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All Hail the Yoga All Stars!
by Clare Cady


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Editor's Note from Vasilena Toneva: This article deals with something that has probably crossed your mind if you've attended a group yoga class:  the phenomenon of comparison. The honesty of the author helps us connect with the rawness and vulnerability of our shared human experience. No matter where we are on the path of yoga, there will be someone who seems to be further, or looks 'better' doing certain poses. There will also be someone who's further behind and, perhaps, looking at *you* as a Yoga All Star. This article ultimately reminds us to accept, love, and celebrate ourselves just as we are, wherever we find ourselves on the path.

I’ve been doing bikram yoga for the past 8 months. I really enjoy it. I like the heat and how it helped me to finally enjoy stretching. I like the fact that my lungs feel stronger and I can hold a note longer when I sing. I like that I can now feel into my body and have a greater understanding of what is happening inside of me. I like that I am stronger and have better balance. All in all, my yoga experience has been pretty awesome.

I've done a number of other kinds of yoga. I've done sun salutations, enjoyed deep long meditative poses, stood on my head, and done the low slow flow. Bikram has been a very different experience for me. First, it is the only yoga I've done where I have felt I've advanced. I think that the very athletic nature of the yoga appeals to me - that and the fact that we do the same poses every time. I get to work hard and see my progress. It's heartening. Second, the yoga crowd is different. Bikram is a very, very American version of yoga. The poses and postures are not, but it is inherently capitalist in nature. It is franchised, automated, and monetized. It is completely macdonaldized. Sometimes when i think about this it makes me want to walk out - to say to heck with it and find something more traditional. Other times I take a lot of comfort in the fact that when I go to another bikram studio elsewhere, the experience will be the same. As a result of this balanced dichotomy, all kinds come to bikram. College students, hippies, housewives, hipsters, body builders, runners, rich, poor, old, kids, people of all races - it is a cornucopia of people who all come for different reasons to get the same thing. The other day I got to class to see a coach bag hanging right next to a homemade crocheted one. Some women in the locker room talk about how they love their bmw's - others talk about how they will only eat eggs from 'happy chickens' - priceless.

The one thing that I find the same across all yoga classes is one demographic - the yoga all stars. If you have ever taken a yoga class you already know about whom I refer. They are the perfect, the amazing, the strong, the beautiful. They walk into class, tall and thin, washboard abs already tensed and toned. They wear perfect yoga costumes that always match. They walk in with perfect posture. These are the people whose bodies seem to be made for yoga. No matter what, they are flawless in their postures, amazingly strong, and ridiculously flexible - gods and goddesses, superheroes really.

I try so hard not to hate them.

Yeah, I know, I am in class for me. I am not supposed to compare myself to others. This is about my health and confidence and well-being. However, I grew up in a world where body image is distorted as a female and an athlete. Once, when I was doing situps at the gym at clark another student called out to me, 'keep going, you need it.'  I'm self-conscious no matter how hard I try not to be. I do my best to concentrate on my own figure in the mirror and remind myself that I am beautiful and strong and amazing too.

Other times, I try so hard not to stare at them.

These are amazing people! When i am able to manage my own self-consciousness I just think they are so incredible and beautiful that I catch myself starting. They can bend lower, stretch higher, and do more than I can and I am in awe. I am sure that this could be uncomfortable for these people. Who really wants to go to their class to better themselves and find someone staring up the back of their ass all night? I could make the argument that hey, the way they look they should just expect it, but that would align me with people who say that a woman who dresses sexily deserves to be raped. Clearly not excusable behavior.

But then again, we are all yoga all stars in the end. In a bikram class you go through 26 postures. The odds are low that there is not at least one pose that you could do exceptionally well. Most of my teachers don't point out individuals for praise, but those who do often end up saying something kind to every person in the room over a class. I myself am very proud of my standing bow pose and by half locust. Tonight, one of the women in my class, who you would never pick out as an all-star, was asked to demonstrate her standing head to knee. I marveled at her strength and balance as she stood up in front of class and showed us her perfect posture. She beamed at the chance.

I can't say that I won't have that continual internal yoyo of emotion about the pretty, pretty people who come into my class in cute clothes and make us all look like yutzes rather than yogis, but I do like that I can keep some perspective on it.

All hail the yoga all-stars!



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About the Author

Clare Cady is a person who loves good food, health, and the wealth that comes from the Earth.  She lives in Oregon, where she makes music and serves people in poverty. You can find her insights and musings at littlebearbigsky.blogspot.com.








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