happening everywhere.


Weekender reporter

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