Yoga Month, Yoga Wisdom — Touching

The third thing yoga taught me was that it’s okay to touch myself.

Edgar Germain Hilaire Degas 029

I don’t mean like masturbation, though that’s all fine and good too. (Though it should probably be reserved for a home practice rather than at a studio class.)

What I mean is, yoga taught me that touching myself — even touching myself in places that are often sexualized — can be part of a functional resettling of my body to my own purposes.

First, it was the instruction to “pull (or roll) the flesh away from the sitting bones” for a lot of seated meditation postures as well as forward bends. Basically, this amounts to a lot of yogis sitting on the floor and grabbing their butt cheeks. As someone who has a rather copious amount of ass flesh, the difference this makes on my pelvic tilt — and therefore the amount of comfort or discomfort I feel in my hips and low back — is nothing short of amazing. I definitely pull the flesh away from my sitting bones while getting ready to drive in the car now, and I try to surreptitiously roll my butt flesh away before sitting down to boring meetings. If people think I am odd for it, well, they are welcome to their conclusions.

Next, it happened that a couple of teachers familiar with pose modifications for fat folk introduced me — via the wonder that is the Internet — to moving my waist-related love handles out of the axis of rotation for twisting poses. For reasons I have already detailed, I am way less comfortable with my belly than I am with my butt and so touching my belly is even more emotionally charged for me than is touching my butt. But when I tried it, it helped free up so much movement — especially in “compressed” twists (twisting in toward a grounding leg). I’d known for a long time that my back was more flexible than my belly was letting me go in twists. But I’d also been thinking of the issue in terms of my belly limiting my range of motion — when one simple solution is to just move parts of me where I want them to be.

Most recently, I’ve begun to apply the twisting advice to my breasts, which impede my range of motion in even more poses than does my belly. (The boobs impede first in a lot of twists; they also factor in to prone poses like cobra, locust, and bow, as well as some inverted poses like bridge and plow.) Practically, again, it increases my comfort and range of motion in the previously problem postures. Emotionally — on the one hand, at least — it is way nicer to think, “hey, the correct way for me to set up for this asana involves moving my boobs,” than to think, “eff, my boobs are getting in the way of my asanas yet again — stupid boobs.”

On the other hand, while I’m quite comfortable moving my boobs in my home practice, I’m a lot more hesitant about doing so in a studio class. At home, it feels like setting up for an asana the same way I’d set up any other body part to be in my body’s best alignment for the pose. But I’m not sure how many other folks at my studio — and I’m at a pretty accepting studio — would see it that way.

In time, I suppose, I will forget as I’m caught up in my own practice. And without thinking, I will grab my boobs in yoga class — and we will see what will happen.

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5 comments on “Yoga Month, Yoga Wisdom — Touching
  1. CLAUDIA says:

    What a great post! Thank you for sharing.

  2. blogromp says:

    Yep. Breasts, belly, buttocks–I can’t practice without physically shifting them around. And even then, there are poses I simply can’t do (e.g. I’m working on building my peacock pose, but it’s nearly impossible with my prodigious breast tissue, and impossible with a bra on, so I can only work on it at home with my bra off, and even then it’s as awkward as a giraffe on stilts.) I also have to move my calves out of the way in Virasana and similar poses, and my inner thighs out of the way in Eagle and similar poses.

    I also have to find ways to work around the clash between my upper arms and breast tissue when my upper arms are parallel and rotate from against my body to shoulder level/above my head or vice versa (e.g. between down dog and cobra). I usually have to either rotate my elbows out, or bring my breasts through one at a time.

  3. Khadeja says:

    I am so glad to have found this post, and your blog! I have been doing yoga, and as a curvier female, I have experienced just about everything you talk about – needing to shift my butt, my belly…and touching my belly is still difficult for me to do, whether it is during exercise or not. I only touch my stomach to hide it. I’m going to try and think constructively rather than negatively about myself when I try to start yoga again. Thank you!

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