August 08, 2011

Intersecting Identities: How I Navigated Feminism, Yoga and Dieting

I’ve been a feminist since before I knew that word existed.  And for most of that time, I hated my body.

Ironic much?

I spent most of my twenties living, breathing, marching and signature-collecting feminism.  To say I wore it as a badge of honor is about the most understated way I can say it.  I didn’t get in people’s faces about it so much as have it inform everything I did, including my career choices.

As I attended meetings and participated in consciousness-raising, the topic of body image would come up occasionally.  And every time it did, I rolled my eyes to myself and hoped for the conversation to be over soon.  If I knew ahead of time that the topic of a meeting was body image, more likely than not, I skipped it.

I didn’t dislike talking about body image, exactly.  It’s more like I didn’t see the point of it.  “The media socializes women to hate their bodies,” blah, blah, blah.  When were we going to get to the real injustices women faced?

Concurrent to all of this, I was on diet after diet after -- literally.  I rarely discussed this with my feminist sisters.  I thought it would be uncouth to talk about being on a diet (although I certainly wouldn’t have been the only one to do so), so I didn’t.  Also, dieting, body shame, and disordered eating are usually pretty private behaviors, and I fit right into that mold.  I figured if I didn’t say it out loud (at least much), I wouldn’t give other people the chance to agree that, yeah, I really did need to go on a diet.

Surprisingly, what ended up bringing together my feminism and body image struggles was yoga.  I started practicing yoga in this same several year span that brought me feminism and the depths of my dieting despair.  Similar to dieting, I often kept my yoga a secret.  I thought people would be embarrassed for me if they knew a curvy gal like me was practicing yoga, so I kept hoping for the day I’d be thin enough to both enjoy my practice and share it with others.

As I continued to develop my sense of how I wanted to live in the world and who I wanted to be, I started to cast off other people’s expectations about who/what/how I should be.  I also desperately wanted a yoga practice that met the needs of my body and made me feel safe, comfortable and empowered rather than crappy about how my belly was getting squished in forward bends or my boobs were about to suffocate me in Shoulderstand.  I made the decision to not wait any longer for that to happen.  I became a yoga teacher and started my own business, Curvy Yoga, teaching and writing about body positive yoga for people of all shapes and sizes.

It is in Curvy Yoga that these seemingly disparate parts of myself join and find voice.  Through the freedom of moving in ways that are tailored for curvy bodies, I’ve found space for both feminism and body positivity.  I’ve seen that body image isn’t a trivial issue; rather, it’s something that all of us live in in one way or another, every day.  I’ve also learned how much getting bogged down in dieting instead of eating intuitively and moving joyfully robs us of our happiness.  And not only that, it keeps us limited in what we imagine we can do, which is pretty much the opposite of what I want as a feminist.  

So here I am today: a curvy feminist yogini.  And it doesn’t feel ironic at all.

Guest Blog Contributor Anna Guest-Jelley is the Founder of Curvy Yoga, which is all about lovin’ the body you have today. Through Curvy Yoga, she offers yoga designed to fit the bodies of people of all shapes, sizes and abilities as well as messages of body positivity and meeting yourself where you are--both on and off the mat. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.  

1 comment:

  1. Great Post...You should have a positive approach towards your goal to lose weight. You need great amount of perseverance and consistency in order to follow your exercise routines and diet programs. This is very important for you to succeed. You are the only one who can convince yourself to look better and physically fit.


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