Friday, March 22, 2013

Naked Yoga: Gaining Body Acceptance

Today I'm sharing a guest post from a friend on Naked Yoga. (Please scroll to the bottom for a bio.) I hadn't really heard of it before as a "thing," but totally support anything that can improve women's self image!

Here's a shocker: I don't have a perfect body. Crazy, right? Who'd have thought that at age 34, after birthing 4 kids, my body might not be fit for a fashion runway or swimsuit modeling?

Watching my body age and stretch, sag and dimple has been disheartening. In my twenties I enjoyed a certain “status” as a genuinely skinny person. Even though I had some stretch marks from my pregnancies and a wee bit of cellulite, I could run around in a bikini in front of others and be perfectly comfortable with my status as a hottie.

When I reached my 30's I also gave up smoking and a funny thing happens when you start eating your breakfast instead of lighting it up: you put on weight. Another shocker. I have been in a yo-yo pattern ever since, and the padding and shrinking is only increasing the sag in my belly and the cottage cheese on my backside.

It has been an emotional struggle getting used to my new size. I like my hips, the fact that I finally have a trunk to have junk in, my large boobies. But seeing thin women held up in the media as the physical elite, I still feel a pang of nostalgia and an unshakable notion that I'm supposed to be one of them.

Worse, is looking at myself in front of a mirror. It's not only society's impression on my psyche telling me that I've no longer “got it,” it's what I see. It's what I feel when I glimpse myself stepping out of the shower, affected by my own ideas of what I find aesthetically pleasing.

The spidery parallel lines arching from the top of my thighs downward; the fact that my now gigantic nipples point towards my toes; the darkened veins of my breasts. My belly droops like a flesh colored fanny pack and while I'm happy to finally have a tush it has already begun it's determined decent towards the middle of my thighs. I am not that old, but motherhood and weight fluctuation have done things to my body that age alone would take decades longer to accomplish.

Redefining parameters of beauty has been a goal of mine for some time. I strive to look past the definition that the media hands us, into the withered faces of the very old and see the miracle of age. I celebrate the differences in skin tone, from alabaster to ebony; admire textures of all hair; appreciate the gentle curves of a large set of hips, as well as the form of the very thin. I created a board on Pinterest dubbed “Best Beauty,” in which I compile images of both men and women who I find have an intriguing form of beauty. But redirecting that acceptance towards myself has been hard.

Photo Credit: Jason Jones

When I first saw images of naked yoga, I was fascinated. Of course, this model is gorgeous but that's not the point. I imagined it would be a liberating experience and so I tried it. One day after my morning run in the privacy of my own bedroom, I stripped off my clothes to prepare for a quick shower. My bones were stiff that day, and I felt like a quick yoga session. Yoga is something I turn to when I ache as I find it alleviates my joint pain. Not wanting to put on clean clothes when I was hot and sweaty and minutes away from a refreshing cool shower, I did some yoga poses in the buff.

The feeling was as free as I suspected, and much more intimate than I had imagined. In yoga, you bend and contort and parts of you meet other parts of you that don't generally align. Imagine this when you're nude and becoming familiar with bits of yourself to which you may not have been properly introduced!

I began practicing naked yoga every day thereafter and looked forward to it while out on my runs. I realized I was being more attentive to myself as I became increasingly aware of my physical nature. I also began feeling more comfortable with myself as a naked individual the more I became familiar with my form.

One day I was feeling a little brave. I had been avoiding the mirror in the corner of the bedroom. I didn't need to see myself so compromised while fully exposed. But I was curious. I was filled with apprehension, but compelled nonetheless – and determined to find something in that mirror to feel good about. I slowly walked to the mirror and struck a pose. The dancer pose, it was. And I wasn't revolted.

Finally! An excuse to use this gorgeous image!
Photo Credit: Daughter of the Sun

I was surprised by my reaction, to tell the truth. My body was still my body. It hadn't mysteriously appeared smoother or slimmer or perkier. It was just me. Naturally, perfectly me. Me with rolls and rumples, puckers and droops. I stared at my form in curiosity and wonder. I assumed the inverted triangle and marveled at the way my breasts slid to one side and the new shape they took on. I smiled inwardly at the fact that my belly followed suit. I entered the Warrior III pose and was pleasantly surprised to see some muscle definition peeking through the fat.

The more postures I assumed, the more I noted my muscles beneath the skin and the padding, working and performing. I began to feel a sense of pride that had been missing for some time. I felt a surge of gratitude suddenly for what my bones, my guts, my skin and my flesh could do. It was raw, ethereal and deeply spiritual. It was also oddly scientific as I observed myself with casual reverence, with wonder and a renewed appreciation.

This was my body. It didn't suddenly become beautiful, it didn't change at all. I also didn't redefine my idea of beauty in terms of myself in that moment. The difference was that in doing yoga, I wasn't subconsciously assuming positions to try and see myself in a more flattering angle. I wasn't looking at it in comparison to any presumed standard. I wasn't looking at it in shame or remorse, either.

Assuming yoga positions, in the nude, in front of a mirror allowed me to see my body from a different perspective than I ever had before, and one where I had no traditional model of comparison. It was a very honest and unabashed look at myself and probably the first time I had ever done so objectively. With the purpose of discovery and learning more about myself physically, there was no room for criticism. What was previously “gross” and “embarrassing” was now simply interesting and even amusing. I felt more natural in my own skin than I have in a very long time. As I continue to familiarize myself with... myself, I find I am growing more comfortable and even a bit impressed.

Destany is an artist who works from home while raising her four kids, who range in age from teens to littles. A self proclaimed cheapskate and “maker-queen,” her do-it-yourself attitude compels her to promote self-education, frugality, and taking responsibility for our global community. She is attentive to her children and works to foster and maintain a deep connection with each one, while finding harmony within herself and remembering to take time for her husband. When she is not painting, cooking, gardening, knitting or playing with her kids – even the big ones, she is blogging about her life at They Are All of Me, where she shares crafts, recipes, and crazy mama mishaps that are bound to crop up when living with pets, teenagers and little ones.
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