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