This short blog will target three topics. Three topics that are important as we head into the new year and everyone gets the usual post Holiday fitness frenzy…:
- Clearly, a professional photographer even before the age of airbrushing and digital “upgrades” can use the camera in a way that makes the image unmatchable in real life. A friend took the more recent photograph in less than perfect lighting condition. When we see images in the media and then compare ourself to these images, we are comparing ourself to something that does not exist. Not in that form anyway… But we are bombarded with impossible images daily to the point where the fictional became the ideal.
- I wanted to write about our cultural drive toward female perfection and sexuality vs. health and nutritional well-being for the longest time. These two pictures side by side deliver my point better than I could ever do with words alone, so I feel it is OK to be a bit revealing.It is a little-known fact that during my university years I dabbled in fitness modeling much due to the encouragement of my then boyfriend. Dabble is truly the right word because, after a few session, I quit. Even as a young adult I somehow felt that there was something wrong with our culture’s overemphasis on the external. I wanted to be seen for my mind, not for my superficial outer layer.Twenty years later, as a pasty-white Seattleite, with far fewer camera gadgets, I decided to retake this photograph to tell you the story.What you don’t see in the image are the many years of depression, inflammatory bowel problems, and chronic overtraining. My twenties were tough; I used chronic running and intensity exercise to combat my problems with depression, and I simply had no idea what to do with my belly issues. I will say next may surprise you; I am glad for the emotional adversity in my twenties. It taught me grit, without these difficult years I would not have searched high and low for solutions. There would be no Spira without these difficult years.
In my twenties, I used intensity training as a weapon. I trained to exhaustion every day. I thought that I was getting stronger, but in reality, my strength was wavering, my immune system was always struggling, and I was exhausted. I thought being fit equaled exhaustion, after all, exhaustion is it is a “feeling well earned” after a good workout. Oh, how wrong I was back then! Endless intensity lead me to injury, but I am glad, this is how I found yoga.
Yoga combined with my endless appetite for studies in philosophy, history, biology, and sports nutrition and technology lead me to live a more balanced, mindful life, and eventually allowed me to find a solution to my digestive problems.
That is right; the pale forty-two-year-old is way happier, healthier, and stronger than my younger self-has ever been. I still like to run, I still like intense exercise, as anybody who has taken my yoga class can attest, I created a very powerful yoga style. But I no longer use intensity as a daily weapon. I practice Spira Power Yoga® four times a week (yes, not all yoga created the same, Spira yoga has plenty of strength and weight barring qualities that challenge our proprioception without the excess emphasis on over flexibility. Functional flexibility with strength is my motto.) I run no more than an hour twice a week, always on trails never on asphalt, and I push intensity training only once a week for 30 minutes; this leaves me, along with meditation, and healthy nutrition energized instead of depleted.
Maybe from the outside, there is not much difference because I exercised all my life, I was able to keep up appearances. And this is exactly the point I want to make! We are as a culture chasing the outside appearances! But what is important is to find health both physically and mentally. My internal transformation has been monumental. Over time I built healthy habits. I cook healthy food; I no longer eat sugar, and I moderate my carbohydrate intake. I eat only fresh food, nothing preserved or in a box, and absolutely zero fast food. I exercise, study, and meditate daily; this may sound like a lot but think of it like brushing your teeth. Remember when you were a little kid and mom used to nag you to brush? It seemed like a silly chore, but now, as adults most of us would not think about not brushing, we enjoy the habit, the process. We look forward to the minty freshness. It is the same thing with meditation, yoga, mindfulness exercises, and healthy cooking. All of these habits will over time embed into your day, and you will not know how to be without them. But at first it will be a chore, at first, it will suck, at first you will have to have grit.
But wouldn’t it be great to feel better and have more energy twenty years from now?
I am passionate about this topic because it improved my quality of life. It is my dharma to share this knowledge and hopefully create just a little bit of change in your life for the better. If you are interested in this journey, then join me for 40 Days of Introspection, Nutrition, and Fitness.
- And now to my final point. If you know me, you know that I have very strong views on the over-sexualization of yoga. I feel that representing yoga asanas in a g-string bikini on a beach does a horrible disservice to both yoga and women’s rights. But we, even the most chest-beating feminist from us, we gravitate toward these images. This is why I decided to use my swimsuit pics; I wanted to get your attention to make this point. I am very aware that I am a hypocrite for using sexy images the same way as all the other industries in order to get readership. I have been sitting on this article for years because I did not want to be part of the problem.I wrote an article about Social Media and Images years ago, reflecting my views on the industry and asking for everyone to step into responsible advertisement practices. Since I did not use an eye-catching image with the blog, and the blog is more than a two-minute read, it got a whopping zero likes on Facebook…
We can only improve our politics, our society if we learn to tame our mind if we learn to recognize our part in the cycle of objectification of women. It all starts with mindfulness and yoga.