Hey Girl, Your Perfect Ass is F*cking Up My Yoga Practice. ~ Jean Marie Hackett

Via elephant journal
on Jul 24, 2012
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From screw you to I am you.

Recently I stepped into a yoga space only to find that smack next to my preferred mat spot there was a beautiful, long-legged young woman in a crop top and booty shorts doing cirque du soleil stretches. Great.

For a moment, I felt pissed. Did I want to spend my precious practice time comparing myself to yogini perfection?  Sure, I know it’s all about watching my breath and maintaining my dristi (gaze), but I’m still f*cking human. I watched as these thoughts roughly tumbled about, and caught myself.

“Do the opposite of this inclination to separate yourself,” said something inside of me. Perhaps it was my teacher Kelly Morris shouting from somewhere inside my brain or heart or jealous gut. “Open yourself to the sh*t that bothers you,” continued the voice. “Take an interest in your suffering,” as my teacher Lesley Desaulniers once said, quoting Sharon Salzberg. Damn it. Yogis don’t get days off. So I plunked my mat down next to Miss Perfect Butt in Booty Shorts with Cirque du Soleil Flexibility sitting next to me.

With the first few vinyasas I noticed, notwithstanding my breath, dristi and bandhas (internal locks) focus, that perfect yogini was actually a beginner. A physically blessed, probable dancer gliding through the practice, but a beginner at asana (yoga posture) practice nonetheless. So I doubled my efforts to focus on my ujayyi breath—that’s the best way I know to serve anyone practicing around me—and the intention behind my practice. It worked.

I can imagine how this class could have played out differently. I can see the other “Choose Your Own Adventure” version where I suffer through the entire class feeling badly about myself and then travel home with a pissed narrative circling my brain on repeat like that Gotye song. “Damn perfect girl with her perfect body has to get in my head and f**k up my practice. Does everyone have to remind me how far I still have to go to becoming a sweet, wise enlightened yogi?”

But the choice I had made at the beginning of class to set an intention had consequences and they played out like this:

As soon as I opened to this yogini I saw myself in her. I used to be a dancer. I once went to a yoga class as a beginner (never to a beginner class, mind you, I was too badass for that) and flung my turnout and ballet alignment through the poses like man, I totally got this yoga sh*t. This girl was me. And please, forgive me for getting all “sh*t yogis say” cliché-dropping here but I really, truly loved her in that moment, in spite of her perfect ass and ability to make samakonasana (same angle pose, a.k.a. a middle split) look like a pose so comfortable you could sleep in it.

When class ended she turned to me and asked where I had learned to do some of the more advanced variations she had seen me doing during practice. We got to talking about yoga a bit, and I had the opportunity to encourage her to take some basics classes. I also found out that she was interested in learning more about yoga and maybe teaching it because she couldn’t see herself, a dancer, going into a desk job.

Wow. Hadn’t I uttered the exact same words more than once?

It was like meeting a younger version of me. I Am You, I thought, recalling my journey after quitting dance in my late teens, then moving on through college and law school and mostly miserable lawyerhood into teaching yoga and motherhood. We talked some more. Hey, I discovered that I actually liked this girl.

Rather than feeling tight, jealous, pissed thoughts as I made my way home after class, I ambled home feeling giddy with wonder and amazement and love for everything I have been taught—even though I still stumble along with what I’ve been taught, well, all the time—because that feeling of I-Am-You-ness, as opposed to You-Annoy-Me-Screw-You-ness, that’s just everything.

Jean Marie Hackett is a yoga teacher in Washington D.C., where she recently relocated with her husband and baby after two beautiful years teaching yoga in Boulder, Colorado, and a number of years practicing law in New York and Boston before that. She got into the yoga thing with selfish aspirations to obtain an ass that would f#@k up other people’s yoga practice, but was lucky enough to find Kelly Morris and the Conquering Lion Yoga Teacher Training Program in New York City, where she learned oh so much more. She is still working on both (the ass and the learning of oh so much more). Learn more about Jean Marie at her website, www.jeanmarieyoga.com.


Editor: Ryan Pinkard


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39 Responses to “Hey Girl, Your Perfect Ass is F*cking Up My Yoga Practice. ~ Jean Marie Hackett”

  1. Mamaste says:

    Just intro'd on FB to: Yoga, I'm Not Spiritual & Health & Wellness.

  2. cathy says:

    and when I see that ´perfect ass´next to me.. I am you also, I focus on my breathing, remember those days when my ass and abs looked so and many times I am charged by this wonderful youthful energy. Maybe I do an extra situp. It is good to acknowledge the appreciation of long ago and to knwo the value of choose your own adventure re emotions.
    Thank you for a sweet article.

  3. jean marie says:

    Thank you Cathy for such a sweet and thought-provoking comment!

  4. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I'm not even a dancer, not even semi-professionally, anyhow. These days, I go to pilates classes and practice yoga/pilates fusion at home, alone. But somehow I resonated with this article. For many years I thought that with the God-given way I can move, I should have had a dancer's body instead of the one I'd been born with. Why, having seen women (and men) in my yoga class who could contort and fly up into poses which don't come to me after close to 5 years of practice at that time; well, one of the philosophies that was inculcated into me by my yoga teachers was "I am you" … we are each at points on a continuum … Though some more absolutist teachers failed to see the inclusiveness implied by that statement … I forgive them. Somebody kinda plump like me probably gave them a hard time in a former life.

  5. Lauren C says:

    I actually had this train of thought last time I was in class and there was a travelling troupe of ballerinas (I'm not even joking) all lined up in a pretty little row dropping into to an afternon vinyasa. I was a little intimidated to be in the room with them, their toned bodies, and their perfect buns (on their heads) but…once the sweating started, it became the great equilizer. We were all sliping, losing our balance, and only competing wtih ourselves. They were just there for their practice just like I was and it was a good reminder to stop judging books by their covers. Great read, thanks!

  6. Jean Marie says:

    The greatest thing to hear when I write something is that it resonates with the reader. Thank you for that, so much. It goes both ways… By that I mean I am sure someone had looked at me in a yoga class or in another arena of life and had similar thoughts to the ones I wrote in this article; I am sure that in a yoga class or other space someone has also had such thoughts about you. You may think you are "kinda plump" but I am sure someone out there sees you totally differently. Thanks for giving so much in this comment.

  7. Jean Marie says:

    Thanks for reading Lauren! I was in an advanced class last weekend and I realized early on that I was really freakin intimidated by the other yogis in the room. I started falling out of poses I don't usually fall out of. Then I remembered that falling is a good thing- I always learn something when I fall. Kind of like I always learn something, if I try, when I get caught up in small jealous thoughts like the ones in this piece. And later on In that class I as that I wasn't the only one falling and sliding. I like that idea of yoga as the great equalizer!

  8. __MikeG__ says:

    I used to attend classes at a studio which regularly had ballet dancers in attendance (the studio had a cheaper rate for members of the ballet. Most people do not realize how poor most professional dancers are.). The dancers did not go out of their way to show how bendy they were. What I noticed is that these dancers approached the practice much more mindfully and with greater body awareness than the non-dancers. I was impressed more by the restraint these dancers displayed than by their flexibility.

  9. Jean Marie says:

    Hi Lauren- whoops I posted my reply as a separate comment! See below and thanks again for reading and sharing.

  10. Jean Marie says:

    Many of the most amazing people I have met, know and consider my teachers have dance in their backgrounds, so I am not surprised you saw that mindfulness. This lovely girl in that class.. I don't think she was going out of her way to show how flexi she was- That was just, her usual pre-dance stretch practice is my guess. The negative reaction I had at first came from me, not from her! I was impressed by her desire to learn how to do things correctly so I hear you on the mindfulness comment. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  11. Asslover says:

    I thought for sure a guy wrote this from the title. I have the same problem everyday. There's yoga but, then there's ashtanga yoga but, and this girl has the best ashtanga yoga but I've ever seen. Thanks to vinyasa's, I get the opportunity to repeat endlessly to myself, "drishti, drishti, drishit, don't look, don't look." I say she shouldn't be allowed to practice in here. I try to find faults, her legs aren't all that. I say don't objectify her. I try to empathize, thinking how annoying it would be to practice with a guy staring at your but the whole time. Then I notice the girl behind me staring at my but, and I'm just disappointed that it's not miss perfect yoga but who's looking. I try to fight the desire, but to control it you have to become it. Mostly I feel a sadness, that I don't have a girlfriend with a ass like hers. I'm tired of the endless realization seeking, the lessons, trying to be more enlightened. Screw enlightenment. Fuck detachment. I need a perfect ass in my life. I worship ass. I find samadhi in my desire of it. When I look at perfect ass, I am abosbed in it, my only desire is to merge, to become one.

    Girls, please stop wearing tight yoga pants. Also, why so much cleavage?

  12. jean marie says:

    Nope, I'm not a guy. Funny to see how the perfect ass can f*k up someone's yoga practice in an entirely different way. I'm not sure if my reply here misses the mark, but it makes me think about how, if there's a yoga pose you really want to be able to do, it's not like once you can do that pose you'll be happy. that you'll have made it. there will always be more poses. more things to attain. And the way you discuss this need for a perfect ass, it sounds like that. thanks for sharing.

  13. Agamemnon says:

    Interesting to see the trend of psycho-yoga. It's becoming very popular for people to air the dirty laundry of their inner thoughts and stories of how they transformed them and saw the light and realized they are not all that bad a person after all. They also use lots of curse words in the process, just to make themselves seem more cool, more sassy and interesting. I think it's a bunch of nonsense. All of that inner dialogue you mentioned? They used to be called brain farts before yoga teachers started selling them back to you as something meaningful. Turns out yoga is also good for enabling better, more vigorous patting of oneself on the back for being nice to other people. Enjoy!

  14. terry post says:

    wow-how nasty, you should seriously (or playfully) examine your thoughts. Yoga is about self-examination–svadyaya.

  15. Agamemnon says:

    No, it's not being nasty. Just an observation. An exercise of free will and the expression of an opinion. Oh, and it's svadhyaya ; ) Details, details…

  16. Agamemnon says:

    You know, maybe I shouldn't have made that post. I'm coming to accept that profanity laced blog posts are the new normal in yoga blogging. I suppose some folks just like to let it fly. I respect anyone's right to do so and recognize my right not to click on them, (or harsh on them for doing so). Peace…

  17. Jim says:

    Asslover, I too thought the article was written by a man. I do you yoga at home with my wife and I have to say watching her do yoga, and yes, watching her ass, is one of the many reasons I enjoy yoga so much. I feel good physically and mentally. Seeing beauty always brings me pleasure. I am blessed.

  18. Jean Marie says:

    This is interesting because I too get annoyed by all the yoga articles and curse-ridden yoga articles. I came to realize that I got annoyed by others sharing their voices because I was squelching my own. In fact when I wrote this I never intended to publish it. I wrote something on a whim and shared it with friends on Facebook and got inspired from the response to take it somewhere else. I wouldn't say I have seen the light and know all the answers – far from it. Anyway, what you are saying here is worth thinking about. I mean that.

  19. Kathleen says:

    Oh, how our biggest distractions are really our greatest teachers:-) Encore, Encore Jean Marie!!

  20. __MikeG__ says:

    EJ is a forum for airing thoughts. Exactly what part of that do you not understand? Why bother ever reading anything if you are so against people airing their thoughts?

  21. cathy says:

    I dotn remembr any curse words. I do encourage you agamemnon to write. by so doing your voice can be heard and shared, as well, as open to criticism. And people writing off topic on your articles.

  22. cathy says:

    ok, I am going to throw a new thought among these comments.. I am almost 64. When I havent tinted the side grey hairs which like to show themselves, recently after an injury coupled with profession required sitting I regained weight. Most of the younger more fit looking women appeared to not notice, some had become friends through years at the same studio.

    Once in awhile I found myself next to a younger person who didnt know me and I have seen little looks of disregard. I chose to go hard and strong.. maybe even to show her up. With that grey hair and paunchy middle are many more years of efficient power and coordination trainings which allow me to hold poses as long as anyone else and to do little advanced flourishes. No, it is not a particlarly pretty look at my inner ´buttons´it´s a little reality which thank goodness I do not dive into often.

  23. Agamemnon says:

    Thank you Mike G. It's all clear now.

  24. __MikeG__ says:

    You are welcome. You obviously needed the help.

  25. jaimie says:

    jean, so nice to read you. such a great, sweet, simple teaching about always seeing ourselves in the other, that there is, ultimately, no other. miss you, dear! xo

  26. Jean Marie says:

    Hi praise from a writer like you!

  27. Jean Marie says:

    Cathy- thanks for such an honest take. Give yourself a break, ok! I'm no expert but I hope that the takeaway from this piece is that I could have gone the jealous "ill show her route" but if I had gone there for more than those first moments of class, the result would have been me feeling bad. Instead I felt good during and after class. So I guess I would say, how did it work out for you when you approached it that way?

  28. Jean Marie says:

    Thank you!

  29. cathy says:

    thanks jean, I give myself lots of breaks. I dont feel bad if someone gives me a bad look and it pushes me a little to showoff. I m ausually pretty humble w/ what I can do. Ans once in awhile i move to showy, not unlike many.

  30. Edward Staskus says:

    Since the perfect ass lady was next to you, as you say, how were able to keep your eyes on her ass? Talking about asses, I practice at a Bikram studio, where we are all in rows facing a mirror, and the other day it was so crowded the person in front of me kept getting their ass between me and the mirror. It was certainly annoying, but after reading your article I realize it was really nothing, since it could have been my ass.

  31. […] are two overarching principles to dealing with stress: you know what your stress is or you don’t know what your stress is. Is your stress gargantuan? Are you completely overwhelmed? […]

  32. Jean Marie says:

    I thought it was clear from the piece that I noticed this beautiful lady as I was setting up my mat, which I did set up next to her. After the first few moments of class my eyes were not on her or her practice; my focus was on my own practice. Some of the comment stream here might have led the focus elsewhere perhaps. Have fun with your bikram practice and thanks for writing.

  33. Jean Marie says:

    Perhaps the title led you in that vein as well. The idea was that spending the class Comparing myself to this woman (in my mind) would f–k up my practice, not literally staring at her (though that would f–k up my practice too). 🙂

  34. […] Hey Girl, Your Perfect Ass is F*cking Up My Yoga Practice. ~ Jean Marie Hackett […]

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