OM, If You Want To...
By Jeannie O'Conor

It was not love at first sight with yoga and me. I was a hippie child, and yoga was but one of a long laundry list of annoying things my mother subjected me to, including tofu and picking up sketchy hitchhikers in our dilapidated 1973 Volkswagen Bug on the way to the hot springs in New Mexico. I thought it was particularly mortifying to chant the sound of OMMMMMM, and I mocked the groovy, un-ironic language and vegetable-dyed cheesecloth garb of the over-earnest, patchouli-smelling teachers and their disciples. I was generally mistrustful of the off-the-wall Eastern philosophy and religion my mother dabbled in, though I liked the posters she put up of multi-armed, blue-skinned women with enigmatic smiles: Parvati, Kali, Lakshmi-goddesses who embodied the best tools we women have to persevere and live life to the fullest.

So it was strange that, one day during the week after I kicked the AntiChrist out of our house, I found myself donning the Lulu Lemon stretchy pants and skulking into a yoga class. Maybe I just felt lost, and it was like going home to a comforting, hippified place where I felt all of the good elements of the weirdo Eastern philosophy come together in a calming way. But, whatever it was, it was revelatory. During Shavasana (the relaxation part at the end) I saw, behind my closed lids as I lay supine on a spongy rubber mat, a golden orb covered in tangled, thorny vines. Each time I went, the orb broke free more, and I forgot, for ten blissful minutes, the terror I felt about my and my children's future. The physical part of yoga class was almost beside the point, though I liked being able to bend my tense body into pretzel-like shapes, and I could stay in Child's Pose all day.

Years later, I still love yoga, and now the physical element means as much to me as the spiritual component. As my middle-aged joints begin to be less cooperative, I find my yoga practice helps me feel better and younger. I have become a lot more…er, voluptuous, since I hit 40, and this is something that really detracts from my self-esteem, the popularity of the Kardashians notwithstanding. When I was in yoga today I was thinking about my own tits and ass and how they Will Not Be Denied. Part of it for me is, despite situating my sit bones on a spreading cushion of my own ass-meat, yoga class is the one place where I look in the mirror and really admire my body- with all of its exaggerated feminine features! With stick-thin models walking around all day, when you used to be a size 2, it can be hard to love yourself after having babies has annihilated your six-pack and brought your breasts to your knees. But yoga helps me think of myself as a Kali-esque ass kicker after a bad marriage kicked my ass.

I read this article from a yoga blog that talked about the sexualization of yoga and how it is being used as a prop to objectify women and sell expensive yoga clothing and accessories. I agree, but…welcome to the free-market society that we live in. Wow- you mean sex is being used to sell stretchy pants? Let go of your expectation that people will behave the way you want them to, and go to a Gentle Yoga class. Later, I saw that somebody posted a link on Facebook to some old, long-forgotten pictures of Marilyn Monroe doing yoga, as an early fan of the ancient practice. She's shown in numerous asanas, including the notorious Bow pose, looking at the same time carefree and drop-dead sexy. How could she not? Marilyn brought her mojo everywhere she went; it was a part of her person, like her skin. But that mojo, sometimes called shakti by the Hindus, is one of the essential ingredients of what makes us so powerful as women and gets us through tough times. It's also something potently fascinating and terrifying to men, who don't have the feminine kind of shakti and can never perform the miracle of giving birth, and it's why women have been marginalized to various degrees throughout history. God knows Marilyn's life was not simple, and clearly she had a lot of issues. But she rose above her own objectification and OWNED her potent mojo, reaching her peak during the 1950s, a decade when The Man succeeded almost completely in keeping us down. It can be argued that Marilyn's objectification led to her downfall, but she remains a enduring symbol of the supreme power of feminine sensuality and sexuality. Plus, resonant to me, she's not a stick-figure, and she's having fun doing yoga! Sometimes that's all we can hope for: the simple pleasures in life, and the ability to revel in the gifts that God(dess) gave you.

Here's the gift that yoga gives me: the chemical, cellular, soulful change in perspective. The self-love that comes from grounding those sit bones down along with those anxious annoying, fluctuations in the mind- the heavier and more rooted in flesh and in calm, the better. It's locating the perineum, not for any immediate evacuation or intimidating sex toy assault, but just to connect to our innermost parts for recognition and identification, and possibly some subtle energetic Shakti-filled pulse of the universe- one that vibrates louder and beyond our inner thigh flesh. It's the almighty oneness that takes away any shame and self-hate and only lets in the blissful love of life in all of its perfect imperfection.

Namaste, my sisters.

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