A pastor once told my mother that she could pray in her garage and still be “religious.” She didn’t have to go to church or since the hymns to be a dedicated follower of her faith.
Man, do I feel this way about yoga. And I’m probably committing a yoga sin by saying this.
As a yoga teacher, one of the first things I learned is that “yoga means ‘union.’” With that, I learned all the postures, philosophies, different paths, breathing techniques (which do not help in labor!!!), teaching styles, and how to light palo santo and smudge a room with an abalone shell and wild eagle feather (which I discovered, isn’t easy to find on Amazon). These beautiful practices, rituals, and teachings have all been drilled into my head.
After a hefty sabbatical from “going to yoga classes” and instead, putting my own moves together with the tools I’ve been taught, I became curious. Remind me what the true meaning of yoga is? Off to Google I went, looking up the true definition of yoga. And there, at the verrrrrrry end of one definition was this: “This union can be understood on different levels: (blah blah blah all good spiritual things)…emotionally, as the stilling of the waves of likes and dislikes, permitting one to remain in all circumstances complete in herself.”
I needed that. I needed to be reminded that yoga is not a strict series of postures. My personal practice has become very intuitive, like much of my life. I’ve found this to be challenging to share with you because…it doesn’t really make me a student of a specific limb of yoga. So it kind of makes me a “fogi.” A fake yogi. And that’s okay. Topless Yoga will just have to become the first international foga event. While, I still love to take yoga classes with other teachers and learn new sequences that feel good to my Earth Suit, my practice at home is still very much a personal one.
I once was asked in my teacher training to follow a path with strict physical poses. No water. No music. No laughing or chitter chatter with my neighbor. No farting in happy baby. And I WALKED OUT OF THE ROOM. To me, the teacher’s control and strict rules felt like the control of an eating disorder—someone else was telling me how far to go, what to do, what I couldn’t do. I knew that while at one time this style worked for me, it no longer felt safe to me. It no longer stilled the waves of like and dislike for me. It was purely waves of dislike. I wanted to throw my water bottle at the teacher who said I couldn’t have a sip while everyone else was in forward fold.
With all of the yoga rules, sexualization of yoga, and social media hype with images of really complex postures and erotic angles, I stepped away from my standard yoga practice. It just felt, hmmm, inauthentic. For over a year now, I’ve been moving intuitively in the comfort of my home. I’ve been moving as if no one has ever taught me how I SUPPOSED to move. I’ve been practicing #ToplessYoga intuitively…and I really like it. I feel like I can share that with you now. Not sure why I took so long to “come out” but I suppose I felt like I was biting off the hand that was feeding me–or my was it my ego?
What I’ve learned by taking a break from all the control, is that I’m able to return to the real reason I started yoga: To achieve emotional union and, “stilling the waves of likes and dislikes,” which wildly enough, WORKS! I still breathe. But I take breaks to relax or get something for Ollie. I take a swig of water when I want. And I let it all hang out in an act of radical self-acceptance and body positivity.
I don’t plan any yoga–or should I just start saying foga–routines out. I no longer smudge or drink from a ceremonial bowl (though I’m not opposed to these rituals), so please, call me a fogi if you want. I start my practice by asking myself how I feel, I set an intention, and I go inward, stilling my waves of likes and dislikes, reminding myself with every chance, of why I started. I have no set time, and I often have interruptions, but I learn to come back to my breath, to my movement if I choose to move, and to my stillness, every time. Such is life.
I plan for Topless Yoga to be an intuitive class–one with a teacher but where you’re able to deviate from the suggestions if there’s something that feels more correct in your Earth Suit. I want it to continue to be a practice where we’re all free to be ourselves, to ask a fellow fogi how to do a certain posture, to be still with our shirts off if that’s what we require to still the waves of like and dislike. The freedom to move and celebrate our Earth Suits in the ways we each desire seems like a BIG SHIFT forward for each of us in the practice of “going topless.”
I hope that one day, you’ll join me and other yoga/foga guides at Topless Yoga, the one-and-only international foga event, take a #healthybellyselfie, and celebrate yourself in the way you choose. Your body, your choice.
Lots of love,
Your fellow fogi.