Part of Owning Your You is that you accept your body – your physical YOU – for what it is, and you love it and respect it. I don’t think I’ve talked much about body image yet but it hit me in a BIG way this morning…
Some of you may know that I am an avid yogi. I practice Bikram Yoga 4-5 times per week. I love it. I crave it. It’s become part of who I am. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bikram Yoga – it is practiced in a room that is heated to 105 degrees with at least 20% humidity. In warmer climates and warmer weather, the temperature and/or humidity can rise significantly. The point I’m making here is that it’s hot. It’s a hot, sweaty, 90 minute class that forces you to focus on yourself, your body, in the moment. It’s amazing. But, needless to say, you don’t want a lot of clothes weighing you down, bunching up, etc. so people in Bikram Yoga classes wear very little. There are women, like me, who will wear fitted shorts and a gym-type top, or fitted capri yoga pants and a sports bra type top or gym-type top. There are other women who have said “Screw this, that’s too many clothes!” and they wear these adorable little “bum-bum” shorts with their sports bra-esque tops. The shorts are ADORABLE! The cutest, funnest prints ever! But they’re tiny. I mean, they cover everything, and they don’t move around during any of the postures – they aren’t indecent by any means, but they are tiny.
The Bikram Yoga culture, in my experience, is one of acceptance and love. There is no judgment in class. Everyone is there focusing on their practice, their postures, their bodies. When you are 30 minutes in to class, sweating like a beast, and just trying to convince yourself that you CAN lock your knee and you CAN make it through the next 60 minutes, believe me, you are NOT focusing on what the person in front of you is wearing – or not wearing, or whether he or she has flabby thighs or a spare tire…you are truly just focused on yourself.
So this morning I show up at the studio at about 6:10 (for the 6:30 class) and can’t help but notice some totally adorable new bum-bum shorts! I look longingly at them because, as I’ve stated – ADORABLE! and this morning, feeling bold, I even go over to look at them. A fellow yogi who does own one pair of these teeny tiny shorts also came over to look and ogle the adorableness. I tell her, “I cannot wear these! But they’re so adorable!” and she counters with her own story about how she didn’t think she could ever wear them until the day she got to class and had forgotten her own (longer) shorts. She was forced to either skip class (um, NO) or buy a pair of shorts…she bought a pair (obviously). She goes on to rave about the material and how they don’t move and ride up and end up all up in your butt or anything. I am still skeptical. I’ve never even tried these tiny little wonders on…I’ve only looked on from afar. Finally I give in to my own curiosity and try a pair on.
Now let me digress for a minute and tell you that while there are, of course, teeny tiny yoginis who wear these teeny tiny shorts, there are also normal sized women, women with cellulite, women with big thighs, women with belly fat, etc. who wear these shorts. And no one in class is passing judgment on anyone else for what they are wearing. No one ever thinks, “Wow, that woman should put on some longer shorts/tank top/etc.” If anyone gives anyone else’s clothes any thought at all it’s to say, “OMG LOVE your top/shorts!” It is truly judgment-free – and those who do come in and judge the rest of the class aren’t really cut out for Bikram Yoga (or any yoga, really) and don’t end up coming back.
Ok, back to my monumental bum-bum shorts try-on…also, I should clarify that I am NOT one of the teeny tiny yoginis. I have big thighs – they touch (gasp! I know. Scandalous. I do not have the enviable “thigh gap”). My stomach jiggles…I could go on, but let’s just leave it at this: I am not a Victoria’s Secret model. So I put the shorts on and step in front of the mirror.
And I scream. And then I laugh. And then my fellow yoginis who were in the locker room at the time laugh – not at me, but at my reaction. And they proceed to tell me how good they look, how I should definitely get them, how I’ll love them, and they say things like, “So what? My thighs touch, too!” “We all have that!” and other appropriate and supportive responses to all of my personal critiques.
In this middle of this circus – for it really was a circus, the locker room was now full of yoginis sharing their teeny tiny short dramas and questions and insecurities.
I eventually stop freaking out and say, “You know, if any of you were in my position, I would be the first one to tell you how great you looked and how you should just rock the shorts if you like them, and be proud of your body…but here I am unable to do the same to myself!” At that point, I decide to do it. I thank my yogi friends for their “Annie validation moment,” then I buy the shorts, I walk into class, and I rock those teeny-tiny shorts and have a killer class! Not once do I feel embarrassed or wonder if anyone is judging me. They aren’t. I am the only one passing judgment on my thighs and critiquing myself.
After class, and after getting multiple congratulations on the shorts – yes, they congratulated me on buying and wearing bum-bum shorts (we yogis are an odd bunch, I know!) I started thinking more about my reaction to the shorts.
Own Your You. I preach that. I try hard to live that. I will tell each and every one of you that not only CAN you rock the bum-bum shorts, but you SHOULD rock them! Your body is amazing. Your body gets you up every day and takes you where you need to go. Your body is strong. Your body is the only body you will ever have. It’s yours. It’s beautiful. Own it. And I would mean all of that. Sincerely. Yet I could not internalize that this morning. I was overwhelmed with body image insecurities. I could not get my “imperfections” out of my head. I was having a hard time Owning My Me.
Why is it so hard for us to internalize what we so freely give to others – acceptance and love? That’s a big question that I am not going to get into today. I’m just going to leave it with this: I took another step on my journey today by having my body-image freak out, and then acknowledging it, and now being conscious and actively aware of it. I can’t say that I now am completely ok with my body – BUT I can say that I’ve taken a step and am looking at it differently now…and that’s progress. That’s my journey.
It’s hard, my friends. But it’s worth it. Own Your You. Love your perfectly imperfect self and your strong beautiful body.