Yes. Someone said that to me at training.
Warning: this blog post might make some people angry. It is also quite lengthy. Enjoy.
Teacher training is DONE!!!! I have been home now for a good week, and I have already taught 5 classes. The end of teacher training seems to be a blur. Hilary and I left before the graduation ceremony finished, because we had a red eye to catch back to the east coast. We were for sure ready to get out of there! We completed 95 classes in 61 days; what an accomplishment.
I never thought I’d enjoy teaching so much. Wait, maybe I did know that I would love it. I especially love the morning (6am) yoga class because the students are so disciplined, determined, and everyone moves together. It’s really beautiful to watch and lead.
There’s one thing I would like to comment on, and it has been in the back of my head since before coming to training. That is – the amount of girls (and guys, I’m sure) with negative body image. This makes me so sad. This yoga is hot, which means female students are usually wearing little shorts and a bra top, and men are wearing either short shorts or a speedo. People who don’t do Bikram yoga think this is weird and usually always make comments, but we know that it is the easiest to stay the “coolest” and also less clothing is easier to move around in. Since beginning a consistent practice in Jan 2011, I have heard so many times thin girls talk about how fat they are in front of the mirror. This practice is for sure a self-realization practice – you learn so much about your physical, mental and spiritual self. You standing in front of the mirror for 90 minutes and watch yourself, not once ever closing your eyes. Bikram often says “not only do you have to suffer for 90 minutes, you have to watch yourself suffer.” Looking in the mirror can teach you all sorts of things – how strong you are and how confident you are. You can also look in the mirror and start judging yourself (which we all fall victim of) – your love handles, your pimples, your greasy hair (or is that just me?! Lol). And it’s true, maybe you could spare a few pounds or so. The practice of Bikram yoga is to think those thoughts and then let them roll out of your head. The purpose of the practice is to listen to the dialogue and apply the words to your body. That’s your meditation. But in reality, many girls come away and think they need to diet and do more yoga because they are “too fat”.
Everyone has heard that “Americans are getting fatter.” We love fast food, processed food, etc. etc. However, I think the opposite is true as well. I think we also love organic food, vegan food, raw food, etc. etc. I think “Americans are getting more obsessed with their food.” Yogis (I say yogis because this is the population I’ve observed this the most with) will go on this juice fasts, raw diets, no meat diets, no carb diets, you name it, you got it! That’s fine, it’s probably healthy to do every so often and also teaches you self control and maybe new habits to adjust on how to eat better for your body. However, I think the danger is when people obsess over this, and I see that a little too much among the yoga community, particularly at training. Girls would obsess over what they ate, how much they ate, and if we had a “cold” class, they couldn’t eat as much because they didn’t sweat as much. I would often see girls at the gym on the treadmill or the elliptical before our 8:30am class. I even heard of some girls going to a different yoga studio to take a 6am class before our 8:30 am class – meaning, they would do a triple! That’s insane! Our bodies were under so much stress, doing 2 classes a day doesn’t allow for very much recovery. We all were eating less food just due to our tight schedules and lack of means to make a proper meal, so I know from my experience I certainly wasn’t eating right. A banana with peanut butter for breakfast, an avocado and tomato for lunch, and a can of soup for dinner is not a well-balanced days’ worth of food, but this was often how I would eat for days at a time. On top of that, in the late night lectures I would just eat cookies (yay Hilary!) and dark chocolate to try to stay awake.
We were told time after time that the best food, is NO food. I cannot even imagine what affect this statement would have on someone with body image issues or someone struggling with an eating disorder. At one point we were told that a good “yogic” breakfast is SIX almonds and a glass of water. Knowing the group of people there, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them took this to heart. People were constantly called fat, told “you eat too much food, give some to her (a skinny girl)”, “you have so much body, use it (in a posture)”, “cottage cheese ass, fat stomach”, I could honestly go on. After hearing all these things for 2 months I am so SICK of coming home and still hearing about people (non-yogis) obsess about their body weight! I see it on TV, I hear it on the radio, I see it in the mall, etc. All these diets are out (fad diet, much?!) and all these electronics to monitor what you eat and how active you are – anybody ever think that maybe your body is the way it is because ummm maybe that’s the way you were made?!?! I’m not talking about a 300 pound person. I’m talking about a normal size (maybe my definition of normal is not socially acceptable, but whatever). While at training, I thought – what makes a person FAT? What makes someone look at someone else and say – hey that person is FAT? If you get an annual physical and your triglycerides, HDLs, LDLs, blood pressure, heart rate, enzyme levels, etc are all normal but the person is say a size 10, does that make them FAT? Makes no sense to me! If someone is a) healthy by a doctors standards and b) is comfortable in their body, how can another individual declare them to be FAT?
Here’s my perfecto example. It was about week 7. We were done with the dialogue but at this point in posture clinic we were stringing 3 postures together. It was late at night and we had one teacher leading our group, who I will leave unnamed. I stood up to go – I wanted to do separate leg stretching pose, triangle pose, and separate leg head to knee pose. I was excited because first of all these are my favorite postures to say and second of all these are my favorite postures to do so they make me enthusiastic! I taught 5 people both sides of all 3 postures, and I was pretty proud of myself. I think I was the first person in my group to string those 3 postures together, and like I said, I like these postures. My feedback from my faux-students was all positive, and I was happy they were happy. I turned to the leader of my group, and he said: great dialogue and great voice. Then he said this very strongly, and I quote it because I remember his words very vividly: “Look me in the eyes, Christina, LOOK AT ME. People will love your voice but they will not love your body. Promise me, promise me Christina, that you will lose at least 25 pounds. Take care of yourself here, but when you get home, it’s time to get serious.” I know he was expecting me to cry. I actually wanted to laugh. I felt that he was SO stupid to tell me this advice, because he doesn’t know me. He actually couldn’t even see my body because I was wearing a shirt and long pants. I looked at him and said “thank you for your feedback, but I’m very comfortable and confident in my own body, and I think I look just fine.” His jaw just dropped.
Before I came to training, I found that an old teacher of mine had posted on their twitter account that I was “a lazy, distracting, telletubby” aka – another way to call me fat, and ugly I assume because telletubbies are some of the ugliest made up TV characters I’ve ever seen! While these words are mean, that’s not what upset me. What upset me is that a leader, someone I and many other students look up to, can not only think this about their students but also say it, in hard writing that can be saved, printed, copied and viewed on the internet. This is upsetting because this only solidifies my thoughts of how warped some of our minds are around body image and food, and subsequently this yoga. I have judged my body PLENTY enough since before I can even truly remember, there is no need for outsiders to do the same. I always had the biggest thighs and was the tallest in my dance class, I’ve ALWAYS had love handles, I’ve always had more weight around my waist. ALWAYS. When I say ALWAYS I mean like I remember pinching my love handles on my 5th grade sleep away field trip because all the girls were staying up late in the bathroom obsessing over their bodies. I was the only one with love handles and a fatter stomach. Guess what – I have come to the realization that is just how my body is! I am perfectly healthy. In fact, since starting Bikram almost 2 years ago, I have lost 20ish pounds, my HDLs have gone up, my LDLs have gone down, and my blood pressure went from 160/100 to 120/70 (I suffered from anxiety, and after many tests doctors concluded my high blood pressure was from stress). I threw away my Lexapro, and I could finally sleep at night without the fear of dying in my sleep. Yeah, I was really anxious. I get a physical every year, and I continue to show that I am healthy. Even after as much as I’ve toned up from Bikram, I still have big thighs, a love handle, and more weight around my mid section. I eat healthier than many of the people I know who are sizes 0 and 2.
SO – when people tell me how good I look after teacher training or comment on how I lost so much weight, I don’t know what to say. Why? Because, yes I did work hard – I mean helllooo I took 95 classes in 61 days, and I did push myself because I wanted my practice and postures to improve. BUT – I’m so sick of hearing so much obsession over body weight and food, I just don’t know how to respond. After hearing day after day girls call themselves fat and then other people calling other people fat, I’m just sick of thinking in terms of “FATNESS”! Thank you for telling me I look good, but I think I looked great even before training. I didn’t try to lose weight – I didn’t obsess over extra workouts or crazy diets – and I still won’t. My clothes are looser, but my weight in pounds is the same before I left. Most importantly, I feel good and think I look good. Same thing happened after my 100 day challenge (100 Bikram classes in 100 days) – my clothes fit looser but I actually didn’t lose one pound.
I hope this post inspires other people who practice or even those who don’t, that you don’t have to have a certain body type to practice Bikram yoga, and you certainly should try your very hardest not to judge yourself in the mirror during your practice!
As I finish this post, I’m about to enjoy a sweet potato and pork chops with my sweet husband.
Namaste – Christina