Thursday night, Pynchon and I went together for our weekly yoga date. It was so hot and muggy, we drove, instead of biking. I've never really done much yoga in the summer, and not in a third-floor studio in a hundred year old building in a heat wave.
It was really hot.
Unrolling my mat onto the hardwood floor? Um, a little warmish. Sitting quietly in virasana and meditating? Too hot. Standing and raising my arms above my head? MUCH TOO FRIGGIN' HOT. Three minutes into class, I tore my shirt off in a fit of heat rage. I chucked it on the floor behind me.
So now I'm in a yoga class with something like 15 other people, and my husband, and I'm wearing quite small and tight yoga shorts (like abbreviated mid-rise bike shorts) and one of those fancy-shmancy Lululem0n yoga bras that is essentially just a really short, lined tank top.
When I started doing yoga, about a year and a half ago, I was really intimidated by all the hard bodies and the fancy clothes. The kind of competitive athleticism of it. I had some oversized, very long shirts (to hide my very squooshy post-baby tummy) and dark, wide velour track pants (to hide my lumpy legs). Really, I've never been one to want to show off my body in this context; since I've given birth, at least, I'm pretty sure my body looks a lot better with clothes on.
Don't worry--this post isn't going where you think it is.
As I do more and more yoga, my clothes have got a bit tighter, and a bit shorter, for a couple of reasons. First, as my teacher is always telling us, the more advanced student isn't one who does 'harder' poses, but one who does all her poses with a greater degree of control or precision. So if my teacher is going to help me refine my trikonasana (Triangle Pose), she needs to see the arch of my back foot, the outer calf muscle in my front leg, the state of my inner thigh on the back leg. Second, I'm working out a lot harder now that I'm stronger, and holy mercy, I'm too hot bundled up to the neck in all my layers of layers.
It was hard for me to move from full long pants to shorts, though, and it was sheer heat exhaustion that prompted that purchase. Now I can see when I bend over into uttanasana (Forward Fold), for example, that my legs have wrinkles. When the hell did that happen? But I can also see--holy crap!--that every leg muscle engages and that I'm becoming very, very strong. I can see that when I lift my pinky toe, there's a carving of muscle up the side of my calf. I can still see leg wrinkles, and ingrown hairs, and more spider veins than I care to acknowledge, but overall, the feeling I get--get this!--is of strength, and beauty.
I feel beautiful at yoga. Not beautiful in the sense of sexually attractive, but beautiful in a kind of physiological, anatomical sort of way: all these muscles and bones and ligaments and skin, all working in a unit, making this beautiful shape--a straight line from ankle to to hip, a long spine. A strong shape, controlled but free.
And so when I took my shirt off, and felt the bareness of my poochy tummy, my knobby scarred back, my million moles, I was self-conscious for about 10 seconds. Then I just felt the relief of having removed the sticky t-shirt, and the beauty of a long stretch. Shit, I went upside down with no shirt on, and with a purple face and a belly button now significantly closer to my ribcage than before, I felt, again, beautiful, doing a tall forearm balance. Open from the heart! Floating ribs back! Push up through the heels! Strong. Powerful.
When I started doing yoga, if I may be frank, I was hoping to hit some kind of moment where my tummy might be flat, or my butt might get a little higher, where I wouldn't want to hide in my baggy clothes. What's funny is that I guess I've hit that moment of not wanting to hide, but it's not because the outer form of my body has changed all the much (you can see that I've got stronger, better defined muscles, but yoga doesn't do much about cellulite or that band of extra belly skin that resulted from pregnancy). It's because I see my body differently now, at least when I'm on the mat.
I'm not going to be marching around the studio in my bra as a habit, but if I have to rip my shirt off again, on pain of fainting from the heat, I don't really think I'll worry about it. Oh, how wonderful!
Sunday, July 18, 2010