Thought I’d stick my oar in to the yoga-body image debate. I’m an Australian 8-10 (US 4-6) and I am very happy with that. I’m strong. I feel well, I enjoy food. A lot. I’m happy with my ‘bra-fat’ (or, more accurately, the slabs of muscle in my back that might LOOK like fat but aren’t). And I have no desire to disappear to a size 0. I’m much more interested in moving my body every day, and in how that affects my mind.
Speaking of which, I’ve recently read two memoirs couched in tales of physical pursuits.
The first was Sam Fussel’s Muscle: Confessions of an unlikely bodybuilder.
The second was Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
Both discuss how, over time, you develop a physique unique to your sport. It got me to thinking about whether this is true for yogis too. I think it is: it doesn’t seem to have all that much to do with how intense your practice is (although of course that is a factor) but rather with doing it regularly over time. Murakami talks about this in the context of running too. I won’t mention the intensity issue in relation to bodybuilders because they all seem to be a bit nuts!
Yes, I am aware yoga is about much more than a body, and especially it’s not about changing your body to somehow fit a social stereotype. But. Flexible strength equals a healthy body. And a healthy body helps a healthy mind.
In the last year or so, I have really settled into my body, and I thought I would trawl through some old photos to see if there is a noticeable change. It’s most visible in my arms, since they are, you know, naked.
Child pose, 2006:
Child pose, 2009:
Child pose, last week (2010):
Apart from the difference in muscle definition (and bulk), if you are looking carefully and it interests you, you will also notice that in the 2006 picture, it’s quite obvious that my shoulders are tight and I am a little hunched in the upper back. That eases in the 2009 pic (helped by the arm position) and in last week’s, my shoulders are pretty open!
It’s so interesting to look at: the other thing I had going on in 2006 was hyperextended elbows:
Not so much any more.
It’s over time – nearly a decade of regular practice – that I have been able to stablise my joints and build real strength on top of the flexibility I already had. Now that’s a yoga body to be happy with! At least, I am.
Oh, and? I don’t like shopping much, except for shoes and candles. I will probably be wearing the exact same blue top and black pants in photos two or three years from now. And yes, I still own and wear the clothes from the 2006 picture too.