About six months ago, I began staring at women’s yoga asses. I don’t know how it happened, exactly, but the black spandex of yoga pants became a magnet that could draw my eyes across any crowded store, and I would watch some lady in a Starbucks or a Whole Foods, my eyes glued to that pert, round orb, that glorious peach that swayed with every step.
I want to say I did this out of professional obligation, but that would be a lie. I did it out of awe. Out of some pervy streak. Out of sheer envy. What was yoga doing for these women that it wasn’t doing for me?
We can chart the popularity of the 2,000-year-old practice in many ways (like the proliferation of studios, trend pieces, and the casual use of “downward dog”), but I direct your attention to the luscious backsides of Dallas women, which have been shaped not only by the squats and lunges required in yoga but also by the snug, expensive pants women wear to practice it. And those yoga pants were doing an admirable job. A friend once told me that the bottom is the engine of a woman’s body—in which case, this town is full of Ferraris.
Back when I first tippy-toed onto a sticky mat in 1999, I knew nothing about yoga asses. I wanted to be healthier. I wanted a stronger connection to a body that was buried under inertia and 30 extra pounds. Over the next 10 years, I became part of a tidal wave of restless bohemian seekers looking to an ancient practice for greater meaning, stifling a giggle as an instructor gonged a golden bowl.
But here in Dallas, where Sundays are still spent at church and worshipping at the altar of the pigskin, we’re not so big on all that “woo-woo” stuff. Yoga is just another exercise alternative to the gym, a regimen of body toning with as much spiritual depth as a kickboxing class. Sunstone Yoga, a chain that won D Magazine’s “best yoga” readers’ pick for the past three years, has stripped its classes of crunchy traditions like chanting and meditation. The place specializes in hot yoga, in which practitioners hold a series of challenging postures in a room heated to 98.6 degrees. (Classic Dallas logic: blast AC in August heat, then pay to work out in conditions that mimic those hideous temperatures.) This kind of yoga is not about a gentle balance of body and mind. It’s about sweating your ass off to look good.
And the ass has become the trademark of the modern yoga physique. For that, we can thank Lululemon, the Vancouver-based chain whose $98 pants became a 21st-century uniform of fitness chic, thanks to their trademark Luon, a fabric that shapes the derriere as it absorbs all that perspiration. (Classic Western logic: take an ascetic practice and turn it into a consumer craze.)
I recently tried on the fabled pants. I was hopeful as I slipped into the dressing room, but that feeling didn’t last long. My legs are so short that the pants hung like I was wearing a scuba suit with flippers. It felt less like a miracle fabric and more like a misery garment. I’ve spent my entire life hoping people would not stare at my lower half, so placing a vacuum pack on my derriere is not exactly on my dream vision board.
“How are you doing?” a nice sales lady asked me.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said.
Afterward, I tried to disguise the tic of humiliation on my face as I dumped the pants back into her arms. “My body just isn’t made this way,” I told her. I am all curves and soft scoop in pants that demand hard lines and muscle.
She understood. On days when she’s feeling self-conscious, the sales lady told me, she wears a baggy racerback top that drapes over her rear. But she turned around and lifted it up, and it was like someone flashed a diamond at me.
“You’ve gotta stop burying your light in a bushel,” I told her, and she smiled, and I like to think it’s because she believed me.
I could spend the next 10 years in a warrior one pose, and I will never look like that Lululemon sales lady. But that’s okay. What my own yoga practice teaches me is that my body has power I never knew existed. I go to Lotus Yoga, in Lakewood, which the owner, Jen, dubs the “natural grocers” of the Dallas scene. Jen’s arms are covered in tattoos, and her hair is streaked with pink, and I find her body aspirational not only because it’s beautiful but also because she looks comfortable in it. Since I started taking her classes 18 months ago, I have felt calmer and happier than I have in years. And I’m not going to lie to you: my ass ain’t half bad.
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