It’s springtime in New York City, which means a few things:
1. You’re in wardrobe purgatory.
2. That winter coat is begging for some deodorizing (pro tip: watered down vodka in a spray bottle)
3. Every magazine cover, subway ad, and cheap fashion outlet is sounding the alarm, demanding you ask yourself: Do you have a beach body?!
What, are we told, is a beach body? Let’s see. . .
The call for everyone to ping their inner bootcamp instructor, to scrutinize their bodies at every angle and assess where they have too much, too little, or exact some other measure of attractiveness, is rooted in shame. The implication is that someone’s beach body is their most “perfect body,” one which they can reveal with no embarrassment—or at least less than they’d feel with their “before shot,” the flawed, imperfect body.
The most generous interpretation of the term beach body is, perhaps, marketing speak for “healthy body” or “fit body.” And, yet, body size and weight aren’t the primary—or even relevant—factors in determining health and fitness. In the last two decades research has increasingly cast doubt on the traditional blanket logic of “thinner is better” and “fat is bad.”
Studies have shown again and again that neither lifelong thinness nor weight loss necessarily correlates with better health, and that the typical prescription for weight loss—dieting and exercise—doesn’t work most of the time, and can, in fact, do harm.
In truth, your metabolic health isn’t measurable by the Body Mass Index, or BMI—a flawed rubric that categorizes men and women into categories of “ideal,” “overweight,” and “obese,” but doesn’t take into account differing body compositions or other predictive data on long-term health. To add the proverbial insult to injury: those who are deemed overweight or obese are stigmatized, usually with the full cooperation of the medical community.
Our cultural obsession with thinness and “ideal” body weight means that a whole bunch of us end up developing a dysfunctional relationship with food and exercise. In the case of children and teens, whose minds and bodies are still developing, pressures to diet can mean a lifetime struggle with a host of negative outcomes. Disturbing statistics tell us that eating disorders are on the rise among kids under the age of 12: A study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality showed that pediatric hospitalizations for malnutrition due to bulimia and anorexia increased by 119% between 1999 and 2006.
Fortunately, there are emerging body-positive movements that challenge size discrimination, fatphobia, and body shaming. Healthy at Every Size and Association for Size Diversity and Health are both organizations that want greater visibility for healthy, active individuals of all sizes. And prominent fat activists like Lindy West are defiant, sexy role models, saying “nah, fuck that” to a society that tells them they are undeserving of respect.
Do you have the body for naked yoga? Of course you do. Naked in Motion celebrates every body, and our students come in all shapes and sizes. Yoga is a holistic practice, encouraging each person to pursue greater physical, mental, and emotional health. Naked yoga offers a unique opportunity to radically embrace your body, as it is now, and as it changes throughout your lifetime. Naked yoga asks you to become more body-conscious, which is not about starving yourself or over-exercising, but about being aware of what your body needs in all of its phases, at whatever weight and size. And sometimes, what the body needs more than anything is care, love, and compassion, and your body deserves those things ALL THE TIME, not when you fit into your "skinny" jeans.
The first step to accepting your body and loving it is to reveal it to yourself. Do you avoid your own reflection? As with any other fear, dispelling internal shame and loathing requires some willingness to see yourself. Naked yoga offers a supportive and safe community space to commune with others who are on their own journey to self-acceptance.
You don’t have to get “in shape” for Naked Yoga. It’s not a competition or pageant, and you don’t to prove anything to anyone. Naked in Motion’s philosophy isn’t centered in the competitive, wheel-spinning model of the fitness industry. We invite you, whatever your goals, to challenge yourself: take a class and enjoy it for its own immediate rewards, rather than as a means to attaining some future ideal.
So what now about that beach body?
Know what? Everyone has a beach body. Bring it to Naked Yoga and join our rebellion.