Yoga is one of those things that’s often looked at as a silly fad, and many people have a preconceived notion of yoga as being just about doing postures and not much else. But, taking a more serious look at the practice of yoga, it’s more than that. Yoga is about supporting your body and mind through the yoga poses and breathing exercises, and it’s a really good way to help you achieve the physical and mental health goals that you’ve set out for yourself.
You know that look you get when you put on yoga pants that are just a tiny bit too tight? The ones that make you feel fat and unattractive? I knew there had to be a better way.
One of the challenges of my asana practice is finding clothes that fit my body, as most yoga and sportswear manufacturers are size snobs. The largest brand of yoga clothing has nothing larger than size 12, while the average woman in North America wears size 14.
The average North American woman has a limited selection of stylish and functional yoga clothing.
As a former viewer of What Not to Wear, I am very careful about what I wear. In fact, I’ve become so obsessed with finding clothes that fit my figure that most of my wardrobe consists of increasingly dark colors.
Why I always wear black?
If you opened my wardrobe, you’d think my favorite color is black, but in fact it’s fuchsia or purple. But somewhere in the 70’s someone told us that black was slimming, and we’ve been wearing it ever since.
My students always say I prefer dark clothes. I’m used to hearing: Why not give it some color? To which I often reply: Black is my favorite color and I will wear it until they have something darker.
I try to incorporate pretty scarves and bright colors into my wardrobe, but I always end up sticking to black. I did the math and I have over 20 pairs of black pants. This applies to yoga pants as well as regular pants.
Obsession with thinness and body image
All my life I’ve been very self-conscious and concerned about the way my body looks, and I think most women in North America share that experience. Our obsession with thinness was a way to keep women oppressed and subjugated.
I had size 2 and size 22, and I wasn’t happy in either one. My weight fluctuates all the time and I tend to get irritable. I do my best to eat right and exercise. I run, bike and do asana several times a week, and it keeps my body the way it is now – a size 14, 16 or 18, depending on the brand.
I’m always fascinated when I see people on Instagram and Facebook sharing photos of themselves in their non-conforming bodies, doing yoga, being naked, and celebrating who they are. It got me thinking: What parts of my life have I avoided because I’ve learned to hate my body?
Can I step out of the comfort zone I’ve built up with black pants and embrace my body in every color of the rainbow?
Wearing something that feels good
Recently my friend Amber Carnes from Body Positive Yoga said something that really stuck with me. When I asked her about her choice of clothing, she replied,
I’m fat, and what I wear makes me fat, so I wear what I want and what I feel good about. ~ Amber Carnes
Their logic seemed clear and simple enough. I was stunned when she wore this gorgeous lineagewear panty in the brightest green color I’ve ever seen. She rocked them. I was inspired and thought: Yes. I’m gonna do the same thing.
So I bought a pair of light blue and purple tights, and the first time I wore them, I felt great. I wore it with a black t-shirt because I didn’t want to go too far out of my comfort zone. Baby steps, please!
When I put on these fun, colorful tights, I immediately feel a lot more confident. At first it seemed strange, because it was just a pair of pants. But it’s actually much more than just pants.
Restore my body
Buying these tights and wearing them with pride was like finding my body. I was celebrating a part of myself that I had hidden a long time ago. Of course, I haven’t left the house yet. Slowly and skeptically, I left the shelter and went to my Saturday morning asana class.
My students were shocked to see my asanas in light blue tights, but they accepted my appearance with love and approval.
The studio where I teach celebrates diversity in all its magical forms, and I knew I would be celebrated there too. It was a safe place for me. I felt so good in my tights that my class was a little louder than usual. I felt really liberated.
It’s so nice to enjoy your body and feel good in your clothes. I was afraid my good feelings would find their way into the studio, and I knew I needed to push my limits a little more.
The next thing I know, I’ve taken a big step outside my comfort zone.
I decided to go to the grocery store with my tights and a strong sense of belonging. I was sure that at any moment Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear would come out from behind the grocery store with a burlap sack, storm in and drag me out because I was wearing tights in public.
I didn’t dress according to my body type. I wasn’t wearing long black pants with a wide hem. My world could collapse at any moment… but you know what? It didn’t happen.
I felt very uncomfortable, but only for a moment, then it went away. The sexagenarians threw me a few dark looks, but I decided to believe it was because my asanas looked so good in my tights. This adventure and test of my personal strength was a big step in reinventing my life and my body.
About yoga and self-acceptance
Yoga has taught me that stepping out of your comfort zone is liberating. I know more than ever that I grow when I step out of my comfort zone, and that I stagnate when I stay there.
I promise myself that I will dive deeper and deeper into my discomfort and courageously lean into it instead of running away from it. I am determined to use my yoga practice as a place to continue learning more about myself, from this place of compassionate self-examination where I still want to spend my time.
What I’ve learned from my experience with tights is that I’m going to buy more of these pants with eye-catching patterns and wear them without shame. I will embrace the unique beauty of my body and be grateful for what it can do, while continuing to treat myself with compassion.
I will not allow others to destroy my self-esteem and I will build it around me. I refuse to live with the fear that my body will offend you. If you find me offensive, turn away and I will do the same for you.