Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians

What's a yoga/pilates/crossfit (etc.) body?

I thought movement practices were supposed to help cultivate a relationship with the body rather than ignore it.

I thought movement practices were supposed to help cultivate a relationship with the body rather than ignore it.

I'd like to take a small detour from music writing today to point out an interesting challenge I've noticed in the movement and wellness community.  In addition to various "fitspiration" type messages on social media and advertising, there's an inaccurate notion that a certain physical activity will inevitably lead to a certain physical and aesthetic appearance, i.e., yoga and pilates people are long and lean, crossfit and weight lifters are strong and well built, and so forth.  Couple that with some of the fitness slogans like "sweat is fat crying," and "don't stop until you're proud," and it can be difficult to know what to do.

Here's the deal: every body responds differently to movement and diet.  Period.  Some people can eat junk food for years and be at a "healthy" weight, others gain weight immediately.  Some people do crossfit diligently and don't necessarily become lean or jacked (which is why I love the blog Fat Crossfitter).  Some pilates and yoga teachers are naturally tall and thin (or former dancers and gymnasts!), others are not naturally flexible or thin.  In the world of fitness, there is this notion that there is a bottom line standard of thin and lean and strong that we all can achieve if we only work hard enough, and if we don't have that body shape, then surely we must be doing something wrong.  A pilates body must surely be a thin one, right? And a yoga body is a flexible thin one? And someone who lifts weights must be strong and chiseled? And runners must be tall and thin?

I love this campaign from the Yoga and Body Image Coalition.

I love this campaign from the Yoga and Body Image Coalition.

We all have anthropomorphic differences that affect the way our bodies process exercise and diet, as well as hormonal, metabolic, and genetic differences, just as we have infinite variations of skin tone and hair color/texture.  Give a group of people the same workout plan and diet, and everyone's body will change (or not change!) differently and at different rates.  For some reason, this just doesn't seem to apply in regards to fitness teaching-and it's preposterous.  In her podcast, Pilates Unfiltered, Chicago based instructor Jenna Zaffino mentioned this very issue. 

What’s a pilates body? It’s the body that allows you to function through your life with some joy, without pain, and lends itself to the fact that we’re working with individuals with a myriad of different experiences.
— Jenna Zaffino
Any movement discipline would suffice on the right here.

Any movement discipline would suffice on the right here.

Why don't we look at movement as something more than a means of creating an aesthetic appearance?  What about how someone feels in their body? Or improving their quality of movement? So many of us have illnesses that affect our body, whether larger ones that affect our energy, immunity, digestion, or hormones, or smaller injuries.  Everyone has a different story, and not everyone should or can look the same, or achieve that "perfect lean" body aesthetic (especially if they've experienced body challenges).  As a teacher, I've absolutely been judged for my appearance and abilities- 24 years of playing an asymmetrical wooden box (aka.instrument) means that I've spent a lot of time sitting in orchestras and ensembles, coupled with some peculiar spine and shoulder challenges from adaptation.  That's part of my body story, and everyone has their own story.  Judge me for my teaching and my knowledge, not my body.  "The body that moves you throughout your life without pain and with joy" is the one you want to inhabit, not necessarily the one the magazines and media want you to.

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