Like Yoga-Panted Soldiers

I take a Bar Method class here in Chicago. The purpose of the class is to tone and shape my butt, thighs and abs. Everybody knows these are the trouble zones for most women. I am no exception with my pear shape.

Candice leads the class. You should see her body. She is ripped, man! Gorgeously taut and high, her rear end is stuck like cement when she walks. Lust for that figure runs through the class. I think I could rule the world with that butt.

We start with your standard exercise regime: just some high knee marches, a few push-ups and weight lifts. This doesn’t bother me. We need these exercises to function well and be strong in daily life. We gotta be able to run, lift, carry, jump and do all these things — carry in groceries, do quick fix-it jobs, chase the kids, walk to work, climb stairs to the train and much more. It makes sense to strengthen these muscles. This is neither the part I hate nor the part I question.

What I dread is the process of toning and shaping the rear end — the lower half, ladies. During this part of the class we are lined up at the bar like yoga-panted soldiers. At once, we stand on our tiptoes … knees frogged out and bent … pelvis weirdly tilted … colored ball squeezed between the knees. We continue getting into weird positions with our feet, butt and legs.

The contortions are so hard to get right that the teacher has to come around and push and pull body parts into place so that the process of shaping and toning can actually occur. You work your muscles in ways they’ve never worked — unlocking hidden potential, thus building muscle right where you want it. Perfectly positioned, the muscles begin shaking whereupon one receives the ultimate compliment, “Good shaking! That’s what we want in this class!” from Candice. Shaking equals success. Success, huh?

So here’s what I am thinking during this glorious time. I mean, the irony of this isn’t lost on me at all. There are LAYERS of irony here. First and foremost I have to ask myself, what the hell am I doing with my time? There are kids starving in Africa. There are people to help, goals to achieve, connections to be made with others and a Higher Being. And here I stand in this line of tight, yoga-panted soldiers trying to make my butt tighter and my hips less flabby.

As I am bent forward with one leg in the air, cocked at a 100-degree angle with foot flexed, I am thinking about thousands of years of feminist progress and beauty lore. How different is this than the women who stick metal bracelets around their neck? You know, the ladies in Africa who put gold rings around their neck to elongate it, giraffe-like, way beyond what is natural. How different is this anyway? If we have to avoid carbs and contort our bodies into weird shapes and positions for hours on end (regularly) to achieve the American idea of a pretty posterior, maybe this is a freaking scam. It is a scam!

What am I doing here? I think. Finally, I get another compliment from Candice. “Good breathing, Cherilynn,” she quips with a smile and a praising nod. Good breathing? Are you kidding me? I thought I was breathing pretty well as it was. So we go.

How is it that we can only achieve a hard, tight butt through contortions and shaking? Maybe our bodies aren’t meant to be in these positions and that’s why they are a little fluffier and rounder. Is this self-destructive behavior? Why all this sacrifice of time, energy and money? And I know I am not the only chick out there pushing a bit too hard on things that probably aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of life.

Clearly, if our body shape is only allowed to look a certain way through strange, repeated and painful contortions then maybe the idea is all wrong to begin with. But, I do feel better in my shorts. So, I will be back on Monday.

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