I find part of the challenge in my asana practice is finding clothes to fit my body, as most yoga and athletic apparel companies are size snobs. The largest brand in yoga apparel doesn’t even offer anything past a size 12, while the average woman in North America wears a size 14.
This leaves the average North American woman with limited options for stylish, functional yoga clothing.
As a former avid watcher of "What Not To Wear," I'm very conscious of what I wear. In fact, I am admittedly so caught up in finding clothing that is considered ‘figure-flattering’ that most of my wardrobe consists of options that are ‘dark’ and ‘darker’ in colour.
Why I Always Wear Black
Opening my closet, you’d think my favourite colour was black, when really it’s fuchsia or magenta. But sometime back in the 1970s, someone told us that ‘black is slimming’ and we’ve been wearing it ever since.
My students are always calling me out on my penchant for dark clothing. I’m very used to hearing “why don’t you wear some colour?”, to which I often reply, “black is my favourite colour and I will wear it until they make something darker.”
I do try to add pretty scarves and splashes of colour to my wardrobe, but I somehow always end up in all black. I counted, and I own over 20 pairs of black pants. This includes both yoga pants and regular pants.
The Obsession with Thinness and Body Image
I have spent my life being very self-conscious and consumed by the way my body looks, and I think most women in North America have shared this same experience. Our obsession with thinness has been a way to keep women oppressed and obedient.
I have been a size 2 and a size 22 and I wasn’t happy at either. My weight fluctuates all over the place and I usually get pretty upset about it. I do my best to eat well and to exercise. I walk, ride my bike, and do asana several times a week and this keeps my body where I am today—about a size 14, 16, or 18 depending on the brand.
I am always intrigued when I see people on Instagram and Facebook sharing pictures of themselves in their non-conforming bodies doing yoga, being naked, and celebrating who they are. It got me thinking—what parts of my life have I been avoiding because I've been taught to hate my body?
Could I step outside the comfort zone I built out of black pants and embrace my body in all the different colours of the rainbow?
On Wearing Whatever Feels Good
Recently, my friend Amber Karnes of Body Positive Yoga said something that really stuck with me. When I asked her about her choice in clothes she said to me,
I am fat and no matter what I wear I'm going to look fat—so I am going to wear what I want and what makes me feel good. ~Amber Karnes
Her logic seemed obvious and simple enough. I was impressed as she put on these awesome Lineagewear tights in the brightest green I had ever seen. She rocked them. I was inspired and thought, “Yup. I am going to do the same.”
So, I went out and got my own pair of tights in bright blue and purple, and as I slipped them on for the first time, they felt awesome. I paired them with my black tee as I wasn’t ready to step too far from my comfort zone. Baby steps, please!
Wearing these crazy funky coloured tights left me feeling instantly more powerful. It seemed strange at first, as they were just pants. But in actuality, they are so much more than pants.
Reclaiming My Body
Buying these tights and putting them on proudly was like reclaiming my body. I was celebrating a part of myself I had long since hidden away. Of course, I hadn’t left the house yet. Slowly and skeptically, I started to venture away from the safety of my home and off to teach my Saturday morning asana class.
My students were shocked to see my asana in my bright blue tights, but they embraced my appearance with love and acceptance.
The studio where I teach celebrates diversity in all its magical forms and I knew I would be celebrated there. It was a safe space for me. I felt so good about my tights that my class was a little more exuberant than usual. I really felt empowered.
It is so cool when you can appreciate your body and look good in your clothes. I was worried that my good feelings would end at the studio and I knew I needed to push my boundaries a little further.
Next, I took a giant leap outside my comfort zone.
I decided to take my funky tights and powerful vibe to the grocery store. I felt sure that at any minute, Stacey and Clinton from “What Not To Wear” were going to jump out from behind the produce aisle with a burlap bag, cover me up, and take me away for wearing my tights in public.
I wasn’t dressing for my figure type. I wasn’t wearing long black flowy, wide-bottomed pants. My world may end at any moment...but guess what? That didn’t happen.
I did feel very self-conscious, but only for a moment and then it passed. I got a few sideways glances from the over 60 crowd, but I chose to believe it was because my asana looked so damn great in my tights. This adventure and test of my personal strength was a huge step in reframing my life and my body.
On Yoga and Self-Acceptance
My yoga has taught me that stepping outside my comfort zone is liberating. I know, more than ever, that I grow when I’m outside my comfort zone, and that I become stagnant when I linger within it.
My pledge to myself is to keep inching deeper into my discomfort and to boldly lean into it instead of shying away. My pledge is to use my yoga practice as a place to continue learning more about myself from that place of compassionate self-study, in which I strive to always spend my time.
What I have learned from my funky tights experience is that I will buy more of these bold patterned pants and wear them without shame. I will embrace the unique beauty of my body and I will choose to be grateful for what my body can do, as I continue to treat myself with compassion.
I won’t let others chip away at my self-esteem and I will build up those around me. I refuse to continue living my life with the fear that my body may offend you. If you find me offensive, please look away and I will do the same for you.