Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tough Stuff

I will say this about the Olympics, I do like seeing hard work be rewarded. For the most part, those athletes hurling themselves around on the ice and snow have worked really hard to get there, and I appreciate the effort. I'm especially impressed with the women snowboarders, skiers, and hockey players--what a bunch of strong, muscle-y chicks. The New York Times has been covering their training routines (here and here) over the past few weeks, and it's cool to see them in their workout gear running, lifting and--ta da--doing yoga.

And I see their strong, healthy bodies, and read about their determination and how they see themselves as role models for girls, and I think where are yoga leaders who look like that? Who have hips and thighs and meat on their bones and take on the boys at their own game? It's like we get stuck with yoginis who look like willowy figure skaters, fretting about food and starving themselves for their sport, while the winter sports crowd gets these tough gals.

Now, of course, I know yoga is not about surface and appearances; but I also know that that is how it is marketed by the mass media and even by the Yoga Establishment. And we ALL know that these images are pervasive and deeply, deeply damaging. Women have curves, women have babies that stretch out their insides, women have a greater percentage of subcutaneous fat than men. As long as these facts are treated as faults that must be fixed by diet, exercise, and surgery, women will be taught to see their bodies as the enemy, instead of as amazing machines.

I want to focus on the amazing. Bring on the Lindsey Vonns, the Maelle Rickers, the Jenny Potters of yoga! Give me some one that insipres me--who I can identify with, instead of make me feel like I should skip dinner! Where are ya, Sistahs?

Let's develop that brand...

14 comments:

The Misanthropic Yogini said...

Right on, Brenda. Bring on the strong-bodied women!

I look at the big, solid thighs and firm, round shoulders yoga has given me, then I open one of my asana guides, for example, and see that its full of waifish 100 pounders doing these things that I had to grow muscles to do. Sometimes I wonder how these people actually practice, and how they avoid developing so much as a bump of a tricep. Chaturanga, anyone?

Ejiro Oteri said...

Preach Sister!!!

Eco Yogini said...

I've wondered if it was more to do with the fact that yoga has been predominantly a female area.... and not women trying to get 'into' a man's arena. (this isn't taking into account yoga's original history... but it's recent Americanization).

Like other female-led disciplines (such as healthcare positions for example) the students are women and many huge leaders are men (think founders of yoga styles). Like other female-based disciplines, the emotional-y area of yoga is deemed less rationale and as a result, less 'masculine' which automatically places it as less important.

Since sports have mostly been about women wanting to play on the same or similar field as men, there hasn't been an issue or carving out what a female sport means from scratch, it follows similar male social rules (sort of).

Yoga, in our culture, falls in the more emotional, spiritual and thus feminine realm... which means all the patriarchal crap applies....

also, it's been marketed towards women's insecurities (look think, tone muscles, wear certain butt enhancing gear) which attracts a certain subgroup of women. Instead of encouraging self-esteem and confidence, the Yoga Machine as a whole has followed demeaning and sexist marketing trends...

it's sad really, because we all know (like you said) that isn't what yoga is about.

and thankfully once we embark on our journey, we see strong amazing teachers who look curvy, have big strong muscl-y thighs and slow shift our view of what we've been told yoga should be by role models like rainbeau mars.... and the like.

:) (sorry for the rant, I think you've completely touched on something extremely interesting!)

Lexi said...

I came across your site, and I think it's great.
I was wondering if you'd like to do a link exchange?
I would love to have you on my site.
My website is:
http://www.lexiyoga.com

Thanks
Lexi

Kristin said...

Amen!

I was able to attend a arm-balance workshop on Saturday, and one of the things the instructor mentioned was the need to develop a strong 'shoulder girdle'.

The gal in front of me (who comes to my classes) turns around with a mischevious grin and says, "Yoga push-ups?"

YOU BET! :) Show some bicep baby!

Brenda P. said...

What also got me thinking about this was an article on Yahoo! last week about an ice dancer who used to subsist on grapes and melba toast and would go home after practice to weak to lift her arms.

Her new (Russian) coach made her gain 10 lbs. (now 115 lbs, blimped out!) and start weight training so she has become a much stronger skater. I kept thinking about how the hockey players probably aren't messing around with dessicated bread...

Come on shoulder girdles!!

Anne-Marie said...

Brenda, I totally agree with you. I love seeing muscly women - have always wanted to be one myself [ha ha, yeah right]. When I was a kid I wanted to be Vasquez, the tough Latino woman from Alien 2 [but with out the gun].

I like Shiva Rea's physique. She's slender but she's not a waif. She has muscles!

La Gitane said...

As my interest in Ayurveda grows, so does my interest in yoga's effect on different body types.

I have noticed that certain sports seem to attract certain types... Our snowboarding super-chicks scream "Pitta!", whilst our slender figure skaters have more of a Vata vibe, and where are the Kaphas at all?

As a predominantly Vata type, I have to say that while Yoga has made me muscular, it has also slimmed me down (and I was slim to start with) to the point where my loved ones tell me to "eat more cookies"! I wouldn't say I'm "waifish" but since I took up Ashtanga none of my pants fit anymore!

Many Pitta types seem drawn to focus on the strength element of Yoga (and other sports) and build muscle from their practice, while finding the 'softness' that allows for more flexibility can be a challenge.

Many of my Kapha yoga friends find that Yoga enhances their flexibility (how I envy their flexible lower backs!!) but they have to work much harder at building muscle than fiery pittas.

I would hope that we could move towards a place where ALL body types are respected!

Mira said...

Keep speaking truth! This resonates with me on so many levels, as a yogini, a skier, a mother of an athletic daughter.

Emma said...

did you read the yoga journal article about female olympians who do yoga? that got me pretty psyched...

Thick Yoga Mat said...

I think you're on to something. Hearing what I've been thinking throughout my time doing yoga is a breath of fresh air. I absolutely think that the female body needs to be embraced for what it is rather than what it isn't and looking at frail women teaching yoga isn't the ideal state of the female body.

Namaste_Heather said...

Yes! I think women with strong physiques are beautiful! I hope the views of women like this change. I think the Olympics helps to spotlight that beauty isn't about being the thinnest thing around. What about being healthy, strong? Times are changing, more slowly than we wish, but changing indeed.

chalkstar said...

Thankyou for this post. I am a woman of muscles who has grown up in a family of waifs. It has taken me a long time to accept my body and I'm still working on cheering for it. I would love to see our 'sport' represented by strong bodies. Be the change you want to see...

Leslie Nipkow said...

Great post! I'm actually writing about this on my blog for the year: yoginibikini.blogspot.com. I'm strong, flexible and big, and am often overlooked in classes where the teacher doesn't know me. They assume I don't have a strong practice. They would be so wrong.