So often, I come to my mat to find a sense of peace and contentment with what I have to offer the world. My friends call this self-acceptance… I trust that it is in this place, through stillness as well as movement, I will find some serious radical honesty. I will merge the body and breathe to become one, and then with every inhalation and exhalation, I will fill my heart with only love and gratitude for the life I’ve been given and the body in which I move through this life.
A little over a month or so ago, I was extremely humbled and honored when a past yoga student of mine asked if he could photograph me for a Yoga Series he was completing. Prior to his email, I had actually seen a few of his photographs on social media, during which I happened to notice these beautiful, spirited yogis had been photographed with little to no clothes on. So, you can imagine my surprise (and hesitation) when he asked that I “follow suit” and wear a black pair of underwear and a black bra. I quickly began to contemplate how I would tell him that I would do the shoot, but not in only my bra and underwear like his other models had before me. As I racked my brain for any sort of valid excuse I could tell him, scrambling for just the right words to use, I heard a voice in my head urging me to stop with the bullshit. This voice begging me to realize how liberating it could be to do yoga with my shirt off. To do yoga wearing no pants, all the while, allowing someone to photograph me in the most awkward positions into which I can put my body.
There it was, moment of truth: to be or not to be brave.
As fate would have it, my most authentic-self won the dispute, and together we showed up at my friend’s studio on an early Friday morning with sleepy eyes, no make-up on, hair unkempt with my natural curls flowing wildly, and a soy latte in hand.
“Planting seeds of self-confidence is a brave, beautiful thing that we’re proud to bare our bellies for.” –Emily Nolan TOPLESS #TOPLESSbyemily
As it turns out, this photo shoot proved to be a break through moment in my life, a moment for which I will forever be grateful. This was the day that I allowed myself to be vulnerable and yet completely confident in my own skin – literally bare skin. I put myself in my favorite and most evocative yoga poses, twisting and ringing out critical judgment and self-doubt. I inverted myself several times and strongly held my best handstand to date. Despite the Ego’s best attempt to remind me that I am not perfect, I glowed in the light of the camera, smiling and laughing (because I was told do so more often). I giggled as I exposed all of my imperfections knowing that in that moment, I could not have looked more perfect… I was perfectly, imperfect me.
At one point, while still shooting, Kevin showed me a couple pictures. I chuckled as he pointed out muscle definition that I didn’t realize existed, or as he said, “Wow look at your ass?” I literally laughed aloud as I thought, “You’re crazy. What do you see that I cannot?” Finally, I realized that I actually did look strong and confident. He was right. I was a Warrior with one hard-working ass. “Wow” I thought, “if I look this strong on the outside, I can’t even imagine what my insides must look like!” It was then, in that exact beautiful moment, that I realized this is yoga. Yes, Yoga is a physical practice and there are many obvious benefits. However, the true and greatest effect yoga can have is not on the physical body, but rather the impact each Asana has on the human spirit. Through challenging the body to do what the mind believes it cannot, the real work is done. By challenging the mind, growing the spirit and opening the heart, you truly practice yoga.
That day, my heart cracked open a little bit wider; not only for myself, but also for all the other women who feel uncomfortable or inadequate in their underwear. I dare you to challenge the false stories our Egos tell us. I dare you to do more yoga… or to do some yoga in your bra and underwear. Liberate yourself from all untrue beliefs you possess in thinking you are flawed once you take your clothes off. I have photographic evidence to prove otherwise.
I was so humbled and grateful that day for the opportunity to practice such fearless self-love. I hope Kevin knows that. To my Ego I proved that my body, like my spirit, is strong and brave and wild in love with all of its capabilities.
Perhaps I will start doing more yoga in my underwear. Why not? After all, it’s just a body and what lives inside of mine is a fearless, bad-ass, beautiful woman who refuses to be tamed so easily.
Kevin Thayer/Alt Proc Media Arts – http://altproc.com/altproc.html