If only someone had informed me how amazing orgasms become after you start doing yoga.
Okay. Now that I have your attention, let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.
I have two stomach rolls when I sit down.
One roll starts right beneath my boobs and stops about two inches above my belly button. There is a permanent crease here on my mid-section.
The next roll starts at that crease and ends where my hips start, commonly called the “pooch”, “tire”, or “fupa”.
My belly button becomes a flat line when I sit down even though I have an “innie” that when standing up, or at 143 pounds, looks like the cutest little belly button you ever did see.
When I stand up straight, I have two small rolls that form under my armpits in my back, right around my bra line.
When I wear tight jeans, not only is there a crease underneath my asscheeks, but there is another crease about 3 inches lower than that, where my saddlebags become restricted in tight clothing.
When I run, the flab underneath my arms flaps.
So the fact that I’m writing this to you in broad daylight in my birthday suit on a lounge chair at the clothing optional pool right now is a pretty bold life choice.
But without bold life choices, there wouldn’t be this blog. There wouldn’t be Hawaii in my life. And I would always be wrapped in a towel on the side of the pool, waiting for the right moment to jump in.
My clothes do fit a little looser now that I am in Hawaii – not by much – but it’s enough. I haven’t weighed myself since the first week of May, but I was around 167 back then. So the description I just gave you of my body is of an average 165 pound body. I am 5’7”.
And I am strong as hell.
Apparently, under all those imperfections, there lies some fierce muscle mass.
Do you know how I know I am strong as hell?
I do yoga.
I literally know nothing about yoga. Like, I don’t understand the bowing to the teacher at the end of the class so I just do it anyways and I look at my neighbor to know when to come up. I don’t understand the namaste’s or the inversions or why in the world anyone wants to use those crusty blankets that are always in the studio but never get washed.
All I know, is that I sweat like crazy and I get to sleep at the end of every class.
I am 26 years old and I think I took a total of two yoga classes in my seven year relationship with New York City. When people found out I was coming to Hawaii to do yoga, they gave me an eyebrow raise and a forced “wow, that’s……………..awesome.” They were so shocked that I was leaving New York to do something so peaceful. I normally like to box. Hit things. Torture myself with hours of cardio. Pound the pavement – both literally and figuratively.
I always complained that I didn’t have time for yoga because I was too busy exercising to lose weight all the time.
If only someone had informed me that I would sweat more in downward facing dog than on an elliptical.
If only someone had informed me that there are nice teachers out there who will explain everything as they go for first timers.
If only someone had informed me that tattooed straight dudes take yoga too.
And seriously, IF ONLY SOMEONE HAD SO KINDLY INFORMED ME OF THE WHOLE ORGASMS BEING BETTER THING.
All the things, and I literally mean all the things, would have been better.
I think yoga is quite overwhelming, don’t you? There are like 800 different kinds, there are expensive sports bras made for the 800 different kinds, and when you walk into class, everyone is sitting there, looking all meditative and shit – like they know exactly what they are doing. So I automatically get intimidated, and try to do what they are doing. And instead of resting my mind like someone told me I would automatically do when I get to class, I’m worried that my legs aren’t crossed the right way.
Regardless of all that shit, I jumped in and just went for it when I got here. Not knowing anything. And let me tell you something. Yoga has changed my life in the past two weeks.
So I’m going to do the informing now. I want to pay it forward.
You know how Lululemon has that campaign right now to get the world to do more yoga? I kind of scoffed at it when I went into the store to look at their sale stuff every day for seven days straight before I left for Hawaii.
Now I get it.
So I’m going to take the overwhelming shit that has overwhelmed me for too many years and I’m going to straighten it out for you, my people. Because whether you have had exercise bulimia, or you go to the gym to let out aggression, or you go to the gym to fit into a bathing suit, I just want to let you know, that you can get the same results by going to yoga and then laying in corpse pose for ten minutes afterwards. It’s fucking amazing.
(Um, just a little service announcement here. I didn’t Google anything. I asked a few questions of my teachers here but other than that, I’m speaking quite frankly from my own experience. Which isn’t much. I think it’s more important to give you the point of view of a normal, every day, non-meditating, newbie to yoga than to provide you with facts that you could find out on your own from Wikipedia. Below, are the things that I have learned by trial and error. Mahalo for your time.)
Yoga does not always look like this.
These people most definitely have sand in their crotch and they are most definitely getting a paycheck under the job title “model.”
You do not need to own Lululemon, Athleta, Under Armour, or a single piece of lycra clothing to do yoga. The men here do yoga in their board shorts and bathing suits. The women wear leggings, cut up t-shirts, cargo shorts, bikini tops, you name it. I realize that I am in Hawaii and New York is different. But fuck that. Seriously. If you find the right yoga studio for you, you will find that what you wear has nothing to do with it. It’s not about owning the newest built-in-bra-coral-colored-breezeway-split-racer-back-top. It’s just so not about that.
Garbagemen do yoga. Mailmen do yoga. Farmers do yoga. Motorcycle men do yoga. Mechanics do yoga. Single men do yoga. Married men do yoga. Men do yoga. Straight men do yoga. Fat men do yoga. Old men do yoga. Skinny men do yoga. Gay men do yoga. Pregnant moms do yoga. 86-year old women do yoga. Lesbians do yoga. Local Hawaiian people with dreadlocks do yoga. Recovering alcoholics do yoga. Chefs do yoga. My housekeeping manager here does yoga with his wife. The tech guys here do yoga. All these people I just mentioned are here doing yoga with me, right now. Just because yoga looks like this in magazines…
…does not mean that everyone looks like this in class. And I think that the variety is actually more beautiful.
Most yoga studios have no mirrors. So instead of going to Cardio Kickbox Trampoline Step Plyometric Impact Class and watching your arm flab bounce, you can do your yoga in peace. Nothing against cardio sweat classes. Some days they are great. But with no mirrors in sight, you only get to look at your own body doing the work. Or you just close your eyes and enjoy the moment when you reach a little farther for the first time. When your heels touch the mat in downward facing dog the first time. When you inhale and exhale through a Vinyasa flow for the first time. There’s no mirror to look at, and so you can’t see how red your face is from hanging upside down, or see the rolls that naturally form when you’re bent over. It’s nice to take a moment away from the cardio classes. And the mirrors. It’s nice to take a moment away from your own judgemental eyes. Because you know that you’re the only one judging your arm flab right?
I have always had trouble getting out of my head in the bedroom. My mind would race, my orgasm would be close but I would get distracted, and if there is a man somewhere reading this that’s been in bed with me, he’s nodding because he knows it’s true. It’s frustrating for both him, and me, at the same time. There he would be, doing all the right things, and my mind would be off in audition-land, or in ice-cream-land, or in hating-my-stomach-land.
Yoga is proven to improve your sex life. (Okay, fine, I did Google that one sentence right there). You are like, ten times more in tune with your body than you were before you started class. It does not matter if you can’t touch your toes. You are listening to your body when it tells you that you can’t touch your toes, right? So if you spend an entire hour listening to what your body wants and does not want, don’t you think that if you spend a few hours a week listening to your body that it will carry over to the bedroom? Not to mention how much farther your legs will go over your head after a few classes. And no one has ever complained about that.
Even more important than that, yoga is designed to take your focus out of your racing thoughts and into your body to prepare your body for meditation. So instead of making your grocery list while someone is trying to get you off, maybe your mind will have let go of the lists and the to-do’s and the worries when you held tree pose earlier that afternoon. Making you more present for that thing he/she does down there that you love so much.
Kissing will be different. Touching will be different. It’s just different. Trust me. I’ve been there. I’m…there.
Yoga has all kinds of frustrating names that don’t help describe it. Thanks for the ancient Sanskrit names guys. Super intimidating.
Yoga is actually designed to get the body ready for meditation. But you don’t need to worry about that yet. Baby steps, remember? Just try one class and see what it does for your entire nervous system, not to mention your brain. The meditation will come after. Just think of it as a free gift included in your class.
So which class are you supposed to try? That used to overwhelm me. Vinyasa Yoga or Hatha Yoga is your most popular option in NYC, and I recommend trying it before you go to anything with heat. Like, seriously, baby steps. Let’s try breathing through a downward facing dog before we add 105 degrees. Anything with the word “beginner” in the title is also maybe a great way to go.
All “Vinyasa” means is that it’s power yoga. Instead of holding a pose and then switching into the next one by standing up, fixing your hair, or having a moment to beat yourself up for not being as flexible as your neighbor, there is a flow to the whole class. There is a way to get from pose to pose. Connections to the next position. The breath connects all of this together. But don’t be overwhelmed by that. Just do your best to try a class, follow along, and rest in child’s pose whenever you’re over it. Seriously. A class that encourages you to rest when you need it. WHO COULD ASK FOR ANYTHING MORE???
Why do you bow?
Why do you breathe that annoying breath?
Why does the breath matter?
Why do you meditate afterwards?
I don’t know all the answers. But I do know that I didn’t do it all correctly at first and I’m still alive.
I think that it’s so intimidating when you go to a class and you feel like if you don’t breathe correctly the whole time, you won’t get the same results as everyone else. What I’ve found is, I still feel like I worked my body head to toe after class. And every class, I get better with the breathing thing. The inhaling and exhaling with the special “ocean” breath makes you sweat more. That’s all you need to know for now. There is a reason for everything in yoga. But instead of trying to figure all of it out at once, why don’t we all just try to go to class and learn one thing at a time? Every class, you will retain one more tiny thing and after two weeks, you will have learned two to four new tiny things that might just add up to one big fucking thing.
About three months ago, I saw this picture:
I got so pissed. Dude, just because I’m a (recovering) binger and I have ice cream inside me, does not mean that I don’t eat vegetables. That’s fucking ridiculous.
The picture got me to thinking. Thinking about our vision of health these days. What we get out of the pictures in the magazines, on Pinterest, on Facebook. It got me to thinking about how tired I am of all the pictures. All the pictures I am always seeing of these models in Self and Women’s Health in their sports bras and their booty shorts doing these poses, making it look like only skinny, flexible people run and do yoga.
So I decided to do something about that. I called up a friend who is a photographer and we did a photo shoot in Fort Tryon Park. I wanted to prove to the world that people who look like me run and dance and can do yoga too. I am not a size two. The garbage man here is not a size 2. But he goes to yoga with me and he touches his shins when he bends over. A month ago he could only touch his knees. That’s what’s up.
So for every time you see this in Shape…
…please know that my stomach rolls and I are doing that too:
And every time you see this in Fitness Magazine…
…know that my back fat, and my cellulite, and I, are doing that too:
And know that every time you see this, in the “Yoga Poses For Belly Fat” category online…
…that my constantly racing mind and I are focusing on holding this, in order to calm the fuck down and find peace within:
Any body type can do yoga. If you take nothing away from this blog post, please take that away from this blog post.
Any fucking body type can do yoga. Thank you.
If you know me and who I am, you’ll know that I’ve always been scared of doing lifts in shows. My friend Rich had to battle my fear every day he lifted me last year in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. My friend Matty had to look me in the eye every time we danced together in Mame to see if I was going to go for the lift that day or not. I always felt too heavy. I’ve been afraid of being dropped. I didn’t grow up in a dance studio with boys to practice lifts with. I’m just scared and I don’t trust my partner enough to let him do his job.
So when Joel, the IT guy, came up to me one day and asked if I wanted to try partner yoga, and I said yes without thinking, I nearly had a heart attack.
Next thing I knew, I was letting this skinny guy lift me by one arm and one leg while in my bikini. Stomach all hanging out, thighs jiggling, ass in his face. Not in the sexy way.
And what resulted from that first day of partner yoga was a freeing feeling that I can’t actually describe in words. I can’t describe it. I just can’t.
All I can say about it is, when you go from fear to flying in twenty seconds flat, your whole outlook can change.
Now when Joel sees me before lunch we will spend ten minutes “flying”. Which is what he calls it.
We do this:
Mind you, no one’s hands are touching the ground in this picture. My hands are wrapped behind his back. I just wanted to be clear that this is all happening with just our bodies and equilibrium. BAM.
And I feel free. And trusting. And he has never dropped me once. The first time I asked him if I was too heavy. He didn’t look at me like I was crazy. He just looked me in the eye and said no. And that was that.
If you contact the following studios in New York City, you can ask a shit ton of questions and you can get free passes to try their studio for up to a week.
http://www.yogaworks.com (1 free week)
http://yogatothepeople.com (donation based classes, the Vinyasa class in Brooklyn was my first class ever in New York City and it was everything)
http://www.pureyoga.com/en/newyork/purecontracts/enquiry.php (takes you right to the page where you sign up for a complimentary class, there is a location on the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side.)
These are just the three that I tried to take advantage of right before I left. I never even got to use the YogaWorks pass but there are a bunch of people from YogaWorks here doing their teacher training and I really like them all. There are many more options all over the city to try out studios. If you’re not from NYC, take a deep breath and Google “free trial yoga [insert your city of choice here]”. Ask your friends, co-workers, and local Starbucks barista where THEY do yoga. Force a friend to go with you so that you don’t feel confused or overwhelmed by yourself. And then if you hate it, at least you know you have a buddy to complain to afterwards over a beer.
That was quite a list huh? My goal was to inform, and not overwhelm. And so if you need to re-read this in sections at a later date, I totally get it. If just one person reads this this week and goes and takes yoga then my work is done. I’m going to keep telling you how amazing I feel until all of you just go and fucking try it. Seriously.
My favorite yoga teacher here, the one who also has us sing that song at the end of class that I wrote about last week, asked us this week why we feel like we have to wait to be happy.
Why do we have to wait til we are 90 and spent, to be happy?
Why do we have to work until we are fried, to be happy?
Why do we have to wait until we understand all the yoga positions to take it?
If yoga makes us happy right now, let’s just take it. Like, let’s just take it. Let’s fuck it up. Let’s be wrong. Let’s fall out of postures. Let’s forget to breathe. Let’s let our mind race.
Because one day, maybe one of those things will naturally correct itself and you won’t even notice until you leave class and realize something is different. You can’t put your finger on it but something feels right. Different. Good. Better.
Never underestimate the power of trying something new because it scares you.
Who knows what kind of orgasm, what kind of muscle, or what kind of peace of mind it might bring you.
And if nothing else, just admire the beauty of looking at your own two feet, rooted in the ground, holding all of your weight up without the help of a treadmill or a chin-up bar. It’s just you, standing up, hands on your heart, feeling your heartbeat, standing all on your own.
Sometimes we forget that we don’t need Lululemon, or the newest Nike’s, or a trainer to help us stand alone.
Our legs are always right there. The strongest help of all. Holding all of our body weight on their own.
That’s pretty gnarly, isn’t it?
In a world where we are trained to hate our bodies, it’s a pretty beautiful thing to spend an hour in a quiet class where the only thing holding you up is your own body. Makes you pretty fucking thankful for what you got – whether it’s perfect or not.
*Photographs by Michela Imbesi (you can find her on Facebook)
**Special thanks to my Hawaiian ohana: Ellard for photographing the partner yoga; Will and Jared for their constant yoga wisdom, in and out of class; and Joel, who has given me the freedom of flying.
***Deepest gratitude to my friend Christina, who told me that she had a feeling yoga would turn out to be my form of therapy, and for dragging me to that first class in Brooklyn.