I’ve noticed this new thing in my Facebook feed lately. Friends of mine, specifically female friends of the yogic persuasion, have been posting pictures of themselves in various yoga poses wearing naught but a sports bra and yoga pants. It’s all part of an Instagram project started by two yogis, Thea Pueschel and Melissa Scott, set to run July 1st through the 10th. It’s entitled #noshirtnoshoesnoshame and its purpose is to combat the pervasive body shaming our culture indulges in.
At first blush I was like, “Hooray!” I mean, who doesn’t want more female bodies adorning their Facebook feed? It’s kind of a universal, everyone loves the female form. Everyone. Straight men, of course, love it and well, so do lesbians, but then straight women do, too, and even gay guys. Everyone loves the female form, except it turns out the women themselves.
It seems like with every posted picture I read apologies. Not a single woman I know is happy with her body. Every one of them acknowledges the need to love their bodies and recognizes the necessity for and the power of this project, but none of them feel it.
Now, of course, no one is totally happy with their body. In this day of steroids and Photoshop it is impossible to be, and I am not immune from those pressures. I am big and I am muscular but I also have a bit of a belly. In some circles that alone is enough to call into question my skills as a fitness professional. I call those people assholes, but I digress.
What bothers me and I think needs some serious inquiry is how all of these women in my feed, regardless of body composition, felt the need to apologize in one way or another for their bodies. As I understand it the purpose of this project was for women, especially yoga women, to empower themselves about their bodies. And while I think this is valiant, I do not see the empowerment — yet.
And why should we? Huge profits are made telling people what they should be. Insecurity is one of the greatest marketing motivators going.
So I make it a point to “like” every one of these images that rolls across my feed. Not because I’m some lecherous dude who enjoys seeing his female friends in various stages of undress, but because I want to support each of these women in her own journey to finally find comfort inside her own skin. Not that I don’t enjoy seeing my female friends in various stages of undress mind you, I’m just not lecherous about it.
Over the course of the day I’ve been having a running conversation with my friend Cheree. She’s a yogi out in Sacramento, California, a Venus of Willendorf hottie who favors cleavage and glitter. Cheree’s also a lifter and one Chip Conrad’s crew over at the Bodytribe.
Cheree is a big girl. As an active member of both the lifting and yoga communities she’s seen plenty about how the fitness industry works. We’re often engaged in conversation about what’s wrong with the industry and frequently find ourselves coming back time and again to issues of body image.
Near the end of today’s exchange she sent me this:
Here’s the thing that I see… People like your client who can’t get back up, people who have gotten to a certain level of fat or lack of physical ability…. Living in that body is hell. I can vouch for this, I’ve been there…When you get to that point, so much hurts, and from anything you do. It’s really hard getting through the point where you realize that, to get better, you have to be willing to let it hurt. You have to accept that working out is always going to be hard, that you’ll always leave tired and sore and it will probably always suck. Yes, you get to the point where that’s not a big deal, and you’re not hurting yourself, per se, but you’re staying in the work and you’re ok with that. But running up against that realization that, to stay in progress, you can never let it get easy… SUCKS. Especially because [at that point], at least for me, the rest of it hadn’t gotten significantly easier. I’m in a much better place with it all but it’s taken years to get here. It’s head work almost more than it’s body work.
When Chip talks about the master/slave relationship we have with our bodies, I know he speaks to it from the athlete/jock frame of reference, but this is also how we get to be so fat and [inactive]. We don’t have a respect for and connection to our body. So we eat crap because it’s easy and it tastes good. We spend a lot of time [lying] or sitting down because we’re tired and it’s easy. We don’t want to exercise because it’s hard and it sucks and we’re told it’s punishment.
And then you’ve got fitspo bullshit with “no excuses” and pandering, talking down to, “good for you”.
I believe that the single most important thing to getting people to treat their bodies well is getting them to fall back in love with living in them. Because we are not taught this. On so many levels, in so many ways. Yet your body is the only thing you will have your entire life. Why wouldn’t you love it? Why wouldn’t you want to treat it well?
I want my yoga sisters to find their inner warriors. That loud, angry voice that says, “Fuck you. This is what I look like and I don’t give two shits whether you like it or not.” Let’s face it, we are not all sexually compatible. If we were we’d never get anything done. Whether or not you want to push your sexy parts up against another person’s sexy parts is not a suitable criteria for what’s acceptable. Beauty is more than sexual attraction.
To reduce it to nothing more than that only serves to build a prison, both for the observer and the observed. No one should ever have to apologize for their body. Period.
To our perfect imperfection,
P.S. If you’re interested in some body positive yoga pages more reflective of that warrior spirit check these out.