A guest blog by Minnesota OULAkin Christina Cyrus:
What would you wear if you had *insert any fitness model here*’s body?
What was your first thought when you read that?
How did you feel?
I am in a fitness challenge that is focusing on changing your body through building strength. I’m mostly interested in the building strength portion. I’ve noticed little things that made me go “hmm” throughout the past 5 weeks. That the posts with hundreds of “likes” and comments are those of very physically appearing fit people. That the people who share insecurities (about stretch marks, cellulite, etc) receive responses that focus on all the things you can do to “fix” those insecurities. That quote was a post I read today in the social media group for that challenge.
My first thought? #selfloveisthebestlove
My first emotion? Anger
I was struck by how ANGRY I felt and I’ve been thinking about it all day.
I’ve been aware of my weight since I was very young. My mom has been on one diet or another for as long as I can remember. I’ve heard comments my whole life about my weight. My dad used to say something like “I wanted you to be a model but that won’t happen the way you eat”. I’ve binged and purged, binged and restricted, not ate at all, and I have tried every diet and pill I was ever told about. I grew up thinking there was an ideal body and I didn’t and never would have it.
Fast forward to this post and today. Today, I love myself. I love my body. I love the way my body moves when I dance. I love how I feel in my body when I’m dancing. I feel confident in my skin.
Do I still have insecurities about my body? Absolutely. I think it is so hard for people to not have insecurities because the world we live in drills into us daily in so many ways that we aren’t enough as we are. We are bombarded by messages every where we turn about how we can improve upon ourselves and be just a little bit better. We are told what is “bad” and “good” and we eventually subscribe to these absolutes and twisted truths because.....well, because if you tell yourself something enough; you believe it.
And here was this post with hundreds of comments telling me that I can only wear whatever I want if I look like a sculpted fitness model. And if I didn’t, I better keep it covered. What. The. Hell.
Insert OULA. In this “fitness” community we value something else. We value the ways that the mind and body connect. We place emphasis on the thought that to have real change, we need to change as a whole being. And I have.
Dancing with the OULA community these last 5 years has changed me from deep within. The things I have sang have rooted themselves deep in my psyche and I BELIEVE them. Dancing has taught me what I am capable of and how to listen to my body and appreciate the way it moves. I ENJOY looking at myself. Connecting my mind with my body has given me a way to process emotions and an outlet for those feelings we often tuck away: anger, sadness, despair, confusion, loss.....instead of holding onto those feelings and allowing them to destroy me from the inside out; I’ve had a space to process, release, and heal. In thinking about this I realized why the post made me angry.
About a year ago I took my shirt off in an OULA class and danced in my sports bra. I have always envied women who “had the physique to pull that off” and as the world had taught me, I wasn’t one of them. However, at that point the women I envied were beautiful because they were confident and brave. I wanted to be confident and brave too. As I watched a participant in an OULA class take her shirt off and dance so beautifully, owning her body and her space and just freely moving, I said f-it. My shirt came off and I can’t remember feeling so......bad ass before that moment.
Since then I dance in a crop top or my bra a lot. Partly because it is hot and partly because I CAN. This summer I was teaching outside and it was 90+ degrees and humid (Minnesota humidity) and my shirt came off. Shortly after I looked around and not one person had a top on. I’m talking 6 or 7 women of quite literally all body types, weight, and level of physical fitness dancing in bras.
This is what it is about. Community. Connection. In that space those women felt supported and safe (on display in a very public park) to own their bodies and take their shirts off. The insecurities didn’t matter. We lifted each other up and gave each other the courage to defy the pressures of society. Society says I can’t show my body if it doesn’t look a certain way? Watch me be shirtless and fierce and proud and take your standard and shove it.
I was angry because I so wanted these women to have what I have experienced in OULA. There isn’t focus placed on what the shittiest thing about you is that we can try to fix. There are no expectations or “rules” (cue: on Wednesdays we wear pink). We show up as we are, take what we need, and support each other through it. We all need that in our lives. There are women in that fitness challenge, that need that in their lives. You, may need this in your life.
So therein lies the cause of the anger. I am angry that women have been taught to dislike their bodies. I’m angry that society continues to tell us we aren’t good enough. I’m angry that of hundreds of comments there was ONE that said “the cool thing is I wear whatever I want in MY body”.
So now what do I do with that anger? There is so much work to be done it is hard to know where to start. So I keep teaching and taking OULA and maybe It can be the catalyst to change just one more life. Small steps can change the world. #spreadthelove #oulafitness #selfloveisthebestlove
I am so proud of you daughter! Always thought you were so beautiful!! Wish I could be as confident as you!! I don’t remember all the diets, I hate dieting!! I think it came from my mom struggling all her life. But a persons value comes from inside; who you are as a person not how you look! I should join your class!!
Thanks for sharing your story! Oula gives me hope!
Christina! This is beautifully written and you truly hit the nail on the head! So much of the “fitness world” is focused on achieving a goal that is often based on outside pressures to LOOK a certain way. Very little value is placed on slowing down to decide exactly what your internal motivations are: Do you want to be stronger to make doing daily chores easier? Do you want to have a healthier cardiovascular system? Do you want to build stamina to make it through one class without needing a break? If only we could push away the noise in our minds to think clearly about our goals. We’d likely find they are quite achievable!
I also want you to know that, although some people may perceive me as a thinner or fit person, I have only had the confidence to dance in my sports bra exactly one time; It was when you took your shirt off in your class once this summer. I thought, “She is so badass! Look at how she’s not insecure! It’s hot out here dammit and I am going to be brave enough to do the same.” Thank you for inspiring! 💕
This is the post of the millennium!
Thank you, dear Christina.
Beautifully written ❤️
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February 22, 2021
Another beautifully written post. I also loved your post about shame. I’ve experienced much of the same. Oula is helping, which is why I am becoming an instructor, but I am definitely not as advanced in the skill of self-love as you. I am hoping with more time in Oula, I can reframe all of my negative, shaming, I’m not good enough thoughts and truly love myself. Thanks for your inspiration!