So this is it, my 21 days of following Sadie Nardini’s 21-Day Yoga Body are over. Am I any closer to understanding the mystique of the “yoga body?” Have I refined and developed my own “yoga body?”
As the title suggests, The 21-Day Yoga Body is a three-week plan that incorporates a daily yoga asana practice, meal suggestions, lifestyle tips and affirmations. In her book, Sadie offers a structure for each day with a focus sequence, breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, and a “daily action adventure.” The practices and meals are tied together with a theme and personal development goal.
I followed the asana practice quite diligently (I only missed two days, one of which included a three-hour workshop with Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman), made most of the suggested meals, but didn’t really make the time for the daily action adventures. I also opened up a conversation about the “yoga body,” asking some of my favourite yoga writers and thinkers to weigh in. And of course, I blogged about the whole thing, posting daily updates on the IAYB Facebook page and tweeting about my adventures. I tagged Sadie Nardini in each tweet and she participated in a fun and supportive Twitter banter.
Now, anything with the words “yoga” and “body” in the title has the potential to be a body-shaming disaster. I’ll hand it to Sadie and say that there was practically no body shaming in the book or her practice videos. The language in both was clear and neutral, with no references to losing weight or “torching calories” during the asana practices. The daily actions were focused on practical steps that one could take in their life, and rarely referenced the body. The daily recipes included no calorie counts, and sometimes had recommended wine pairings.
Before vs. After
It’s not a personal transformation program without before and after shots, right? So without further ado, I unveil MY NEW YOGA BODY!
You’ll note that it looks pretty much the same as my old yoga body. In fact, it’s quite possible that I may have gotten a little rounder while following the 21-Day Yoga Body plan. And my hair changed! (joking, I saw my hairdresser and got it cut/coloured.) Also, what is that lumpy stuff going on with my left hip? It must be all those chocolate smoothies that Sadie insisted I have for breakfast!
I don’t own a scale or take my measurements, so I don’t have any other more scientific basis of measuring my progress. It’s also worth noting that the “after” photo is a little closer and the lighting is different, which may account for the size difference.
Anyway, my external yoga body doesn’t look that different, but I have to admit that my inner body feels different. I feel stronger and more balanced. Having a project to focus on during the dreary month of November has kept my spirits up. Doing pretty much the same asana sequence day after day makes it easy to note progress in the poses, and I could see where I’d improved and refined.
Highlights & Lowlights
As I’ve noted before, the daily asana sequences were my favourite part of the program. I never know what to expect with my body: sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. A simple practice will end up straining my lower back, or a crazy vinyasa will be super empowering. However, my body really responded to Sadie’s Core Strength Vinyasa style, if only because core strength (particularly in the transverse abdominis and deepest muscle layers) is what I need to prevent lower back pain.
The daily menu plans were also transformative. I expanded my cooking skills and spent a lot more time in the kitchen. It was also a bonding experience for me and my partner, who loved everything I made and enjoyed the variety (and not having to cook, likely). The meals weren’t necessarily that different from what I normally make (Sadie’s recommended meals were generally pretty simple and whole foods-based), but it was fun to try new things. I also can’t believe what a relief it was to not have to think about what I would be cooking for dinner and just have somebody say, here try this.
While Sadie’s meal plan was detailed, it was also flexible enough that I could make adaptations without feeling guilty or like I was deviating. Some things (like green tomatoes) aren’t available in Montreal in November, and there were days when my body craved, say, a root vegetable soup instead of a mango salad. One one occasion, I had to sauté a raw pad thai dish because I just couldn’t fathom eating a plate full of cold, uncooked vegetables.
The daily actions and reflections didn’t resonate so much, or I just didn’t have time for them. There were some that looked fun, like rearranging my living room according to feng shui principles – but as if I have time to rearrange my living room on a Wednesday! Also, I would have liked to go on a date with myself, but it was a Friday and I’d already made plans with friends.
Self-acceptance, Self-transformation & the Shadow Body
No matter how you look at it, any kind of program that promises to transform your body and life isn’t preaching acceptance. While I felt good after the daily asana practices, I noticed an element of striving in myself during the practice. I found myself thinking about what my body could become, instead of just being happy with how I am, right now.
This, I think, is the underlying problem with any kind of self-development program. I’m never sure of how to walk the line between accepting who I am, resisting a sort of discouraged complacency (i.e. i’ll never be able to change, so why bother?), and desiring to change the things I can change.
But my real purpose with this program was to unpack the concept of the “yoga body,” rather than transform my life (which is generally pretty awesome right now). At the end of the second week, I introduced another element into the practice and starting taking “awkward selfies” of my body during the asana practice. I posted these pics on Facebook, with no editing (aside from a little cropping) or photoshopping.
If I’m going to embrace the idea of a “yoga body,” then shouldn’t I acknowledge all of its forms? Beyond the arm balances and lithe muscles? The human body is beautiful, but not from every angle. I consciously chose the “worst” angles, in an attempt to challenge the popular notion of yoga selfies. If a well-rounded yoga practice involves getting to know our shadow side, shouldn’t we also get to know our shadow body? If I’m going to talk the talk about diversity in yoga’s visual culture, I should be ready to step up with my own body, my own regular, imperfect, healthy, strong “yoga body.”
My “shadow body” is the parts of my body that I don’t look, the parts I will to ignore. Cellulite, rolls, lumps and bumps. I think we all have this “shadow body,” even the bikini beach body backbend beauties that we see all over Instagram.
Documenting my “shadow body” and posting it all over Facebook took a tremendous amount of courage, and left me feeling vulnerable, yet empowered.
Regular IAYB readers know that Sadie Nardini and I have butted heads in the past with regards to her marketing and abundant use of “weight loss yoga,” “bikini body,” etc. Although I’ve never thought about whether I “like” or “dislike” her – a critique of somebody’s work isn’t a comment on their personality. (In fact, this is one of the problems with the yoga blogosphere, and how I’ve seen way too many times: “so-and-so may do yoga poses naked, but they’re so sweet/so nice/committed”). That said, I actually did grow to like Sadie over the course of this project, mainly through our fun and sweet twitter conversations. She has a good sense of humour, is supportive, seemed to enjoy my progress and is open to feedback. She has also created a very solid yoga asana system.
Given this history, I got the sense that some people were disappointed that I didn’t hate the book. That’s understandable. It would have admittedly made for a more spicy project if the program had sucked and I’d just complained the whole time. However, my goal is to be honest and thoughtful, and I can’t pretend to be snarky and hate something that I don’t.
In short, I’m happy that I took on this challenge. It provided some structure and adventure during a historically rough month (November is never easy for me). I feel healthier and more in control of my life. It’s not the kind of thing I’d recommend to somebody who wants to get seriously into yoga, but it’s a great guide for, say, some soda-pop/takeout addicted 9-to-5’er who wants to make some positive changes in her life but doesn’t know where to start. It’s simple, concrete and approachable.
Just don’t expect a “yoga body” miracle after three short weeks!