If one more teacher tells me "it's shorts season" I'm gonna lose it.

I expect it when I take a zumba, Barre, or spin class (who am I kidding, I don't spin, I'd die.), I know that its coming, I'm now mentally prepared, I'm ready to look away from the mirror when it happens and push it aside. It can be a powerful motivator, the imagery that your current body sucks and needs 10 more lunges, or 30 more seconds of incline, to be worthy of shorts. or a swimsuit, or of the entire season of summer for that matter. "C'mon ladies! Pulse those hydrants, its almost shorts season!" Fine. I signed up for FlyBarre, I get it, and the mindset is different. But when I am in yoga class at a well renowned studio and hear "sit deeper in that crescent lunge, squeeze your glutes - its almost bikini time!" or "for every wheel you do you get to have another bite of dessert tonight"  No. Please no, not here too. Leave my special place alone, leave me be.

Before finding yoga, I spent years in zumba, barre, at the gym running on the treadmill obsessively until the burned calories hit 1,000. I didn't feel worthy of shorts. I spent whole summers in college avoiding beach days and only wearing long sun dresses or basketball shorts because I didn't want to see my "thunder thighs" in a pair of jean shorts. 

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So when I hear this negative body talk, disguised as motivational speak from yoga teachers, my skin starts to crawl. Here's the thing. The world is rude and harsh enough as is, do we really need to inflict it upon our students on the mat as well?  Even if we all know that we should be exercising for health, inside and out, it's no secret that the there can be some coveted aesthetic benefits also. This is not to say that yoga can't serve as a work out, it can be wonderful invigorating exercise but if there's one thing I hear often from students it's that yoga, their mat, their practice, feels like their safe space. The one hour away from emails, bosses, screaming children, traffic, the constant chitter chatter and bombardment we all live with everyday. But how can we feel safe, free to move and be ourselves, if someone is threatening us with daisy dukes and beach photos we know we'll untag as soon as we get home?

This is where I believe that yoga is different. I may have enjoyed running some days, but I never enjoyed watching that little calorie ticker like a crazy eyed hawk all those late nights at the gym. Zumba class was cardio I knew I "needed" to do without feeling like I was doing cardio. It was purely physical fitness, there are no yamas and niyamas in Zumba. I've never been to a spin class that ended with Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

This practice allowed me to finally see and feel the compassion I was missing for my own body. Where I was finally able to give my head and my heart a break from the constant feeling that I didn't do enough, work hard enough, burn enough, that I wasn't enough. I hold dolphin so that my shoulders will be strong enough to support me for years to come, not to wear a strapless dress.  Yoga serves as a place for so many of us to simultaneously find the strong physical activity we need and the self love we crave. Compassion and awareness of our bodies, not fear of them. If nothing else, my mat provides me a safe space to breathe and be. It's pretty hard to breathe if you're hyperventilating thinking about whether or not you did enough chaturangas to wear that tank top later.

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Even if you want your students to hold crescent lunge for 10 more breaths and it just slipped out of your mouth, telling them that these lunges will finally make them worthy? In the wise words of Stephanie Tanner, how rude.

Tell me about the amazing muscles in my legs, tell me how I'm getting stronger, tell me what I need to do to engage those muscles, tell me a story about the one time you had to do a lunge for this long and it sucked but you felt amazing afterwards, tell me a story about your cat (actually, maybe after class, but I do definitely wanna hear that story), tell me to inhale and exhale, to feel and notice, or tell me nothing and just let me breathe.

So here is my request. Can we let go of the need to motivate our students with threats and body talk that tries to convince them that they need to earn the right to wear a bikini? Can we stop equating postures with calorie counts or earned meals, and instead start equating asana with physical, mental, and emotional strength.

 

Carling Harps