It was a hot, sticky day in Los Angeles, and I found myself profusely sweating through a yoga class. I was wearing 3/4 length yoga pants, a sports bra, and a tank top. The slender woman on the mat in front of me yanked her tank top off mid-vinyasa, threw it on the ground, and continued to downward facing dog, experiencing the sweet relief of less clothing sticking to her body. I glanced down at my tank top, modestly covering my not-so-perfect tummy, and in that moment, I realized something.
We are all well-aware of how societal beauty standards in America have created an unrealistic ideal that oftentimes leads to feelings of unworthiness, low-self esteem, and self-hate in women and men. As a more evolving, conscious society I believe we are working to debunk this myth so that more and more girls and boys can love themselves for exactly who they are. But like any progress we are trying to achieve in this lifetime, there is a painfully snaillike forward movement, and much damage has already been done.
I’ve never been that woman who could take her shirt off and work out in a sports bra. Even when I was my fittest self, that lie was still lodged in the back of my head that said, keep your shirt on, don’t offend anyone by displaying your fupa and backfat! And worse, when you work out, it’s all going to jiggle and move around! The only women worthy of the shirt-tear-off are those who have achieved the beauty standard you know is a lie but can’t help holding yourself to anyway. Flat stomach, tight arms and thighs woman! Anything that jiggles must be hidden away.
All week the thought nagged at me: what if I had just ripped my shirt off and continued on as she did in that yoga class? Just because her body is closer to this antiquated societal beauty ideal doesn’t mean I can’t be more comfortable too. And I know that no one would have noticed or cared. And if anyone did, that was their problem, not mine.
Fat bodies have been shamed into hiding. How dare you become addicted to food, much of which is scientifically engineered specifically so that you become addicted and buy as much as possible. How dare you emotionally eat, and lack the tools to heal yourself from the inside out. How dare you recognize that you’re just made wonderfully bigger, and you’re beautiful and don’t need to explain yourself at all!?
If more people with rolls took their shirts off then it wouldn’t be weird or uncomfortable. But we’re conditioned to be shameful of it, and so the majority of us with un “perfect” bodies keep it all tucked away, even when we are drenched in sweat.
I’ve punished my body with excess food and alcohol in the past, and when I see my rolls, I know that they are filled with pain. But when I am no longer interested in listening to the lies that say I’m not good enough, or will always be that way; when I take back control of my life and my health, and I eat nourishing foods, and I challenge my body and soul in workouts and meditation and yoga, then those fat rolls become symbols of warriors. Everything I’ve gone through has made me stronger, more compassionate, and free. I love those rolls now for who they made me become, and as my mind continues to grow healthy again, my body is following along at its own healthy pace.
So the next time I’m sweating in yoga, I’m going to empower myself to rip off my shirt, and continue to flow.
The aforementioned yoga class was last Sunday. Today, after I posted this blog, I was there once again, about to do my 70th sun salutation of 108 in our full moon sun salutation ceremony, when she yanked off her shirt again. I was hot, sweaty, and my V-neck T-shirt was dragging me down. I did another sun salutation, gathering the courage, then another. By the third one, I yanked off my shirt and threw it aside, and I felt FREE. Free of those lies that were lodged deep inside, free from concern of what others thought, and free to continue to flow in comfort. I finished the series with more energy than ever before, and felt more connected to myself, and liberated from all that was holding me back. Namaste!