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Bodies, by Matt Johnston

Nobody is perfect… And no body is perfect.

We live in a very Western culture that glorifies and idolizes the human body. It is the site of ultimate achievement, grounds for progress and triumph.

For years, the Western culture has celebrated the human form and praised its capabilities and vast potential. Yet, have you ever noticed that most of the renderings of the human body are shockingly similar?

Whether Ancient Greek and Roman statues, Renaissance paintings or modern fitness magazines, most depictions and expressions of the human body exude an unrealistic expectation, placing undue pressure and stress on those that may feel inferior.

What’s more, many of these images that monopolize the media and dominate the covers of magazines, plastered across various billboards and posted on countless websites, are far-fetched, at best, and impossible at worst.

We find ourselves longingly looking at photos of “perfect” physiques and aspiring to conform to their look and their likeness. Health and wellbeing rarely enter into contemplation, as looks and appeal seem to be the predominant concerns.

We establish goals. We set agendas. We start diets. We commit to exercise regimens. And we go for it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. But, we need to be realistic and balanced in our aspirations and question the validity and veracity of the images we idolize, because many current displays of the human body are unhealthy and unrealistic.

Girls are meant to be bone-thin, yet still busty. Men are expected to be bulked-up, yet still toned and slender. The dynamic of physique has become dichotomous. And we simply can’t do both. We need to stop idolizing the images we see through the media and start recognizing them for what they are: a production.

Most of the muscle-packed men depicted in magazines are posing in front of a camera, having fasted from food and water for a few hours. They are often lubed-up with some kind of mixture of oil, lotion and Crisco (just kidding), giving them an additional gleam and veneer that resembles that of a trophy.

Similarly, many of the women depicted in magazines have fasted for some amount of time and their image is often edited in post-production. Because that’s what all of it is, a production. None of the rest of us possess this capacity to Photoshop ourselves in the morning. It’s not reality. So what can yoga teach us about the body and the ways in which we view it, treat it and react to it?…

The sage yogis always discussed the human body in very temporal terms. They recognized the transience of the physical body and, instead, celebrated the potential of the mind, the peace of the soul and the expression of the heart. Yes, these yogis were able to bend, contort and manipulate their bodies in incredible ways. They had amazing strength and flexibility, balance and dexterity. But this was not the ultimate goal. Rather, they viewed the body, not as a destination, but as a vehicle. It was just a loner. It was temporary. It was fleeting. It wasn’t going to last forever.

And nothing has changed.

We should celebrate the body, sure. But we should not worship it or be enslaved to it. Instead, we should be grateful for the body that we have been blessed with and take care of it because it is a precious gift. In doing this, we should also gain perspective and clarity in realizing that not every body is the same.
welcome to acceptance

Everybody is unique. And every body is unique. Some of us have a slight frame. Some of us have a bigger build. Some of us are tall, while others are short. Some of us are more slender, while others are more curvy. Yet, we all want what we don’t have. We want to be who we are not. The short guy wants to be taller, and the skinny guy wants to be bigger. Similarly, the slender girl wants to be more curvy, while the more curvy girl wants to be more slender. In the end, nobody is happy. We just get frustrated and disappointed. And our self worth becomes bankrupt. This needs to change. We need to accept what we have been given and find contentment in who we are. Sure, it’s great to try to lose weight, to bulk up or to get in shape. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things. They are admirable endeavors. However, we need to be balanced and realistic in our aspirations in doing so.

We need to find what’s feasible and make our goals attainable and sustainable. We need to place more emphasis on wellbeing and less emphasis on image-conforming. Because we won’t ever all look the same. And that’s okay. So May you find peace and contentment in who you are this day. May you be grateful for what you have been given. May you set healthy and realistic goals and pursue them with wisdom and calculation. May you be invigorated by your exercise and find joy in living a vibrant and healthy lifestyle. And may you realize that your body is YOUR body. And that is cause for celebration.

Because everybody is unique. And every body is unique. Peace be with you. Namaste.

Matt Johnston

I started practicing yoga after suffering from an undiagnosed autoimmune disease that required me to have to get a pacemaker installed and begin medical treatments that I was told I would have to be on for the rest of my life. Eventually, I was inspired to obtain my RYT-200 certification from a wonderful and life-saving teacher. The more I taught and practiced, the more strengthening and healing I experienced, so decided that I wanted to devote myself to teaching, healing, and empowering others through the practice. After teaching for a short time in Missouri, I then relocated to Atlanta in order to attend Graduate School at Georgia State. Upon moving here in January, I was blessed with the immense opportunity to begin teaching in the L.A Fitness system and have been doing so ever since. I have come to know many wonderful people and have been given more and more classes. I now teach at various L.A. Fitness locations four days a week. My classes are a little different. I’m a little unorthodox and I’m not a super-serious person, but a lot of people tell me that is what they like about my classes.

In addition to L.A. Fitness, I will be teaching a class at the Rec Center at Georgia State University this upcoming semester, and was also asked to start working with the basketball team there. I have also been blessed recently with the wonderful opportunity to substitute teach at BeYoga in downtown Marietta and have thoroughly enjoyed every single experience and encounter I have had thus far. I look forward to further growing my classes and getting to teach and take my practice to new and exciting contexts and venues.

And, as for the illness that incited by venturing into yoga, everything has changed. I no longer use my pacemaker. I went from using it 98% of the time, to using it 4% of the time. My heart now functions normally again. All of the organs damaged from my undiagnosed illness have now healed as well, and I have begun the process of weaning off many of the medications and treatments that I have been taking for three years. My body is slowly healing. What has changed? What new treatments have I received? What new medications have I taken? None. I just do yoga.



3 Responses to “Bodies, by Matt Johnston”

  1. Roman says:

    I’ve been attending your classes at Sprayberry. Not only is your class a great workout but a learning exprience as well. The popularity of your teaching shows and you’d better get to class early for a comfortable floor space. More power to you and thanks for sharing your inspirational message.

  2. HOLLY says:

    Your class on Sunday mornings are a lot of fun. You bring a great energy to your class which is contagious. People love that!

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