Thou shalt not demonize thy neighbor’s Yoga pants

I would like to begin this argument by posing that it is okay to notice other people’s butts.

There, I said it. Butts. And that won’t be the last time I say that word today.

I have decided that the war against Yoga pants needs to stop. Yoga pants will continue to exist, and no one’s making any friends by fighting over it (I just want everyone to be friends).

I’ve heard the comments. I’ve heard the whole shebang; I’ve heard, “The guys have pleaded us to ask you all to be more careful about wearing yoga pants,” I’ve heard, “I just don’t see how Yoga pants could be comfortable…I would feel so…revealed…”, I’ve heard, “If you don’t want us to look at your butt, don’t wear yoga pants.” I get. Okay? I GET IT. My turn to talk now.

And I’m going to call everyone out on their bullcrap. Yes, everyone, the clad and the unclad. I mean, those bearing Yoga pants and those who…don’t bear them. Yeah.

Part A: The case for the existence of Yoga pants.

First off, I want us all to take a deep breath. And another. Now, we’re going to think about why Yoga pants were born in the first place. Yoga pants–much like cycling shorts, swimsuits, wetsuits, and those spandex bunhuggers made for volleyball players–are an exercise technology. Dear EVERYONE, Yoga is indeed a method of exercise. I wear Yoga pants when I practice Yoga, and, yes, my Yoga pants are in fact essential to the most efficient Yoga experience, and due to the type of Yoga I practice, I am very often sore the next day. Yoga pants are the offspring of Yoga as an exercise. Glad we got that cleared up.

Now, the Yoga pants phenomenon has spread virally throughout workout gyms to all females practicing various types of exercises. Why, you wonder?

One reason: running shorts.

You want to talk about “revealing?” Running is pretty much the only exercise a female can engage in without fearing that those (seemingly) benign running shorts will expose her netherworld. Doing squats in these “regular exercise shorts” is the worst. Using most any exercise contraption in these “regular exercise shorts” is THE WORST. They ride up, they show the jiggle spots, they show panty lines, they give *lowers voice* eternal wedgies, and who knows what other sights the common exercising passerby will unintentionally become party to when he or she happens to glance your way? Good lord, I feel exposed enough just to be a female in (what I like to call) the “meathead” section of my local gym. Back off, a girl needs to do her shoulder presses, too. Geez.

Essentially, these so-called “regular exercise shorts,” or running shorts, are an inferior exercise technology for women, in the face of Yoga pants. Especially for the reason that the female hip and butt regions come in all different curved shapes and sizes. It’s no wonder that those ubiquitously flimsy short shorts are going out of style in the workout world; NO ONE LIKES WHAT THEY DO TO US. Conversely, the wonderfully forgiving technology of Yoga pants not only allows for different shapes of women to fit into them, they’re also versatile (aka comfortable) to wear in different exercise practices as well. Sure, you can see the outline of my figure, but can you see my underwear and the horrifying etc.? Nope. Great, I’ll take the Yoga pants, then.

Are you catching my drift? Thou shalt not demonize Yoga pants as an exercise technology.

Part B: The “male gaze.”

Okay, so I’m not gonna go all TEAR DOWN THE PATRIARCHY ALL HAIL YOGA-PANTS-WEARING MATRIARCHY on you. Seriously. However, I am going to make an effort to logically (and calmly) deconstruct the common whines of the (typically) male voice regarding Yoga pants.

Firsthand, I’d like to begin with the fact that men also have exercise technology quite akin to Yoga pants, especially for sporting activities such as cycling, wrestling, and swimming. My dad is a cyclist. He wears ALL the spandex stuff available for the hardcore cyclists. Why? So he can ride faster and won’t get HIS CLOTHES CAUGHT IN THE BIKE AND FALL OVER. Because it’s efficient exercise technology. It all bears the same spandex-enthralled idea as Yoga pants.

I myself enjoy cycling and have been privy to the sight of many spandex-clad members of the opposite gender. Yeah, men in spandex. And it’s a normal thing; if you don’t wear spandex in the cycling world, everyone will know you’re a noob and you’re not gonna have a good time. You’re a cyclist? Here’s your spandex.

Do Yoga pants act similarly on women to the way that cycling shorts act on men? Yes.

Do I whine about the fact I can see all the “outlines” of the male anatomy? No, because the purpose for cycling shorts is not for the viewer’s comfort, it’s for the cyclist’s comfort (and safety). And they’re just gonna keep cyclin’.

Thine mouth shalt not grumble in view of cycling shorts, lest thy be cast from the presence of thine bike.

So, my first aim, especially in the context of the exercise world, is to gently suggest people to get over it. Get over your discomfort, because in this context, it’s not about you, it’s about the athlete. Spandex will do what spandex will do to anyone’s body–fit the form of how it’s shaped.

“But, but–” you say– “I don’t want to see a woman’s body like that and–” *whispers* “think…you know, thoughts.”

*Cue my groans* Thank you for that segue-way, though; now I can call upon the second part of this discussion regarding the “male gaze.”

My question is, do you mean to say that you can’t control your own thoughts? The whole “It’s because I’m a male and I’m wired this way” AKA “I can’t help myself” is a mindset that society has truly brainwashed you to embrace. To suggest that a person can’t control his/her own thoughts connotes an issue of inferior psychological development. That might sound super offensive, but what I’m trying to say is that you AREN’T stupid, because that is, in fact, ridiculous. However, I’d like to revisit that idea of “brainwashing” that I mentioned a second ago.

American society constantly objectifies women sexually, and in our day of modern technology, this media message is pretty much unavoidable. Therefore, I don’t think it’s impossible for this standard to have incurred a sort of “brain damage” upon men. Let me explain. A Cognitive-Behavioral therapist treating a patient dealing with anxiety/depression will explain that negative and anxious thoughts come easily and seemingly quite naturally because of the pathways formed in the brain by habit. It’s like when you drive to work, you take the road you’ve formed a habit to take, even if other routes exist. In lieu of this, Cognitive-Behavioral therapy will help a patient fight this “damage” by using certain exercises to develop new pathways in the brain that access positive methods of thinking more easily/naturally than negative methods. I pose that, in the same way, if a male has grown up bombarded with the thought process of sexually objectifying the female body, it is easy to understand how that thought process would eventually come quickly and seem natural.

I, as a heterosexual female, am aware of my mental capability to objectify the guy doing pull-ups with half a shirt on (you know, those shirts that have each side entirely cut out). But just because he has nice tone in his back that I am free to view does not mean I am helpless to objectify his body. Nor will I blame his shirt–no matter his intentions toward his viewers–because I’m going to assume it gives him the ventilation he needs to stay cool, and I respect that, as we reside in a city that features triple digits in the summer. Perhaps this mental process is somewhat easier because men are less sexually objectified in society than women. But, for my part, I know with certainty that I have made this mental process possible for myself because I have purposefully and consciously resisted the mindset of objectifying men, which does (in fact) exist.

Dear brother, I see how society has marred your mind. But I believe in you, in your ability to develop your mind and train it to value a humane mindset, one that can see women carrying on their exercise routine in properly efficient exercise attire and yet refrain from objectifying them.

Following this statement, I do want to draw the distinction between appreciating someone’s body and sexually objectifying it. This hearkens back to the opening statement I made: that it is okay to notice other people’s butts.

So, with that same guy I saw doing pull-ups, I clearly noticed that he has a finely shaped back. And after that observation, I continued on with my day, alongside the happy knowledge of the existence of finely-shaped men. If it’s a crime to simply notice and be pleased that the guys curling dumbbells are indeed reaping the rewards of toned shoulders, send me to Hell, then, but I don’t believe this to be the essence of objectification. Human bodies are cool. Muscles are cool. Why not accept the fact that I notice them?

However, to lust for that man’s body to give me something just for the sake of my own sexual desires–that’s sexual objectification. This is different from mere appreciation because of its nature in dehumanizing the person in view. Dehumanizing occurs when someone rejects the inherent value of humanity in another. By sexually objectifying a person, the beholder removes the person in view from his/her actual context (in this case, casually lifting weights in the gym), and divides the person from his/her emotional and mental psyche by viewing the person as a solely physical object that exists for the sake of fulfilling the beholder’s sexual desire. The person in view, decontextualized and separated from parts of his/her human nature, is thereby dehumanized.

So, let’s say there’s this attractive girl attending a kickboxing class in the gym. She is doing great at the whole kickboxing thing. She is clad in Yoga pants. You notice she has a nice butt.

Whoa, isn’t that so cool? She has a butt like EVERYONE else in the world! And you noticed that it’s there, not missing, not in the wrong place, but it’s right where it’s supposed to be. And it’s nice. How wonderful. You know what that might mean? That she works out often. Good for her! Way to be a strong woman. Hey, you know what that also might mean? That she has a decent work ethic, since she seems to be committed to working up a sweat three or so times a week in order to keep her body healthy. What an inspiration.

See how beneficial noticing other people’s butts can be?

All right, I know I’m being sort of facetious…but not really. Thou shalt not demonize thyself for noticing/appreciating/evaluating thy fellow workout enthusiast’s nice butt.

Cut yourself some slack. It’s a butt. It’s round. People have them, you know. And, guess what, a lot of women have nice butts. Ladies, if a guy notices your butt…well, he notices your butt. Yes, you do in fact have a butt! And it’s probably nice, too, *gasp*. Wait, am I giving away a secret of the universe that no one should ever know or something?

Sorry, I think I’m being facetious again. In all seriousness, though, this is my point: we all need to just calm down for a second…and realize the truth of what’s happening here–and that the goal should be to move forward and learn to look at each other as if we’re looking at humans, beautiful humans…not objects.

Part C (finally!): All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.

Yes, you’ve made it past the deconstruction part! High-five.

Okay, so this is the concluding segment where I’m going to introduce the idea of personal responsibility and practicality in this matter, AKA, Yeah there are times and locations when your butt, as nice as it is, is now being a distraction (amongst the other features Yoga pants reveal).

Let’s go back to that first fact that Yoga pants are an exercise technology. Yeah. Just a reminder. You didn’t forget that they’re an exercise technology, right? I mean, you wouldn’t wear Yoga pants to work, right? Well, why not? Oh, because they’re initially designed to wear at the gym. Got it.

“But if I’m not at work, I shall wear my Yoga pants anywhere and wherever I choose, thy be damned if thou keep me from doing so!” This seems to be a recurring mentality…and I want to discuss it in the following.

So in one aspect of this situation, Yoga pants are a parallel to the male use of basketball shorts. In my experience, the athletic sort of guy LOVES his basketball shorts. Why? They’re comfy, perfect loungewear. Same goes for Yoga pants with girls–we like to wear them because they’re comfortable. Perhaps this is why lots of comfort-seeking people are seen all around everywhere wearing basketball shorts or Yoga pants, because our society is less formal on dress nowadays, especially in California.

This is a widespread occurrence: workout attire in general can easily be worn too casually. Come on, everyone. Would it kill us to wear a regular jeans-and-t-shirt combo instead of our sweaty basketball shorts/Yoga pants? In this respect, Yoga pants and basketball shorts can be viewed similarly–as athletic wear that might be crossing socially appropriate boundaries when worn outside the context of an exercise environment.

That’s one aspect of it.

However, Yoga pants have been adapted into the realm of leggings and as such have been incorporated in casual, non-athletic attire as well. And the rising universality of Yoga pants has influenced the more common wear of leggings, I surmise. This trend shouldn’t necessarily pose much of a problem, in view of my previous discussion on clothing efficiency and the development of a gaze that appreciates rather than objectifies. Also, many women have adopted the style of pairing a longer/oversized top or sweater with the slimming Yoga pants/leggings to create a nicely contrasting outfit, that keeps the rear region under decent coverage as most socially appropriate outfits are meant to. Wins all around. And excellent use of design principles, by the way.

But sometimes, that delicate region isn’t covered. I could argue about battling the burden of gaze again. But I’m going to pose something different. I want to point out the fact that (typically) men don’t casually walk about in spandex material.

And I want you to imagine what the world would look like if they did.

What if men wore cycling shorts or just some nice black compression shorts around casually? Okay, maybe it’s kind of a toss-up; it might go over somewhat manageably since society expects women to objectify men’s bodies less. But…let’s be honest. It might be kind of a weird occurrence, in reality.

It wouldn’t be a big deal if my dad wore his bike shorts around the house all day. But it would be weird if he wore them to a family gathering (and, trust me, he’d feel weird too). And I can imagine that if a guy took me out on a date wearing compression shorts, and (for the sake of this comparative argument) didn’t wear a shirt that helped cover his more personal regions, I would probably have a stronger propensity to…not look at his face. Would these hypothetical occurrences necessarily be bad, or result in bad things happening? Ehhh…*shrugs*…not really, in light of the big picture of the world’s overwhelming injustices that happen on a nauseating hourly basis. Would these hypothetical occurrences cause, let us say, not necessarily positive distractions to those viewing the spandex-clad men? Most likely, as the current social use of that garment has been taken out of the appropriate context and highlights a region that–going back to the date situation here–I’d prefer not to be distracted by on a romantic occasion in which I’d rather give preference to personality, emotional, and intellectual subjects? Unless we were on a date at the gym.

All this to say–all things are permissible, yet not all things are beneficial. Maybe wearing yoga pants instead of jeans all the time simply isn’t appropriate sometimes.

But let’s decide to be humane to each other.

There’s no need to stone yourself or others for wearing efficient workout clothes.

There’s no need to stone yourself or others for going to the grocery store after your workout whilst wearing such efficient workout clothes, in your daily life of trying to use time and gas wisely.

There’s no need to stone yourself or others for noticing other people’s butts.

Use your brains and your Yoga pants wisely, people. And have a nice workout.

Note to self: Time heals.

I want you to know this: time heals. If you’re in a situation of a tough life transition, dealing with something like a messy breakup or mourning a death, I want you to know that this is true—or can be true. When I felt like life kept spitting me in the face, I didn’t like to hear that the passage of time was going to be the best healer. In the society we live in, time takes a long time when we’re used to instant gratification.

But today, I found something that made me realize it was (maybe painfully) true. I found a bunch of post-it notes near the back of the clutter on my desk—I had known they were there, but I just hadn’t looked at them in a couple weeks. And so I read through about 30-something sticky notes scrawled with royal blue permanent marker every uncensored thought that had come into my head when I had sat in my dimly lit room feeling more lonely and empty than I had ever felt in my life. What I held in my hands was a pile of curses, fears, lies, and desperations. I read through them all and I found myself breathing a sigh of relief; although those feelings were very real at the time I had written them, I could sense that those curses, fears, lies, and desperations had—for the most part—left me since then. To know that my soul had begun to lift the shroud of darkness gave me hope.

If you are in the same sort of place I was in—do this. Get a pad of sticky notes and a marker, find a quiet place, and write like nothing else matters. Write everything out—no filters allowed. If you’re a person that is cautious to use profanity, (as I was), just let go and use it; if it’s already in your mind, it might as well be written on paper. You have to get everything out there so you can release it.

What you write might scare you; it scared me to see what my emotions looked like written down. But after you’ve exhausted your mind and your hand, take the notes and put them away somewhere—in a box, a drawer, whatever. Then leave the room you were in; physically making yourself walk away from your thoughts will distance them from your mind. Go do something—go exercise, go to a store, start some homework—but what I’d say is the best approach is to meet up with someone you trust and talk to them about how you’re feeling or just do something with them.

And the next day, go do something again. You have to fight by making yourself do things and connecting yourself to the people you love if you are going to survive. And also search for answers—find out how to heal, read about how other people have found healing, too. Lay in the middle of a field and stare up at the night sky. Talk to God or something. You may believe he’s checked out of your life for now, but if you pay attention, you might find him in more places than you’ve been aware (even if it’s in a friend or in sunshine).

A couple weeks, a couple months later, take out the notes and read them—all of them. See for yourself the ways you have changed since then, the ways you feel or view things differently—and for the things that maybe haven’t changed, know you still have time to figure these out. But my hope is that you’ll find, as I did, that time—paired with the willingness to keep walking every day and keep seeking counsel and love from friends and keep looking for answers—heals. Take heart.

Get some dirt in that bike tread.

I’m in love with dirt. Seriously.

Okay, not just any dirt. Dirt that’s shaped like this:

And this:

I would argue that the dirt courses and mountain bike trails are the best things that ever happened to Woodward Park. They’ve given a place for anyone who owns treaded bike tires, with a variety of things to do.

There’s the jumps for those looking to get some major air (or just a speed rush)…

…agility circuits for those thrill-seekers that like precision…

…random trails for those who like exploring, hill-climbing, and just riding around….

….and there’s even little stations around the park with workout structures if you want to get your pull-ups in.

And who wouldn’t want to do pull-ups in a place like this? The trees are just so inspiring…But seriously, it sure as heck beats the garage.

And, see, this all proves the point that getting a workout doesn’t have to be a drudge. An hour will fly past, and you’ve worked your heart, lungs, legs, butt, and abs, along with improving your balance and overall ability to be a ninja.

It’s also great place to go to feel like you’re not in Fresno. I like to stuff my digital camera in my bike bag, because…well, it’s a park. It’s hard to go to a park without finding something you want to take a picture of.

Weight training technique: balance

I may or may not have been bored in my British Lit. class the other day.

I may or may not have used the crayons that were handed out as a part of the lesson that day to draw this instead:

This single piece of paper represents one of the greatest secrets I have learned in my college weight training class thus far: the principle of balance.

What it does:

By performing the exercise on a smaller platform, the abdominals and other stabilizer muscles are encouraged to engage in order to keep the body, um, balanced so it won’t fall.

Why it’s necessary:

Just like the framework of a house keeps it from crashing down, your core (abdominal muscles) supports your body and keeps it from toppling over. This concept is important for those who want add upper-body muscle; when your body realizes it has a strong enough core to support more weight up top, it will be more willing to add muscle up in your shoulders, biceps, pectorals, etc.

Why it’s challenging:

Balance exercises are a wake-up call for the abs; we live in a cradle-style world, where we sit in rounded, plushy seats, and maintaining a good posture seems to be a thing of the past. In effect, the core has felt no need to build itself up, so most of us have weak cores.

In addition to getting the abs to do their job, the mere principle of engaging more muscles in a single exercise will intensify the workout.

Why it rocks:

Besides creating a more hardcore (yes, punny) exercise, adding the principle of balance transfers immediately to enhancing the active lifestyle. Activities like surfing, volleyball, skateboarding, rock-climbing, soccer, skiing, being a ninja, etc. will become easier as a result of promoting your body’s ability to balance.

Get on it!