The other night I had to come face-to-face with something I am not normally comfortable with: my partially exposed body in a public yoga studio.
It was the first time in weeks I returned to the hot yoga studio for class, having given myself a break when the summer temperatures were at their highest. I was in a rush when I left for work that morning, and I packed my tote bag in haste. I thought I had packed my super-cool new pair of running/biking hybrid shorts, which are loose on the outside but have spandex biking shorts on the inside, and I thought I had packed a full-length, over-the-navel tank top, but when I went to get dressed in my office bathroom I instead found myself in loosey-goosey running shorts (with only built-in bloomers, no snug crotch-concealing spandex) and a cropped tank that was just a hair longer than a sports bra.
Now, I don’t normally cover up head-to-toe during a yoga class, but I do like to have some feeling of modesty (i.e., upper thighs, ass, and mid-section hidden from the public). That was not an option that night with my poorly chosen yoga clothes: My belly was in my face during every forward bend; every inversion, low lunge, and downdog was an opportunity for my sacred “bathing suit area” to say hello to the world.
At first, I was really uncomfortable. It’s one thing for me to dress minimally in the privacy of my yoga room at home, but here I was surrounded by mirrors and wandering eyes. My thighs in all their pale glory were just there for everyone to see. My belly, filled with the bran cereal I had sprinkled on my afternoon yogurt (note: not the best pre-yoga snack), felt like it was expanding minute by minute with fiber molecules.
However, about 30 minutes into the class, when my breath and movement started syncing, when flowing from pose to pose became more natural, that superficial paranoia about someone possibly catching sight of my imperfections began to dissipate. With each minute that went by, I felt more in touch with my body, proud of it for being able to hold steady in Warrior III, to sink deep into Utkatasana. It was then when I remembered why I do yoga, and why I love it so much–it peels away that outer layer of self-consciousness and brings forth my true essence. I am in yoga class, enjoying this movement, appreciating these 90 minutes of sweat and flow and mindfulness. As I fell more in love with the experience of my yoga class, I fell more in love with the feeling of just being me. I didn’t go to the extreme of getting all cheerleader rah-rah! about my body, but the mind-numbing chatter of “Oh god, my thighs, oh god, my belly, oh god, that questionable area where upper thigh and butt collide” faded far, far away. I was present. Here I am.
I had to remember that mantra the other day, as I stood in the locker room at the gym, contemplating whether or not I should step on the scale and weigh myself. I had just completed a 30-minute swimming workout and was still high on endorphins, feeling utterly awesome from head to toe. The period following a swimming workout is one of the few times I feel A-OK walking around tall and proud in just my bathing suit, sans towel or cover-up; the pride of just accomplishing a high-intensity workout boosts my confidence 100%, and I go from feeling eh to F–k yeah!
I had absolutely no reason to weigh myself (nevermind the fact that it’s kind of silly to weigh yourself when you’re drenched with pool water), but there was still a nagging curiosity to get on the scale. I hadn’t weighed myself in months; I just wanted to check in.
After a few minutes of internal debate, I finally left the gym without stepping foot on the scale. Because really, what good would it have done? I was relishing in my post-swim glow; what if the scale reflected a number that didn’t jive with that glowing feeling? How pathetic to let a three-digit number determine my mood for the rest of the evening.
Going back to the yoga studio, when I rose into headstand at the end of class, my paper-thin shorts swooshed toward my head, exposing my little bloomers for all to see. But at that point I was totally in the zone; in fact, that headstand was one of the most balanced, grounded, stable inversions I’ve ever done, and I played around with different leg positions without once wobbling. My shorts were falling in my face, but I was steady as a rock. I am breathing, I am in headstand, it looks like I’m wearing a bikini…yes, world–here I am.