As I walk around the neighborhood or peruse my “news-feed”, I am unavoidably inundated with images and words selling me ways to alter my body through the latest torturous workout trend. This marketing model survives on the assumption that we are never satisfied with how our bodies look.
Don’t get me wrong, I like leaving a class sometimes feeling like I “did something”. But why do we always have to do something to our bodies instead of something for our bodies? Are you working out to feel strong and empowered? Or are you trying to punish yourself? I recently went to a stretch workshop that promised that I would “burn calories while shredding fascia.” Huh?
I am a recovering workout junkie. As a kid I went to Jazzercise with my aunt and did Tae-bo tapes in my basement. At first I did it because it was fun and I enjoyed spending time with my aunt. However, soon the language of the fitness culture started infiltrating my pre-pubescent brain and took hold. Early on I internalized that I needed to “sculpt”, “carve”, and “shred” my body. I became a collegiate long distance runner, and I thought nothing of pushing beyond pain, losing toenails, and literally running in circles.
In time, my body and my brain had enough. The tempo was not sustainable. I discovered yoga, strength training, swimming, and walking. When I am able, running is a form of meditation–not a mandate. I still enjoy the endorphin rush of a good HIIT workout or spin class, but I no longer feel the need to wreck myself daily. Rest does not equate to laziness. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The mental and physical break of an easy day increases the effectiveness of those days when I want to challenge myself.
I teach fitness…
As a yoga teacher, according to the IRS, I fall under the umbrella of “group fitness instructor. ” This is not totally inaccurate, as your yoga teacher does play a part in your physical health. I am as guilty as the next for highlighting the superficial benefits of our classes. I might sometimes say we are going to “work the oblique” because I know it will resonate to my audience. I know they are thinking about “swimsuit season”*, but I’m thinking about how strong and supple oblique muscles help to rotate the spine and stabilize the torso. Warrior poses do help “shape” the legs, but strong quads, glutes and hamstrings are vital for healthy hips and knees.
Sadly, people often coming to yoga trying to repair the damage caused by these trends promising to “destroy” flab, “sculpt” muscle, or “melt” fat. They are also further from their healthy lifestyle goals. No where do I see promises of health. I see ways to create a “new you” because the current you is just not good enough.
Use Yoga to makes changes for the right reasons…
At its most basic, changing your unhealthy habits into healthy ones is about behavior modification. Yoga provides the tools to self-reflect and make those choices to change because it is more than a physical discipline. Yes, you can get fit! Please, be fit and be strong. I love taking and teaching power yoga. But my students know there’s no judgement. We are just having fun and exploring the possibilities of what the body can do safely in a particularly moment. If you are looking to make a change, yoga will force you to be honest with yourself to ask the questions: What is my intention? Where can I go from here?
I’ll see you on the mat.
*I don’t recall learning about this season in science class, do you?