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Freedom from body shame by wearing electric blue shorts to yoga

Updated: May 23

I wore my electric blue shorts to hot yoga. It was a self-dare. There is no hiding my butt in these shorts.

 

When I was eleven, and struggling mightily with my body image, I wore a pair of tight pants to school. I was anxious about it, terrified about how my butt looked in them, but was trying to be stylish. It was - and still is - my most self-conscious body part.

 

A mean girl named Heather (why are they always named Heather?) pointed at my bottom and yelled for all to hear: “If someone took a razor across your butt cheek, your ass would explode out of those pants like a bomb!”

 

Everyone laughed. I mean everyone.


I felt exposed and deeply ashamed.


two people looking at a painting of a woman's round, naked butt

Thus the dare of wearing these highly visible shorts to free myself of body shame.


I clutched my yoga mat and scanned the studio. There were two spots- one way in the back or one right up front - the choice between hiding and being seen.

 

But was I really going to downward dog my big, blue butt to all the yogis behind me?

 

Yes. Yes, I was.

 

Because I am tired of feeling like there is something wrong with my body. Tired of trying to hide my cellulite behind thick, black material. Tired of every unsupportive, shameful thought that keeps me in the back of the room.

 

I unrolled my mat in the front. I was going to win this.

 

But mere moments later, I lifted into my first high lunge and was under siege.


Everyone can see your huge blue butt cheek smooshed against your upper leg. Gross. You look huge.

a seal lying on its side

 

Then I was back in down dog, gazing through my knees at the people behind me. All sizes and shapes. I did that thing where I rank my body against the female bodies around me. Some bigger, most smaller.

 

It felt like shit. I felt like shit.

 

I once asked my sister-in-love if a particular pair of yoga pants made my butt look big.

 

Her answer: “You might not like this, but I would say they make your butt look exactly the size it is.”

 

Huh. There was a strange freedom in this feedback. Imagine wearing clothes that didn’t make my “butt look big” or “my butt look small” but just made my butt look like…my butt?

 

Why had this never felt like an option before? Probably because my butt as it was wasn’t okay.

 

Back on my mat, I closed my eyes to break the spell. The teacher said something about the body communicating through sensation.

 

I tried to listen. But the chatter was so loud. So constant. So exhausting. So unbelievably NOT yoga.

 

This is where I'm at in my freedom from body shame journey. I’m finally willing to take the risk to be up front, to wear the clothes I like, to practice being allowed as I am. But while the action is a powerful step, the internal noise is still an assault.

 

You should be disgusted with yourself. Cellulite is disgusting. What makes you think you can stand here in those shorts? No one wants to see that.

 

It makes me question myself. It makes me feel small.  

 

This is the method and the goal of body shame: to sever us from our bodies. Because when we are not in our bodies, we cannot be in our power.

 

Body shame is conditioning. We believe it to be ourselves, speaking reason through shame, helping motivate us.

 

But our true selves don’t ever criticize or belittle. We are not naturally cruel or hateful toward ourselves.

 

It’s all learned. Which means it can be unlearned.

 

Yay! Let’s unlearn it! If we start now, we can be done by supper.

 

If only.

 

Instead, it is a gradual undoing, a daily choice to release a little more, to edge closer to a new, but unknown, possibility.

 

And here’s the kicker: every step out of the cage of body shame makes my conditioning double down. It growls and seethes, rises to its terrible impressive height. A bully muscling for power. The thoughts get louder, the shame more intense.

 

How I respond to it matters. Do I believe the shame? Do I fight it?

 

If I believe it, I go back to hiding my body, playing small and investing my energy in trying to change my body rather than owning my power.

 

But if I fight the shame, I never win. I can’t win. My feeble counter points to its accusations will never be strong enough. It’s impossible to outplay shame.

 

There is a third option, one that is much simpler but far more difficult: awareness.

 

Awareness is a soft, open energy. It is not a fight or a maneuver. It’s dropping our end of the tug-of-war rope. It’s non-engagement, non-participation. It takes two to tango and we exit the dance floor.

 

We say to shame: Oh, there you are. I recognize you. No thank you. You don’t own me. You don’t decide for me.

 

This is the voice of reason. The voice of our true self. She doesn’t need to fight or defend. She doesn’t tolerate this kind of nonsense, doesn’t bother to explain herself. She just stands ten feet tall, basking in her worth.


young girl standing proud and wearing a shirt that says, "Love who you are."


Just then the teacher brought us to mountain pose and said: “Close your eyes and ask your body what it knows.”

 

What do you know, body?

 

My body said: I feel good. I love this heat. I love the fluidity of movement. I love sweating and stretching and feeling strong in these hard postures. I love to feel my magnificence.

 

A wave of pleasure washed through me, the tingling feeling of perfection and rightness. Me, just as I am. Not better, not worse, than anyone else. Just whole and allowed.

 

Shame is a fire-breathing dragon chasing me. But awareness allows me to turn and face it, to meet it eye to eye. That’s when I realize it’s just one of those inflatable T-Rex Halloween costumes that make me laugh. I reach over, switch off the fan and watch it deflate at my feet.

 

Our bodies are not the problem; they are the key. It is only when we drop below the conditioned mind and into the body that we connect with our true selves.

 

Loving our bodies is our antidote to body shame. To be at war with this sacred part of ourselves is to forgo own integration, to give up our power.

 

I brought my hands to my prayer over my heart as sweat trailed down my spine and into the waistband of my blue shorts. I followed the teacher in the fluid movement – arms upward then swan diving into a forward fold.

 

My butt, swathed in electric blue, was there for everyone to see. To laugh at if they wanted.


What would it be like to not care? What would it be like to feel nothing but love for this body part that has caused me such grief?

 

I would suppose it would feel a bit like this.

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Convidado:
16 de mai.

I love the visual of deflating the fire-breathing dragon/T-Rex. I am going to try to use this soon and often.Hooray for you and your electric blue yoga shorts.💙

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