Naked & Ninety.

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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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About Andrea Marcum

Andrea Marcum, a Santa Cruz, California native, with a background in competitive gymnastics, began teaching yoga in 1999. She opened U Studio Yoga in Los Angeles in 2006. In a city of behemoth yoga studio and famous yoga teachers, Andrea and U Studio have won critical acclaim and success. Andrea relishes in the transformation yoga bring her students and the comm”U”nity it encourages. Andrea is known for her core intensive Vinyasa Flow classes, which appeal to both the famous and the infamous in LA and beyond. She teaches workshops and leads retreats in Bali, Costa Rica and around the world. Andrea’s been featured in Shape, Self, C Magazine Huffington Post and the LA Times. She writes for Gaiam, MindBodyGreen, My Yoga Online and Origin Magazine. Andrea’s an Ambassador for Lululemon, Manduka and Royal Hawaiian Macadamia. Though her early childhood aspirations were to be a fairy princess, she’s pretty happy with the way things have turned out.


10 Responses to “Naked & Ninety.”

  1. ManifestYogaJen says:

    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.

    What a beautiful sentence.

    This post was really great for me as I find my identity in a sea of yoga teachers and human beings, as it were. Andrea, I watch you practice in front of me often, and I am in awe of your skill but more in awe of your heart. Your kindness and your humility.

    I disagree with your mom.
    You really are quite beautiful…. ALL THE TIME.

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage. Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  3. Vision_Quest2 says:

    If you taught a mellow, contemplative style … you'd be just about perfect … to me …

  4. ValCarruthers says:

    Loved this, Andrea. Yoga is truly not just 90 yr old phenoms and the glistening starlets. It's bulging at the middle and you've given it a wonderful voice. Thank you!

  5. Kamayani says:

    It's a travesty of an ancient, spiritual tradition to show these misguided naked "yoginis." Just because these women have an exhibistionist disorder doesn't mean their shameful behavior is acceptable.

  6. Kamayani says:

    The juxtaposition of yoga and public nudity is a travesty with respect to an ancient SPIRITUAL Science. Just because these young women have an exhibitionistic disorder, why should the so-called "Yoga" community support this shameful behavior. Plus it's just plain tacky. And it's not just the women these days. Had a young woman come to me almost in tears. She had gone to a Yoga class and the teacher, a 50 something year old man, had come to class in bicycle pants, outlining every detail of his genital anatomy.

  7. Wow! Reading this post made me want get all Tadasana on my mat and yell “hell yea!” yoga is neither strictly about beauty or flaws. It is that ability to find space to dance in the rawness of both, and learn how they are equally part of us. There are so many yogis I admire for their commitment to breath and satya whether they are naked and gorgeous or not. Definitely adding you to the list because from this angle you are rocking it! Terrific!

  8. Arthur says:

    thank you for your article and for posting it on Pursuit of Happiness Yoga Events on FB… You are awesome

  9. barbarapotter says:

    I read this post and Iove it. Everyone does not have to fit into a certain look. Everyone has their own light and is perfect as they are.

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