limb, member, appendage, shank

About a week ago, I changed up my yoga practice considerably: I wore shorts. Now, obviously, this was a premeditated act, not something that just randomly occurred in the universe. And for many people, it probably wouldn't be that big a deal. But for me it was, and the effects are still being felt in my little tiny corner of said universe.

Relevant pieces of information:
  • Close-fitting shorts are actually recommended attire for hot, Bikram-style yoga. Bikram himself wears a speedo-style swimsuit, and most Bikram studios recommend that students wear as little clothing as possible to help acclimate to the heat. In addition, shorts help the teachers observe the student's knees, and make appropriate postural corrections.
  • Because correct yoga form is so important, students are at the very least urged to wear close-fitting clothing so as to be able to observe their posture in the mirror. (In Bikram class, unlike some other styles, the instructor does not model the poses, but gives verbal instructions which students try to follow by examining their reflection in the mirror.)
  • Before I took up yoga, I studied martial arts, for which we wore black baggy unisex cotton pants that were gathered with elastic at the ankles. During those years, I gradually forgot that I had ever revealed my legs (back in the days of step aerobics in the 80s I wore bike-style shorts and oversized t-shirts). I wasn't hiding my legs, per se, but it wasn't considered appropriate to reveal them in my martial arts school.
  • I don't really consider shorts as clothing to be worn outside of my house. Mostly because when I wear shorts, I look like a 12 year old. Or possibly a camp counselor. I'll wear long baggy cargo shorts to the grocery store or whatever, but they're not a fashion statement I'm interested in exploring. And besides, what shoes do you wear with shorts? Sneakers, or sandals, which take me right back to being 12.
So it was really a big deal for me to even consider wearing shorts to yoga class. When I first started doing yoga, I felt very self-conscious about the requirement of wearing close-fitting clothing on my top half (being someone who always worked out in extra-large baggy t-shirts to minimize interactions at the gym and to camoflauge my pudgy parts). I understood the need for it (you can't do downward dog in a loose t-shirt without revealing far more than I'd wish) but it was a big adjustment. So I wore flared yoga pants (not leggings) and tank tops. Eventually, when I started doing Bikram, I got sweat-wicking flared pants that I thought were close-fitting, but really weren't.

That was a couple of years ago. Over tbe past few months, I'd realized a couple of things -- first, that my yoga pants were now getting kind of baggy. And second, I cared a lot less about what anyone thought about my clothes or my shape, since I now knew what I was doing in the class. During the 60-day marathon I even stood in the front row pretty consistently. So being observed bothered me less.

I had half-heartedly tried on some workout shorts last spring, but didn't find any that were longer than 2 inches (which I'm way too old to wear) or not super loose. Then the itch kind of hit me again a few weeks ago when I noticed a kind of big woman in my class wearing the perfect shorts. (The teeny tiny 20 year olds are not exactly my fashion models.) So I went out and found my own perfect yoga shorts -- low rise, flattering seams, exactly mid-thigh in length. I got two pairs, even.

And then I wore them. Day 1 I was a little self-conscious. And the yoga really feels different in shorts -- it was weird in Eagle to feel skin against skin, for instance. But it definitely let my skin breathe differently, and was cooler than wearing long leggings (I wasn't sure in 105 degrees that I'd really notice a difference, but I did.) I wouldn't want to wear the shorts in winter time, when the studio never seems quite as warm as it's supposed to be. But it was fine right now. By Day 2 of shorts I wasn't really thinking about them so much. Until someone (this ultra-competitive annoying woman) commented on it to me in the locker room. Clearly my wearing shorts and standing in the front row really shook her up. (She didn't actually say anything negative, just "what were you doing in the front row? and wearing shorts? so un-Mel-like.")

So maybe this new revised Fall 2006 me does wear shorts in yoga. And maybe I'm enjoying rediscovering my legs again after many years of covering them up. But it's clearly a slippery slope, because I've even caught myself wondering if I might try on a skirt-plus-leggings ensemble (my favorite look back in 1985). I haven't worn a skirt or dress since 1992 -- due to living in a series of rough neighborhoods, the creation of my teaching persona, and the end of a
bad relationship. All of that is way, way, way in the past now, but I'm pretty comfortable with how I dress these days. I'd probably feel like I was in drag if I put on a skirt. And I'm not sure I'm interested in dealing with the comments that would surely arise if I showed up at the university with visible legs. But for 90 minutes in a heated sweaty room I can be that girl who does actually have legs worth showing off, if only to myself.