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How I stopped comparing myself to the ideal “yoga body” that doesn’t actually exist
I found my yoga teacher, Joy, when my oldest daughter was 4 months old. In the middle of deep postpartum anxiety, taking her class was the first time I left the baby and did something entirely for myself. I chose Joy’s class because she taught “curvy yoga.” I hoped I would find a safe space to practice without feeling like an outsider because of my body.
For five years, I followed Joy through different studios, and every class brought new ways to challenge myself and work with my body instead of treating it like a hindrance. Belly limiting your movement? Let’s adjust. This doesn’t work for you? Let’s try something else. Joy never sidelined a student for not fitting a predetermined idea of how yoga practice should look.
When Joy announced that she was taking a sabbatical from teaching, I had to figure out what yoga looks like for me, without her and our familiar judgment-free classes.
Trying to scratch out a start to this new path, I asked Joy, “What is your philosophy for yoga?” Instead she gave me her philosophy for life: “I exist.”
“As I have been teaching,” she said, “I am seeing it in everyone—that they too want to exist.”
One summer Saturday afternoon, about a dozen of us sat on mats around the loft studio for Joy’s last curvy yoga workshop before her sabbatical. We chatted about parking and the weather, then a deeper conversation began: Why had we each joined a curvy yoga workshop that day? A confessional of inexperience and insecurities followed.
I listened to women who were taking their first-ever yoga class and were drawn to Joy because she used the “curvy yoga” label. They talked about how they never felt like they had the right body type for yoga, so they were too intimidated to join a room full of “yoga bodies.” I also listened to Joy’s regular curvy yoga students bemoan her break from teaching and their fears of finding a new class where they can fit in.
I thought about the times in class when a folding or twisting pose made anger swell up from deep in my long-hated gut — all the times yoga was a physical expression of my emotions.
I weigh 250 pounds; I do not have a “yoga body,” but there is no such thing as a yoga body.
I have a body, and I have yoga.
Books and Instagram accounts tell the stories of curvy yogis and nontraditional yoga practitioners. When I google images of “yoga body” today, the first few results are pictures of Jessamyn Stanley, author of Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On the Mat, Love Your Body. Stanley and Anna Guest-Jelly, founder of a Curvy Yoga-branded teacher training program and author of Curvy Yoga: Love Yourself & Your Body a Little More Each Day, challenge assumptions about what yoga looks like and who can practice. Dana Falsetti’s Instagram is filled with daring poses and minimal clothing, a striking image against the idea that bendy yogis MUST be small and taut.
These women are challenging expectations associated with yoga, and I want to do the same. So when my teacher left, I retained these lessons:
I am my own teacher.
I had a mission when I went to Joy’s last workshop—to figure out what I would do next. In the quiet of savasana and deep breath, I wondered, what would Joy tell me to do? I imagined her response at once both compassionate and DGAF: “You figure it out. This is not about me.”
Yoga is for every body.
We are doing accidental yoga all day. My two-year-old executes a perfect downward-facing dog before her sister tickle-tackles her. Both the pose and the laughter are yoga. On the rug, my husband grimaces into an awkward frog pose to loosen up after a long run. I suggest a modification because “Joy says…” Both the pose and the communication are aspects of yoga. The practice does not only consist of people perched on mats, defying gravity and joint mechanics.
Practicing yoga when others think we don’t belong is a subversive act. It allows us to be an ambassador for all those people who are too nervous to take that first class.
Joy isn’t here. It’s time for me to try new classes with new teachers and new peers. My calendar is populated with the class schedule of the nearby gym. It’s five minutes away, offers childcare, and has an attached cafe. Still, I think about walking into that room for the first time and wonder if my body will be too disparate from the other bodies there.
But I go to class because showing up is the first step.
I will try not to be the one committing the offense of comparison: She is older than I am, she is shorter than I am, she is more graceful than I am. We all belong in yoga because we chose to be there, and at the same time, no one will have an identical practice. I will focus on commonalities, not differences when I practice yoga—even if that means the common experience of feeling different.
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BEST DEAL UPDATE:
Here’s a topic we haven’t discussed in about a thousand years: perfume at the office. DO office-appropriate perfumes exist, ladies? If so, what are the business etiquette rules for perfume?
When I grew up I always loved the idea of having “a scent” that people would know me by — there’s a line in When Harry Met Sally about how at the end of the day he wants to come home and smell her perfume on his clothes, and that always struck me as romantic and lovely. When I started the blog, I was fascinated to find that readers, by and large, haaaaated perfume for the office. They got migraines, couldn’t escape the strongest of scents, and NO, in fact, they did not want the conference room or their clothes smelling like your perfume if you were no longer there. Then, I took a long break from perfume because I was in that pregnancy corridor, and either it turned my stomach to wear it while pregnant, or I worried the baby would react negatively to it. My kids are 4 and 7, so I’m slowly starting to go back and try different perfumes — and it’s been really fascinating to me how strong and overpowering my longtime favorite perfumes are, at least to me. I’d read some interesting stories about how perfumes that smell like nothing are really popular, though, so I’ve been sampling some of those, and I thought we’d revisit the topic: if a scent is personal to you (as in, you have to be in hugging/kissing distance to smell it), can it add to your personal sense of polish or empowerment — without annoying others in the office? Are there business etiquette rules one should follow (like not spraying in the office bathroom or your own office) in an abundance of caution for your colleagues? Furthermore, which are the best perfumes “that smell like nothing”?
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For my $ .02, I’ve been sampling a few different brands, and my favorites are the lines from Juliette’s Got a Gun (although I’m not personally fond of the brand’s signature scent, “Not a Perfume.”) (Sephora has the sampler set that I bought back in stock! I literally love all of them except for Not a Perfume; if I had to choose I’d say Another Oud, MMMM, and Lady Vengeance are my top three.) I wouldn’t say that they smell like “nothing,” though — it’s more like the subtle scent that you notice if you use scented handsoap, shampoo, or deodorant (but with better staying power) — it’s an understated smell that stays with you and makes you happy when you find a great scent. I also really like Glossier’s scent, but for some reason I bought it in solid form, and it’s too strong for me in that format. I loooove Phlur’s Hepcat, but I might put it more with Le Labo (I have this one) as a “modern perfume” and less of a “not a perfume” — the scent is stronger and more traditionally “perfume/cologne” and less soapy, at least in the modern sense of the word.
Let’s hear from you, readers — do you think office-appropriate perfumes exist, or is all perfume at the office on the “no go” list? Which do you think the best perfumes to wear to work are — and what are the business etiquette rules for perfume?
BEST DEAL UPDATE:
BEST DEAL UPDATE: