Seriously. I’m tired of there being a “standard” way a human body should look, the way a “woman” should look. I’ve been inundated by images of pale, thin bodies and have been expected to think “this is what’s beautiful” my entire life and fuck it, I’m tired.
I’m expected to shave my legs and armpits solely based on the premise that that is what’s normal for people with my genitalia. If not, I’m strange, a hippy, a “hairy fairy.” (If you have yet to see Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus, it’s a good one.)
My relationship with Instagram is hot and cold, like my opinion of Katy Perry. We are still, very much steeped in toxic diet culture. It’s easy to see when you look at simple hashtags like:
These images speak for themselves. Top posts are white, thin, and clad in expensive workout clothes. This is not yoga, nor is it an accurate depiction of what a healthy body looks like. This is a product of the Health & Wellness industry being colonized and making billions of dollars a year off our collective dissatisfaction that we can’t achieve bodies that looks like this.
There are accounts out there that empower all gender expressions and body types to feel gorgeous and healthy in the skin they’re in. If you’d like to flood your feed with some serious healing from colonial diet and wellness culture, check out: @bodyposipanda, @lizzobeeating, @bill3.blackroot, @luna__dietrich, @samleonettiyoga, @nude_nutritionist, @celestebarber, @wellness_yogini, @theunderbellyyoga, @tiffanyima, @mynameisjessamyn.
Why am I sitting here talking about Instagram? What used to be magazines, like Women’s Health, which I bought through my late teen years into my 20’s is now social media. Low calorie diets and thin bodies are still being pushed onto us by dieticians, health experts and now influencers. It’s pretty obvious that according to top social media posts, to get “a yoga body” or a “healthy body” we must eat less and exercise more.
Well, I’m here to call bullshit.
Yoga is as unique to the practitioner as their body, and all of our bodies are different. Yoga doesn’t have to look like anything. Yoga can be self-study, journalling, meditation, it requires no bendy bodies. Yoga is activism, it’s figuring out how to not hurt yourself or community. Yoga has nothing to do with what you’re wearing or what positions your body are in. The physical poses, that’s asana, if you want to dig into only the movement and how one can feel liberated by doing certain poses – you’re looking at hatha yoga. Attaining a state of yoga, or union, through physical force.
Yoga, alone, is so much more than what you look like. It’s a journey, an unfolding of 8 limbs.
- Ahimsa Non-Violence, Freedom from Harming
- Satya Truthfulness
- Asteya Non-Stealing, Freedom from Stealing
- Brahmacharya Moderation
- Aparigraha Non-Hoarding, Freedom from Grasping
- Saucha Cleanliness
- Santosha Contentment
- Tapas Self Discipline
- Svadhyaya Self Study
- Isvara-pranidhana Surrender
I encourage everyone to study these individually, find your unique way of walking the path to liberation. As I continue on my own journey, studying to be a holistic nutritionist and an advanced yoga teacher, I’m realizing how backwards I’ve gotten many things throughout my life.
All of the yamas and niyamas, are unfolding for me, in learning how to homestead. How to grow food for my family, how to not hurt the planet and other people in our capitalist culture. Yoga, for me, is surrendering to a non-capitalist form of living which eschews the idea that one must look a certain way in order to obtain happiness. Reuniting with what it means to be human.
My whole life, I’ve been trying to achieve the unattainable, to get everything I need outside of myself. I’ve followed people that told me how to behave and who I am without knowing me. I’ve starved myself and binged on foods because nothing I did felt good enough and I felt my body was not loveable. I thought I had to look a certain way to be able to teach yoga. I thought that teaching yoga was going through a series of physical movements on a mat.
I thought having a healthy body was eating less, leaving emptiness in my stomach, not satisfying myself. It’s none of these things. I’m only now starting to remember what I think we all know deep down, instinctively, in our guts. Growing food is our birthright. If we were to grow our own food, hunt our own game, we wouldn’t be so caught up in a world of diet culture, we wouldn’t be destroying our ecosystem and enslaving farmers across the globe for pennies.
What if instead of focusing on calorie counting and protein content we started learning how to fish, how to raise a few chickens? What if instead of watching yet another documentary about how fucked up Monsanto is we planted a few kale seeds? I know not everyone has the luxury of land, and many of us might live in cities, but you can forage wild dandelions and meet organic farmers in parks over the summer. You can sprout seeds and grow herbs in your kitchen. You can ask your landlord if you can tuck a few tomato and hot pepper plants throughout the decorative perennials in the back parking lot of your building (true story.)
Rather than obsessing over nutrition labels at the grocery store for three hours, today I’m going to study up on how to start a compost pile. I feel incredibly fortunate to have access to land with sunshine that I can reorient my relationship with food to something more natural, something that feels like an integral part of being a human that I’ve forgotten.
I want to be able to grow so much food that I feel full, nourished and satisfied. That I can share the abundance with my community. I want to have a healthy body that is able to dig, till soil, lift heavy shit and spend a day doing hard work outdoors building things. I want to eat enough food and have enough fat and muscle on my body that allows me to hike mountains without feeling drained. We don’t need a certain type of ass, waist, or a specific wardrobe to do any of the things that feed our fucking souls.
I don’t need my body to look like any of the images above to grow tomatoes and neither do you.