The main "body" of this post was written by Jennifer Houghtaling, a yoga friend and colleague who, like most of us, has struggled with body image through her life. The Media, both social and otherwise, puts a lot of unrealistic pressure on people, especially girls and women, to be something that we are not: to look a certain way, to act a certain way, wear certain clothes, use certain make up, listen to certain types of music, etc. A lot of mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety, stems from trying to fit yourself into someone else's ideals which are out of alignment with who you are. No one is perfect, but we are perfect just as we are. 6 pack abs aren't the definition of strong, as Jennifer says, surviving adolescence, that is strong. Carrying a child and giving birth, that is strong. Surviving not being able to get pregnant, that is strong. Being up all night with a sick child then having to work the next day, that is strong. Getting through your day despite pain, depression, anxiety, chronic illness, whatever it may be, that is strong. True strength comes from within, not without.
Shared with Permission, written by Jennifer Houghtaling:
I belong to a group here on Facebook that encourages dialogue around yoga, movement and teaching. Today a woman posted about her experience as a newer teacher and about her anxiety around “looking a certain way”. She feels strong in her body, but doesn’t “look” strong by the standards that are sold to us by current media outlets. She particularly expressed concern around teaching a “core class” and feeling like her students might not take her seriously because she doesn’t have a six pack.
A few weeks ago, in this same group, someone commented that they found the trend of women posting their yoga to social media outlets while dressed in their bathing suits, to be disturbing and overtly sexual.
Both of the above make me feel sadder than sad. For fuck’s sake. Is it any surprise that so many women hate their bodies in way’s big and small? I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t struggled in some way—I’m too fat, I’m too skinny, I’m too tall, I’m too short. My boobs are too big or small. I can’t get pregnant. I can’t stop getting pregnant. My body hurts so badly when I bleed. I don’t bleed with any regularity. I can’t stop bleeding. My body is my own. My body. Is. My. Own.
There was a time when I would never have put a video of myself out to the world in these shorts and top—and that time was when I was a smaller version of myself, literally. I have always had a belly, since I can remember identifying what a belly was, and that basically, it was “bad” to have one. I still have a belly. I’m also strong and can press up into a handstand and have zero fucks left to give. Deep strength, both physical and otherwise isn’t something you can see or identify from the outside. It’s sneaky that way. Stealthy.
I’ve lived through adolescence (which is a battle field that I think women aren’t given enough credit for), sexual assault, painful periods due to fibroids, difficulty getting pregnant, infertility treatments. Surgery to remove a cyst from an ovary. Pregnancy…..miscarriage and a D & C. Pregnancy (wonderful, healthy, happy and successful!), and a caesarean section birth. Issues related to fibroids and ultimately, this fall, a partial hysterectomy. My body has been cut open from one hip to the other—twice. I’m not dead. If that isn’t enough to make you believe in the power of a woman, then you’re a lost cause.
You don’t like seeing me practice in these short shorts and bra top? Look away. No one is keeping your eyes hostage. I’m not moving or practicing or posting to be “sexy”. It’s July in Massachusetts and I carved out a minute to practice outside. It’s hot. And even if it weren’t…not your concern. It’s for me. It’s not for you……
Women have to embrace each other and love one another so there isn’t so much silence…. and of course just below the surface of that silence—deep shame. Why is it that these experiences are hidden in the darkest corners of our heart? Because we are made to feel ashamed. Enough. I am enjoying an ever evolving celebration with my body. If you feel inspired and have had any experience with the struggles mentioned above…………I got you.