January 11, 2012

Naked & Ninety.

Based on what my 5,000 Face Book friends are posting, you get the impression that everyone who does yoga is either naked, or really, really old.

On one end of the viral yoga over-share spectrum are the ninety-year-old yoga teachers, arm balancing their way into You Tube fame. With their Chakra T-shirts and Ganesha lame stenciled pants, enormous bangle earrings and boundless energy, they shame us all with their geriatric grace.

On the other end there’s Jasper Johal’s 2012 Nude Yoginis Calendar and Kathryn Budig naked Yoga Toesox ads. When I was growing up in Santa Cruz, yoga was for those who wouldn’t think of shaving their legs or pits. Now everybody’s hairless, and glistening.

So what’s a less-than-ninety-year-old girl who has way too much cellulite to be photographed in her birthday suit to do? Is there room at the Yoga Inn for the average bear? Or just the average bare…

In her beautifully shot ad for Equinox, Briohny Smyth hangs in mid-air in her teeny tiny underwear. A few months ago, when I was in her class, Briohny very graciously announced that I was the first girl she‘d seen do a handstand in the middle of the room, and that I’d been her inspiration. Totally surprised and honored, I felt a bit like an old break-dancer trotted out on display, or a one hit wonder, still singing her song from the 80’s at everybody’s state fair.

But then it dawned on me:

Everyone’s got their time, and everyone’s got their “somethin’.”

It would be easy to envy (oh, and in many ways I do) these exceptional ladies both old and young. But I am here to offer hope to the other 99% of us in the majority middle…those of us not remarkably aged, but with enough years on us to sport back-in-the-day handstands and get excited about not moving up a size at Lululemon.

We’re all playing our part in western yoga’s evolution. I am pleased to have entered sometime before the invasion of the Manduka mat and after it was acceptable to wear deodorant. To be honest, I love it in the trenches where the lighting is not always so flattering. Yoga has seen me through the most important transitions in my life—those that happened out of the spotlight, and in the shadows when no one was looking. I wouldn’t be who I am, and my life would not be as fulfilling had I not found yoga. I enjoy watching those I’ve taught fly higher than I ever could. And if they can maintain their full body waxing, mani-pedi and golden-blonde highlights too, well more power to ‘em!

Because this I know for sure:

All of us, as we go through time, will find that people are less enthusiastic about seeing us naked—and none of us are guaranteed 92 and adorable. You may not see me in glossy calendars and sensational links on the social networks, but I am out there. In fact, I’m everywhere. I am the 99%, I am most of you doing yoga, and I kinda like it like that.

Perhaps my mom put it best when she saw my Ambassador picture for Lululemon a couple of weeks ago. “Andy,” she said, “You really are quite beautiful…. When they catch you the right way.”

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