The Same Old Message with a New Twist
I realize there are immense problems in our world. And, I realize I’m really lucky to live in a time and a place where I don’t have to worry (too much) about clean water, air or having the necessities for life. When I write or talk about things that go on in my little community, our country or in my little head, I don’t forget just how amazingly fortunate I am.
But—sometimes things just tick me off and I have to vent. Or, rant. Or, whatever you want to call it.
So, if you’re my friend or student you probably know by now that I have strong opinions about how the media portrays women. Sometimes I like to get on my high horse and ride him around town about those things.
I detest how we are sold a big load of horse “do” on what is beautiful for a woman, or what gadget, food or supplement we now need to help us achieve this idea of beauty.
The most recent ad I’m whining about is the Strong Is the New Skinny Campaign. Have you seen this ad? I’m not even sure what the ad is encouraging us to buy, but I’m pretty sure whatever it is—I ain’t buyin’. “Strong” is the new “Skinny?” Really? It’s so blatantly out there!
I can’t remember anything in my recent memory that actually makes its message so clear:
>>Skinny is really where you want to be, girl.
>>If you ain’t skinny, you ain’t pretty.
>>Wait! We’ve got a new standard of skinny for you! It’s called strong! You want to look like this now!
As I continued to reflect on what the ad was actually portraying, I realized that it is the same old message with a new twist. “Hey Toots, you’re not thin enough,” is now paired with the new, “Hey Toots, you’re not strong enough, either,” message. Well, crap on that, ya’ll.
Yes, it’s great we’re learning (and maybe the media is beginning to listen) that super skinny is not healthy, but this new standard of strength is not maintainable or manageable for the average woman, either.
For a woman to develop the physique these ads portray takes hours of training per week over an extended period of time. Instead of being cajoled in to eating Lean Cuisine after Lean Cuisine, drinking protein or supplement shakes or whatever skinny food is hot at the moment, we get to feel guilty if we’re not at the gym developing man muscles.
What if you’re a naturally skinny person? Well, that’s great! And, if you’re not a naturally skinny person? Well honey, that’s great, too.
What I would like to see us begin to strive towards is acceptance of our bodies in their natural state.
Where do our bodies naturally want to be when we eat healthy foods and engage in physical activities we love? I’m not talking about the body we can “achieve” if we are at the gym (or even the yoga studio) for three to four hours a day, seven days a week. I’m talking about the body that develops naturally when we engage in activities we love. I’m advocating loving the time we spend exercising, not hating every minute so we can end up looking like someone else’s idea of what is beautiful. I’m advocating being at peace.
In yoga, we develop strength to support our body weight relatively quickly. As one’s strength builds, our physique may change. This happens naturally, over time. This doesn’t mean everyone who practices yoga is going to look like the girl in the latest Strong Is the New Skinny (or whatever) ad! What this means is that we learn not looking like the girl in the ad is ok.
We gain an internal strength deeper than anything an ad can portray.
Naturally, I feel that practicing yoga is a good place to begin or to revisit. When we go to our mat, the chatter of the mind begins to slow, we learn to connect with our glorious bodies, to listen to our breath and to simply be present. We begin to love our bodies again or for many, to begin to love our bodies for the first time in our lives.
So, I hope you can find an activity (yoga, anyone?) you love that stretches and strengthens muscles and bones, gets your heart a pumpin’ and brings a smile to your face. And for goodness sake, eat a cookie. Life is too short not to eat a cookie now and then!
Sandi Burden is a lil’ ol’ yoga teacher in big ol’ Oklahoma City. When she’s not teaching Vinyasa or Gentle style classes or performing Thai Yoga Massage, she can be found playing with her beloved dogs, embarrassing her children or trying to fulfil her life long dream of kissing a Bison. For more information, she can be found on the big ol’ world wide web at thisposeyoga.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/sandiburdenyoga.
Editor: Sara McKeown