Is my body a valid yoga body?
Today's revelation is brought to you by several hot summer days, my thick thighs, a pair of short-shorts, and some art of Soviet Collective Farm women.
I practice yoga in a lovely little studio that doesn’t have a/c, and I cannot tolerate heat and humidity any more, AND it is summer in Wisconsin, which means heat and humidity. A perfect storm of discomfort! After a couple bouts of extreme dizziness after inadvertently hot yoga classes, I said ENOUGH, clothes in general were oppressing me, and specifically my long yoga pants and tshirts.
Body image crap takes hold young, you guys. Family pictures have always been upsetting for me – who is this giant girl and now woman in the middle of these slight, skinny wisps of people? Is that ME? Am I a hearty Soviet collective farm worker amongst tiny Audrey Hepburns?
Pretty Sure that's Me
Either one, really, depending on whether I'm in work clothes or I'm dressing up.
I have had body image issues for a long time, even when I was almost rail thin myself.
And then I gained weight, a bunch of it. Periomenopause and chronic illnesses robbed me of my what tiny bit of remaining waist I had and gifted me with an even bigger butt. I now look even more likely to withstand a famine.
When it was time to practice yoga again, I had changed so much that my old yoga shirts now roll up over my new belly and down over my new hips. It’s distressing to come back to my yoga mat and not be the same as I was before.
So because of the heat and my heat intolerance, I dared to wear shorts to yoga for the first time. Short shorts. The shorts that have never before been worn outside of my home. Shorts that have built in undies so you don't flash your crotch at people. That level of short.
In child’s pose, I peaked at my thick thighs, dimpled and considerably less muscular than before I got sick. I have been hiding these legs for years for fear of my legs offending someone. What if my big dimply legs invalidated my yoga teaching and practicing abilities? What if someone barfed? What if someone told me I was yucky to look at?
What if my belly grossed people out? What if someone looked over during a forward fold and saw my tummy all squished up and wondered how I could possibly even teach a forward fold when my stomach smashes against my thighs and I almost give myself the Heimlich. That’s not in a move in a yoga book.
What if my body wasn’t a yoga body anymore? What if I my weight made me invalid as a teacher? What if I put on shorts and bared my thick arms and all of a sudden Yoga Alliance was at the studio door demanding my certifications back?
That is a lot to carry around, even for a sturdy farmer such as myself, and it is TIME TO PUT THE BACKPACK FILLED WITH FUCKS DOWN. (I heard Lena Waithe say this on the Hello Sunshine podcast – all honor and gratitude to her!)
What did I want? I wanted to be comfortable.
I wore the shorts. Cellulite out, bum cheeks out a little, I bet. I wore a yoga shirt that sometimes rolled up over the rolls. No sleeves, sturdy arms out in the breeze. Here I was, in my space, in my power, in my body.
I felt connected to the earth, to my body, to a community, and to myself. I appreciated the ability of my legs to hold me up. I was grateful for the resilience of my skin and the wildness of my grey hair. I felt powerful. I felt badass and rebellious. I felt like a goddess, something I never feel like when I am hiding or disguising my body.
Verdict: fuck yeah, Wild Goddess-summoning yoga shorts! Thank you for the lesson in how to take up my physical space with my physical body.
I am a great teacher BECAUSE my once-smooth skin is filled with shadows of dimples and I abound with grey-haired and crepey-skinned evidence of aging. I am here to lead classes to other wild middle-aged goddesses of yoga. I am thrilled to lead classes filled with folks rolling their rolls out along with their mats, or struggling with their bodies, or loving their bodies, or being somewhere in between. If it helps you to see a teacher like me teaching, then I am so glad.
Thanks, short-shorts, for the revelation.
xoxo to you, my dears.