Inspired by a naked butt. {NSFW}

Via Suzanne Jones
on Jan 14, 2012
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A few weeks ago my friend and fellow yoga teacher and altruist Ryan posted a picture of his naked butt on Facebook.

Standing in a hot spring in Iceland, with his long crazy dreadlocks hanging down his back, he shielded his eyes with his hand as he looked off in the distance. I’m looking for you tonight at 5:30 yoga was the tag line. The comments ranged from your butt rules! to are you looking for your pants? to my comment—I officially declare this the best picture ever.

Please don’t misunderstand. My adoration for the photo had little to do with Ryan’s naked butt and much more to do with his bad-ass-edness. My friend Ryan—all crazy dreadlocks and ZZ Top beard—feels not one shred of shame in his body. He’s so comfortable with his human form that he posted it up there on Facebook for all to see. I was completely inspired.

And then I saw this:

And then…I read this article written by one of my personal heroes, fellow Elephant contributor Julie JC Peters.

…And then I read this article about plus size models ranging from size 6 (yup, that’s me! just call me plus-size-Suzie) to 14.

I’m not sure if it was all the talk of anorexic models and objectified and sexualized yogis in panties and a bra juxtaposed with my friend Ryan just standing in that spring in all his glory. Or maybe I’m just at an age where it just doesn’t matter anymore, but I suddenly decided to stop feeling like my body was never good enough (for who? for what?) .

For 40-plus years I have been in a dysfunctional relationship with my body.

Like one of those old couples that you see in a restaurant who just sit there in silence—this was where my body and I had ended up. It was as if we were being forced to spend time together and we accepted that, but we weren’t going to like it—I’d be damned if I was gonna acknowledge her, let alone recognize anything good about her.

I’m quite aware that my relationship with my body is not uncommon—and I know how I got there. Growing up in a household that not only did not acknowledge nudity as a viable option for the body—but avoided anything remotely snuggly or nurturing (like hugs and kisses) didn’t help. On top of that, I was a teenager in the 70s and 80s. Justin Bieber has more of a chest than the top supermodels of the day, and it pains me to recall my teenage years thumbing through Seventeen magazine being reminded over and over that Pheobe Cates and Cheryl Teigs—the boob-less supermodels of the day—were the apex of physical perfection. Damn you size C boobs! I wished and begged my mother for breast reduction surgery, to which she replied you want a smaller chest? Lose some weight (thanks, mom). On top of all that, I engaged in a self-sabotaging and pointless (and secret) competition with my sister who was one year older and always at least one size smaller than me. My whole teenage life I struggled to just fit. into. her. clothes! Because she was skinnier and skinnier was better.

It had to be true—I read that in magazines and magazines don’t lie.

It’s no wonder that when I found and married a man who objectified my body, I stuck to him like a leech to a plump thigh. After all,  if I wasn’t going to appreciate my body, at least someone would! The intended effect was not realized.

It turns out it wasn’t really as easy as just deciding to love my body. But when I thought of Ryan’s butt picture and felt inspired. I grabbed my phone, took a picture of my butt and send it to Ryan with a note: Inspired by you, you bad ass! 

And I felt something amazing.

Well, actually first I felt shame. What did I just do? OMG What will he think? How dare you send someone a picture of your naked body! and on and on..But somewhere in that moment I realized that I was coming face to face with some serious self sabotage. By constantly feeling my body was either A. never good or B. good enough but being good enough came with obligation—I kept myself hostage. I did that. Of course in the end my relationship to my body had become so estranged that we hardly knew each other anymore.

I thought of my days in art school, where I would show up to the studio with my charcoal pastels and pad and think nothing of the person posing there in front of me. Our models ranged from young women to old men and everything in between and we saw the body as a form. Lines, planes, curves and shadows. I looked at my picture and began to see my body this way. I began to appreciate my plus size 6 form as a series of curves and lines and shadows. It suddenly came clear to me that though my body is my form, it isn’t me—not really. I was reminded of the quote

We are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience.

This was my human container—my human form—but the essence of me was spirit. It was fascinating—and liberating.

And this particular human container of mine is also a pretty bad-ass—not because it is chiseled, honed or can stand in a one finger hand stand while playing Mozart’s Concerto in G Major on the violin with its feet (because it is none of those things)—but because it made (from scratch!) and then birthed two human beings. Big ones. And I appreciate that’s nothing to sneeze at. I notice that the form of my body also carries with it markers of my life. Injury scars, pregnancy stretchmarks, childbearing hips and tattoos marking marriage and divorce. As they say in art school—Form follows function.

So because of Ryan’s butt picture, I have started a new relationship with my body. I appreciate its form—no matter what dress size. I appreciate its function—whether I can press up to handstand in lacy black underpants or not (anyway, I’d like to see little miss yoga push out a 10 1b 10 oz baby on that nice new yoga mat of hers!) and though I don’t let too many people get physically close to me these days other than my cats kids—I feel confident that by putting my relationship with my body first, the rest—whatever that looks like— will follow.

Here’s to the rest of my human experience—and to my repaired relationship with my body.

Thanks, Ryan.




About Suzanne Jones

Sue Jones, Founder and Executive Director of yogaHope has practiced yoga for over 15 years and is a leading voice in the subject of mind body practices for self regulation and personal empowerment. For the last six years Sue has trained, inspired and lead hundreds of volunteer yoga teachers who have donated their time in substance abuse rehabilitation centers, domestic abuse safe houses and homeless shelters for women. She dedicates much of her time to researching the effects of yoga and mindfulness practices on survivors of trauma and those suffering from traumatic stress response. Sue’s life and work have been profiled in Yoga Journal, The New York Times, Shape Magazine, Body + Soul Magazine, Martha Stewart Whole Living Magazine and on CNN Headline News.


11 Responses to “Inspired by a naked butt. {NSFW}”

  1. OK, so that beeping noise was your cellphone receiving a photo of my butt, I just texted it….


    Good one Suzanne….(I want to think of some empowerment slogans to shout out here but I am so hungry I have to eat….)

  2. Jen says:

    A size 6 US is about a size 10 UK. Scary that is now considered plus size. Thanks for this article!

  3. All Paramahansa Yogananda wanted growing up was to be plump and he manifested that body as an accomplished yogi. Swami Vivekenanda was not thin and had diabetes. Ammachi can hug thousands of people in one day without eating or drinking, but she doesn't look like twiggy. She has a lovely soft huggable form. What in the world does real yoga have to do with a thin body?

  4. michelle says:

    I loved your article but felt disappointment by the statement "anyway, I’d like to see little miss yoga push out a 10 1b 10 oz baby on that nice new yoga mat of hers!" i think its wrong to judge the actress in the ad based on HER size as she probably has insecurities about her body which kinda goes against the point I think your trying to make in the article. We don't need to bash someone else's body image to feel better about our own.

  5. sue says:

    Yes Michelle, i admit it was a little snarky. My intention was not to judge her, but to give my body kudos for birthing such a giant baby (which I did in malasana 🙂 thanks for the reminder though. Point taken <3

  6. and we get to see your awesome tattoo…. not that it means anything at all, but you have a nice ass.

  7. Bonnie McCulloch says:

    I love all of this. I was in aw of the woman in the Youtube video not only for her beauty but also for her amazing yoga poses. I too have had an unusual journey with my body. I was a fat kid and teenager, then a more normal size girl in my twenties and half of my 30's and then I weighed 98 pounds when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I am now a yoga teacher myself and is at a healthy weight. I now look at my body more as a temple and take care of it so it will last me a long time. My greatest gift was having my son (age 9) who weighed 9 pounds 13oz and was early-how great is the female body! Thank you for this article and what is your tattoo of?

  8. Bonnie McCulloch says:

    OMG-that is a big baby!!!

  9. sue says:

    I got this tattoo when I found out that my husband (at the time) had been having many dozens of affairs through our marriage…many of whom he had introduced me to so that we could become friends. The story is long and painful but here is the significance of the Koi Fish

    "In Japanese symbolism the koi represents perserverance in adversity and strength of purpose. The strongest koi swims upstream until it reaches the final waterfall, where it vaults into the mists and becomes a water dragon."

    For a period it seemed that I was discovering another affair every day and I had to "perservere" for the sake of my children. I barely thought about it..I just knew I had to get it.

    thanks for asking 🙂

  10. Sue says:

    You're absolutely right EDM. It is exactly what I teach and I became careless in an effort to "be funny". I really appreciate the reminders of this. It is truly very important to me and though as I said, my intention was not to judge her or make assumptions, but more to express pride in birthing such a large baby—there surely was a more mindful way to do that. I considered changing the line but I do enjoy the conversation. When we can remind each other (kindly) to have compassion for all, the world will be a better place. Again, thank you for the gentle reminder—I'm a human being like anyone else and appreciate mindful nudges to look at the motivation in my words.