A few weeks ago, I was at a family gathering to say goodbye and celebrate my niece's accomplishments before she moves away to begin college and ultimately save the world.
After a 5am start to my day, I arrived late after work, found the buffet of food and begin to devour a heaping pile of wilted garlic salad.
Half way into it, two women I adore sat down next to me to catch up.
Within moments they surveyed my work outfit: yoga pants and top and said "We need you to come over and teach us yoga".
"Of course, I'd be happy to" and then their real reason was said without hesitation:
"We've got jiggle. Dimples.Yuck".
They grabbed their thighs and shook them to accentuate their point.
My shoulders slumped and I felt sad.
They reminded me that most of us whether it's yoga, cross fit or whatever...are wanting to do these practices because we are hoping to fix what's wrong with us...on the outside.
Our dimples, stretch marks, grey hairs and laugh lines...those parts of us that reveal a life history are not celebrated but instead hidden or condemned.
I mean, let's be honest...if a woman doesn't talk about what's wrong with her we label her as arrogant and full of herself and if you spend any time in a grocery store line you can't escape the messages on magazines that reinforce that being gorgeous is the key to happiness.
In addition, pretty much any current women's magazine is going to have a caption that praises yoga as a fun and interesting way to get it all:
If you do just a few simple moves, you too will get sexy-yoga arms like Tara Stiles and can look svelte in super cute yoga pants like Kate Hudson.
It's what the beautiful people do and who doesn't want to be beautiful like them?
I mean...uh...I do!
I want to be beautiful, lean, strong, calm, thoughtful and liked and quite often believe that I am anything but so I am just as neurotic as my friends who are wanting to do yoga for the sole purpose of getting rid of cellulite which it doesn't, by the way.
That conversation we had several weeks ago ended after I told them that even though I practice yoga every day...I've had cellulite since I was in my 20's and it hasn't disappeared but instead recruited more friends.
They were NOT happy to hear this and quickly dismissed the notion of even trying yoga if it wasn't going to give them the elusive yoga body that seem to be overwhelmingly promoted.
"I mean what's the point, then"?
Well? It a very common question and one that I've been asking myself a lot but not because yoga hasn't given me Tina Turner legs but because yoga has become a mask for covering up the continuation of women devaluing themselves as mere physical objects.
I am a yoga teacher, therefore, I am obligated to acknowledge that I have been an active participant in abusing yoga as a tool to be prettier on the outside, as well.
I am one of thousands of American women making a living off of an appropriated practice that many of us chase after with an expectation of eternal youth.
When I began to practice yoga 20 years ago, I was recovering from a serious eating disorder.
It began as a means to appreciate my body after years of bulimia and anorexia but once I got into it I too began to abuse it as another opportunity to overdo, under consume and hide behind its exoticness so that no one could see that I was still obsessed with being perfect.
These days, I still find myself falling into that trap from time to time (specifically, right around my period) but I own it, I know it's futile and I know I can choose to spend my time objectifying myself or tell that voice to speak up about issues that actually matter.
I've grown up and my practice has been along for the ride and given me a foundation of support.
I have a responsibility to be clear with myself and my students as to why after all these years, after the obnoxious amounts of yoga scandals, commercialization and tacky reinventions (Happy Hour Yoga or worse yet, Ghetto Fabulous Yoga, anyone?) as to why I am still participating in a 10 Billion dollar industry that lately seems more focused on selling insecurity, better sex, vacant new-ageism and expensive pants than encouraging health, wellness, awareness and social responsibility. I do it because it feels good, It calms me down and I'm nicer to myself and others when I practice so that is why I practice yoga.
Yoga is old.
It is a living practice that continues to evolve and the fact that women practice yoga more then men is a sign of progress.
50 years ago, that fact would have been taboo to the men teaching yoga so I say "Yes, sisters...do more yoga" but stop using it as another means to oppress ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually just like I did.
Please, Stop. Doing. That.
Yoga is not lost.
It's just covered in a lot of party make up and like myself...I hope it will start to realize that it can be fun to glam it up now and then but you can't pull that shit off all the time otherwise you just wind up looking in the mirror and seeing something resembling Bette Davis in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and thinking 'Damn yoga, you lied to me. I'm getting older. These Sun Salutations and Handstands were for nothing'.
Some of us are going to get cellulite, some of us are going to get those sexy yoga arms, some of us are going to bind in a twist or not but regardless we are all going to die.
Don't let those stories of Gurus living forever trick you...that's just good marketing of the ultimate lie.
We are all going to die.
What's important is what are we going to do before that?
If it's yoga then practice yoga.
Show up, feel your breath, your bones, your jiggly thighs and if your mind wanders off (it will) than maybe consider how you're going to make the world better today.
In the interim, support yourself and all the other women who have yet to discover the depths of their yoga practice: it's to prevent future suffering so that they may live a life worth their time.
I'm still jiggliy after all these yoga years. I'm still weird, awkward and obnoxious after all these years but those things don't need to be fixed. All I want is to be awake for my life AND yours so that I can keep on eating garlic salad and keep on laughing and loving.