Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Should a Yogi Look Like?

I've got some updates on my recent gallbladder thing, but first, just a check-in on some thoughts that I've been having about the whole yoga-wear thing.

To begin, I'll mention briefly that I started my yoga teacher training last Saturday. Unfortunately, I felt way too sick to really enjoy it, and instead of being present during the whole first day, I was looking for ways to escape the physical misery I felt. Achy muscles, achy bones, shivers, abdominal pain - it was neither pretty nor pleasant. Debbie, our instructor, told me she wasn't surprised the next morning when I sent her a message that I wouldn't be making the training that day - she told me that I had looked paler and paler as the day went on, and she was surprised that I had made it through the entire day.

BUT. One of the things I noticed during our lunch break as I looked around at the group...

There are six of us in this particular training. None of us were wearing Lululemon or Prana or any of those "big name" yoga clothes. (Although, to be fair, I do LOVE the Prana top that Robin gave me as a thank you for working on The Yoga Tree's social media stuff.) We were dressed in comfy clothes - leggings, hoodies, t-shirts, sweaters... Nothing terribly glamorous.

Now, go to Google and just type in "yoga clothes". BOOM! You'll be overwhelmed with a barrage of websites selling everything from performance wear a la Ellie to the real hippy-dippy deal of Soul Flower. And I gotta wonder: just what should a yogi look like?

Personally, I've tried out some of that performance wear from Ellie, and to be quite frank, it makes me feel like an idiot. I am not running a marathon or working out at a gym. I'm just trying to find some stillness and some stretches.

On the other hand, some of the real hippy stuff, while visually pleasing to me, makes me feel like I ought to be practicing out in the desert at Burning Man or something. It doesn't feel like who I really am. (And that's the whole point of yoga, right? To figure out who we are?)

Look through any issue of Yoga Journal, too. Aside from the naked Kathryn Budig ads (which is a whole other rant for another time), you'll see ads from places like Hard Tail, Be Up, Inner Waves Organics, Me Sheeky, and Om Shanti Clothing. All the models are white, young, slender, and amazingly flexible.They wear "earthy" and organic clothing, and like all models, they exhibit perfect skin, perfect features.

Is that really what a yogi should look like?

I happen to be lucky enough to be friends with a group of pretty amazing ladies who all have, as one of them likes to put it, fluffy bodies. They do not fit into a size 6, or even a size 16. They are beautiful, they have curves, and they all love to do yoga.

I do NOT see anyone like them in the pages of Yoga Journal. I do NOT see anyone like them on most of the yoga websites I visit.

I long for the day when I see a magazine full of pictures of "ordinary" people doing yoga - overweight, middle aged, and maybe someone other than a Caucasian?

Yoga has taught me that everyone is my teacher. What you wear and what you look like shouldn't matter.

For me, though, it feels like a constant battle in my brain: I love the look of those pretty tops and yoga pants, but on the other hand, there's a part of me that wants to rebel and say, hey, what did people wear to do yoga in before Prana and Gaiam were incorporated?

Personally, I want my yoga clothes to be things that I can wear going about my every day life: a comfy pair of cotton pants or leggings, shirts and sweaters that are roomy and allow me to move. No need to change my clothes if I want to go to class at the studio or just drop down my mat in the living room and have a spontaneous mid-afternoon practice - in my comfy clothes, I'm all ready to go.

On another level, seeing all those model-perfect models online and in magazines is an easy path for us to judge ourselves. "Oh, well, if I don't look like THAT or if I can't do THAT pose, I must not be a real yogi." We're all human, and it's easy to get sucked into the kind of self-judgement that we're trying to escape by practicing yoga.

Of course, it's perfectly okay if you're slender and flexible and like to wear athletic wear to do yoga. The practice is all about acceptance, and non-harming, and contentment.

But do you still want to know what a real yogi should look like?

Use a mirror.

1 comment:

  1. I hear you. I remember the flashdance workout gear of the eighties and that was something which had a whole different point: it was all about being sexy. At least 50 percent of it was about sex, if you were single, the gym was where you met your next date or life partner, I know--I was a trainer at a gym!
    But for a serious yoga session, it seems to me that in present times it is as meditative as it is physical, and looking like Olivia Newton John in her "let's get physical" togs and leg warmers just doesn't have a thing to do with any aspect of it.
    Yoga is not the same. and the clothes for yoga are come as you are, because it is about you, at its best, and not about your next movie date. !!!

    jean yates