Depending on your source, approximately eighty to ninety percent of American women are unhappy with their bodies. In her TED Talk, “Let’s Get Naked,” Sheila Kelley says that “we are just beginning the 4th wave of the Feminist Movement: The personal reclamation of the female body and the sexuality within.” I couldn’t agree more, particularly after finding Buti Yoga. I can recall my first experience, that first class (and every class after for that matter), it was the first time in a long or maybe unmeasurable time that I was proud of and celebrated my body, my femaleness. I felt free. Unashamed. Wild. Hopeful!
I think this is what Sheila is talking about when she says that this next wave is about bringing our femininity into our everyday life, awakening and being a sexually-embodied creature. Our bodies are intuitive! Our body knows who she is! But do we know who we are? We may have forgotten long ago… before we had a chance to really get to know her.
The shutting down of our femininity probably began earlier than our earliest memory of someone scolding us for our female bodies. For instance, Sheila recalls her first memory at age 7 of a neighborhood mother yelling “Shame on you!” for being outside playing in the water with the boys next door without her shirt on. A 7-year old girl shamed for doing what she felt was natural. Similarly, I can recall being at the beach around the same age and wanting to jump in the water but not having a bathing suit to wear, so I refused to join in the fun that others were having. Thankfully, my mom didn’t say I couldn’t; in fact, she encouraged me to strip down to my underwear and have at it! But I absolutely would not. Why was I adamant about not taking my shirt off when I was just a child? I may not ever recall exactly what messages I received about my body before I even had the chance to develop my own identity, or what would make me think that I had to be ashamed of my body by age 6 or 7 but I think we can all imagine. The messages were there. Unfortunately the messages get louder and uglier as we get older – “She’s a slut,” or “you look like a whore in that outfit,”or “those girls are trashy”… etc. These are the messages we hear and unintentionally perpetuate on a daily basis until we don’t know where our own body begins or where it ends. Until we start to believe, it’s not our body at all.
At the 12-Day, 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training I just attended in Hawaii with Sarah, those exact words were spoken by one of the women who had experienced childhood trauma surrounding her sexuality, “my body is not my own” was the message she heard. This body shame and childhood trauma was pervasive among the women in our group – to one degree or another. To women everywhere – our group hailed from all over the US to Canada – Minnesota, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, Massachusetts, Quebec City, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, and Tennessee. The damage has clearly been done. The undoing is not going to be easy but at least we have now have the light we need to see the truth. These ladies were there to move! To move through and out of the layers that bound them to move through tribal dance and spiraling movements to unleash their shakti energy; to nourish and heal their bodies. AKA: Buti Yoga.
Now Sheila didn’t have Buti Yoga for inspiration in the 1980’s but she found her inspiration from pole dancing, which she later developed into the first Pole Dancing Fitness Workout in 2001 in her home where she taught other pre-school moms in her neighborhood. Like Sheila and those neighborhood moms, (plus myself and every Buti practitioner I know) found this unleashing of femininity and by it, experienced both immediate and long-term positive effects in their lives – living out more fulfilling marriages, being happier mothers, being more complete women for ourselves.
It is time to open and reset our minds and those of others. Change the message to one of truth and positivity – a message to women and men alike. There’s an opportunity for men here as well. We have all been scarred by the lies. Men can help us into and through this next wave by celebrating femininity and placing equal value on it. By creating and guarding the space for Woman to be feminine. Protecting her. Elevating her.
For us women, it’s time to get to know and celebrate our bodies. Take off our bulky shirts in yoga class, see our glorious bellies. Move our hips. Loosen our tense bodies. Expose and strip away the buried judgements and lies. Find our truth. Expand into our full selves.