Instagram Yoga

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

To Instagram or not to Instagram?

For yoga teachers, that is the question.

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I have been practicing yoga for seven years and teaching for four. Aside from the occasional Acro Yoga photo shoot that one crazy semester and a nude yoga teacher photo shoot I took part in that my ex was way too excited about for comfort, I was never one for the Instagram selfie. My reasons behind this are complex and varied. For a while, I worked for one of my teachers and shared closely in her views that as yoga teachers, we’re too busy doing our practice to take photographs of it.

There was also that reaction that I got when I saw photos of me doing yoga taken by other people. It was a high that, as someone who has struggled with body image and eating disorders in adolescence, terrified me. Shut it down, was what my internal protective mechanisms told me when it came to letting my body be photographed. I seemed to rely on external validation – what others thought of my body – which did not feel like the beautiful, self-sufficient and self-sustaining non-aspirational practice I knew yoga to be.

But then I remembered an important lesson: when you combine anything with Service, the intention overrides the fear. 

So this month, I decided to raise over $400 for Living Yoga, the beautiful nonprofit that brings yoga to sites that deal with people who’ve been and are traumatized. You can read about what I chose as my goal here. To document this process, I had my roommates, students and fellow teachers take photos of me that I then posted on Instagram doing different asanas – poses – that were emblematic of the class I took/taught that day.

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On the first day of the Yogathon, I taught a staff yoga class for teachers at the elementary school I serve at. I asked a coworker to take the above photograph of me in a warrior dog. She, also being a yoga practitioner, proceeded to tell me about where she finds inspiration for the practice as someone who also has a big butt. For years, she thought her a$$ got in the way of her ability to do arm balances…until she saw @mynameisjessamyn do all variations of crow pose and inversions in her underwear, largeness and all.

Recovering from an injury, my ability to do certain yoga poses is stunted by the slow regrowth of my bones. Documenting this process of doing a yogathon while still in physical therapy allows me to celebrate how far I’ve come and to acknowledge and sprinkle gentleness upon how far I still have to go. It also allows me to be like, here I am, scars and all, thighs that rub together and knees with dimples, and oh, here’s that tree pose in the middle of a market on a beautiful day in this new city and see how happy I am?

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“Show up imperfectly” is a phrase I’ve taken to heart in my spiritual process. Yet what I realized this month is that my imperfections are my perfections. My scars are, in the words of a dear friend who stayed with me in the hospital, “the gorgeous tattoos that insurance pays for.” My body is simply an example of a shape that can morph into other shapes – poses – that allow us to expand, to take up space, to be more of us; when society tells us to be less, yoga tells us to be more.

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