I follow the body image website Adios Barbie on Facebook and today, they linked to a study about sexualized portrayals of women in the media. I thought it was worth talking about here, given that in American yoga is such a women-oriented community. According to the study results, we’re living in a media world with more and more emphasis on sexualization of women. The result is that looking a certain way becomes an accomplishment unto itself, putting huge amounts of pressure on women and young girls. It’s an issue within the yoga community, too, as various controversies over nudity, dieting and advertising in magazines like Yoga Journal have illustrated. There are a wide spectrum of responses to these issues, and I’d like to link to a few of my favorites, before talking about my own experience of practicing yoga and dealing with fears about attractive-ness and beauty:
For me, this is a challenging issue to think about. I feel a certain kinship with Rea’s idea of taking care of yourself as a form of adornment and individuality. I like feeling pretty–whether ‘pretty’ means wearing my favorite jewelry, makeup or changing my hair color frequently–but I’m not insensitive to the ramifications of beauty. Or immune to self-doubt and scrutiny. Within my own family, there is a history of what could be called disordered eating, only there wasn’t a name for it in the 1950s, when my grandmother decided 110 lbs was her “fat” weight. My relationship with weight and yoga is complicated by my physical disability; I was a premature baby and have cerebral palsy. In many ways, I’m lucky: I live in an era of medical advantages, my CP is mild enough that I can walk on my own and do many of the things I want to do. Including some yoga. Not all yoga, of course. As Matthew Sanford
says, I have to accept that I won’t ever be able to “complete the pose.” I may never get to Lotus, but I have to be okay with that. Sometimes, I think it is easier for me to make peace with physical challenges than emotional ones. There is always the reminder from your brain if you push your body too hard: Ouch, kid, that hurts! Cut it out!
Taming your mind is more difficult. Can we deal with that through yoga? While separating our practice of yoga from popular influences that push us to be thin, perfect, beautiful? I think it’s the emphasis on yoga within that helps. That’s why yoga resonates with me. I see my own tendency to be high-strung and overly-analytical in the dialogues of the Bhagavad Gita,
but I also know I feel better when I spend time on my mat at home.
But more on that later.