The Yoga Farm & Body Positive Love
All photos by Misty Frampton <3
It was the 4th of July. My sisters and I had dressed in patriotic colors. We took a photo or two. We made sweet potato pie (inspired by some friends who baked for us in Costa Rica). And then I found myself sitting at the dinner table looking at a delicious medium-rare steak my mother’s boyfriend had grilled for us all. All I could think of was, “GET IN MY MOUTH.” *That’s what she said* My mother had actually purposely planned steak into the meal for me. I am borderline anemic, and she had voiced her concerns about me leaving my iron pills at home when I went to live in a meat-free farm for a month.
One would think that I would feel a little guilty about eating meat after a month of vegetarianism, except The Yoga Farm isn’t that kind of place. The Yoga Farm wasn’t about who ate better or lived better. Maybe with yoga being a central part of the farm, competition had never become a thing there. Yoga is all about doing what’s best for you, listening to your body, and doing your absolute best to just, as Misty puts it, “Do you.” As far as getting excited over eggplant casserole or drooling over a perfectly cooked steak, there was no “better” diet. At The Yoga Farm, there were only different diets and people who respected everyone’s choices.
And with so many people, many conversations on food filled the month. We had the meat-eaters, the vegetarians, the vegans, the gluten-free, the lactose intolerant, the nut allergy friends, and more. I know, because we all took turns cooking dinner each week. I’ve now learned the art of cooking for more than twenty people at the time while still keeping everyone happy. It’s strange to think I’m more confident about cooking since I had always thought I was a lost cause in the kitchen. Now I can make a salad even I would eat in a few minutes or bake homemade bread or buns (maybe for some veggie burgers?) Okay, okay, I’ll stop bragging about my new cooking skills (although they are so awesome I could keep going) and get back to my story.
I loved talking to people with different eating lifestyles. I asked them what they were, why they were that way, and if it was an easy transition. A lot of the Yoga Farmers had personal stories that had caused their change in eating habits. Some diets had come about from documentaries and the desire to be more environmentally friendly, some decisions were made when a member of the family had to make drastic change in diet because of an illness and the rest of the family had joined the diet for support, and others had simply found they just felt better eating one way over another. The table was open for discussion, and no one tried to convince anyone else to “convert” to their lifestyle. However, I did learn a lot and from the first day, my mind was already being carved into looking at my diet a little bit differently.
In fact, the first week, I had jumped to extremes. I think at one point I said—nay, I exclaimed—“I’m going to be a gluten-free vegan! I’m never going to shop for things again. I’m going to live only off of solar energy and the energy of my heart. I’m never going to wash my hair or use any products on my body. I will live in the jungle forever!” It only took me a few days to realize that I wasn’t ready to live in the jungle forever, but after accepting that I couldn’t be Jane from Tarzan, I was able to think rationally about good places to start for making realistic changes in my life that would make me feel better about the world.
For instance, I asked one woman about her diet. She seemed so particular about what she was eating and yet she was always eating something different. She told me that she didn’t really have a “diet.” She didn’t commit to any one thing. Instead, she tried to focus on sustainable foods. She would eat what was abundant, in season, easily available. By doing this, she was already being much nicer to the environment and eating a fulfilling and tasty array of foods. She was best at using what had been harvested that week, and making sure to use even the most obscure fruits, veggies, and spices before they passed the ripe point of no return. And her attitude really hit home for me. Now that my overly excited, overcompensating self had already jumped to extremes, my rational self thought, “Hey. Maybe I could find a community garden to join when I move to the next city in the U.S. I could definitely put in a better effort to buy local/in season produce. I should research farmer’s markets when I get back and check out some other sources of meat that have good farming philosophies.”
And I started to feel good about the direction I had taken by just listening to others talk about what they loved about their own eating habits. There was a man who owned a restaurant in Tempe, AZ. He was always asking questions, asking to watch others cook or for recipes. It was so cool to see someone in the food industry so eager to learn more about sustainable and organic farming. I ended up listening in on what he was listening into, and became great friends with him and his girlfriend who made some pretty kick-ass kombucha to share with the farm!
Of course focusing on what I put into my body led to me thinking about the body itself. Something I had never really expected from The Yoga Farm was the confidence in myself and positive energy centered around body image. The first week, I had trouble shedding the U.S. Dress code. “Wear a shirt,” I told myself, “Don’t be that dweeb of a girl in her sports bra that people think just want attention.” So I always had a shirt on top of my sports bra. I only stripped to my bikini when I was appropriately at the beach and ready to swim.
By the second week, things had changed—and for everyone. By day 8, everyone had long screwed over any intentions of dressing what I would have called “modestly.” Men wore their board shorts and only their board shorts. The only time you saw shirts around the men was when they brought them up to the yoga deck to wipe the sweat off their bodies. Yep. Shirt at The Yoga Farm = Body Towel. It took only minutes to sweat through clothes no matter what time of day or what activity was going on whether that was horseback riding, gardening, painting, biking, swimming, or surfing! With the heat and humidity of Costa Rica, wearing a shirt only meant more laundry, and more laundry meant more washing and drying. Ha! Did I say drying? By “drying” I mean that we would hang up our clothes and they would hang damply on a clothes line taunting us with their ever-wet texture. Only too many times had I walked out to the clothes line and reached out to feel a shirt that had been hanging for days. Nothing. Ever. Dried.
By the third week, Misty and I walked 10 minutes to the beach in our bikinis. Why waste a cover up when it was just going to get sweaty, be kind of washed, and then never dry? I became known as the girl who walked around in high socks, hiking shoes, and a teeny weeny itsy bitsy blue bikini. And the only time someone had a problem with lack of clothing was when someone forgot the sunscreen. Other than that, we half-naked folk only had a good time. From the time a certain someone had to rub an antihistamine on my right butt cheek because I was in so much pain to the time another special someone tended to Misty's ankle when she hurt it while horseback riding, I felt like I had found a family that was past who wore what best.
The fourth week, Misty and I were climbing up a gigantic hill on our way back to The Yoga Farm. (Only Yoga Famers will know I shit you not, this hill was a freakin’ mountain.) While dripping with sweat and heaving in air that was really more water than it was air, I asked Misty if she thought we were losing weight. I really wasn’t sure. Yes, we were eating healthier, organic, made-from-scratch meals, but the food was so good that we were eating SO MUCH of it. Misty stopped to pause (and to catch her breath). Then she said, “I don’t know if we lost any weight. I think that we’re probably the same…but… I feel better. About my body. And I haven’t really thought about it. Actually…I haven’t thought about my weight or my body at all.” I realized I hadn’t really either. In fact, I thought, Jesus, I haven’t even been sucking in my stomach while walking around without a shirt. I would have thought, “Poor other Yoga Farmers having to see my gut just after devouring a huge dinner,” but I didn’t. I had felt nothing but acceptance of who I was, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
I had never once thought about my legs being too short, thighs too large, shoulders too broad… I had been too busy thinking of, “I wonder how many coconuts I should harvest if we are making coconut curry? And won’t that taste amazing with some banana bread?” Misty's age nor mine is an easy age to have positive body image mastered, but for the first time since we were kids playing in the mud and catching frogs in the river, we were comfortable in our skin and unconcerned about what was covering it up or not. I mean, if we were what we ate, we were eating fresh organic food that had been picked on the farm and cooked with care and love. We felt as healthy and beautiful as the sweet and ripe starfruit we were eating!
The Yoga Farm had no place for physical reflection. The bathrooms were practical and efficient. With the exception of one small compact mirror that rested by a fresh spring water sink, there were no mirrors. I had looked at the mirror twice, and once was to clean off the paint that had somehow made its way onto my face when I had painted the cabinas with the other volunteers. There was no full bodied mirror to allow myself to look and worry, “I wonder if this mirror makes us look skinnier or fatter?” And so for a month, I couldn’t really tell how my body “looked.” I only knew how it felt. And it felt good.
On one of the last days, Misty packed her camera bag and we went to take photos on the beach. As far as taking photos in my bikini, I’m usually pretty shy about it. Why would I take a photo of me in a swim suit? Isn’t that inappropriate? Besides, what about my legs? I don’t want anyone to see my thighs; they’re too big. What about my stomach? How am I supposed to hide my stomach in a photo if I’m in a bikini? I don’t want people to think I’m trying too hard to be sexy. I don’t want to be sexy. People will think it’s too much. People don’t want to see my body. I shouldn’t want to show my body. My body is inappropriate. Even gross at times. And should be covered up. To them, I just want to be pretty and accepted and me.
Those would be the thoughts that keep me from taking photos in a bikini. Except, I was at The Yoga Farm in Costa Rica. And in a bikini, fully clothed, or naked, the environment I was in thanks to the amazing people that filled this beautiful and natural farm had already made me feel pretty, accepted, and me. I felt loved. I felt like a part of something. And honestly? I felt better about my body than I ever had. I didn't even think about what I was wearing on the beach that day we took photos. Instead, I met a dog named Lena...and the rest is history.
So, thanks to the positive body vibes I picked up in Costa Rica, the amazing healthy and tasty food made available to me every day, and feeling accepted in every way… I rolled around in the mud, felt sexy—not ashamed—and kind of found within myself that young woman who was confident and loved her body who I had lost somewhere between the transition from my childhood to my teenage years.
For the 4th of July, I had initially dressed up in a white cropped top and high-waisted shorts that showed off my ass. I looked in the mirror. I thought of going out to see the fireworks at the park where families would be eating sandwiches on picnic blankets. There was no beach. There was no humidity. And there were no friends living harmoniously in whatever clothes that weren't moldy. I looked at myself and decided I needed to cover up a little bit more. “Jade,” I said to myself out loud in front of a full length mirror, “You’re not in Bikini Bottom anymore.” And with a pout, I went back and put on some more clothes.
The Southern Utah dress code is on the opposite end of the spectrum in comparison to the dress code in Pavones where the only things people wore were bikinis, board shorts, and tattoos. I loved walking around in spandex, underwear, bikini tops and bottoms… I loved that feeling of being free. I loved that feeling of being comfortable with my body, of not worrying about the outside but worrying about the inside. I liked letting my tan shoulders show. I love that right now I have few tan lines and am, for the most part, a solid and even bronze all over my body. Now that I’m back in the states, I don’t think that will last too long.
Finding a balance back in a world of electricity, gym memberships, and full on washer and dryers with my body and dressing to express how I feel now—confident, sexy, young, healthy, adventurous—without disrupting society a little too much is going to be a challenge. It’s something that I feel will take some time to figure out. However, I had found a part of me in Costa Rica that I had thought I had lost forever. I found that confident girl with a love for her body—the girl who dressed the way she felt, not the way she thought others wanted her to dress. I found that girl who looked good on the outside because she felt good on the inside.
I’m going to keep looking for the balance and find my own dress code, but at least in the meantime I’ll be searching as a confident, healthy, and loving girl who has a better ear for what her body is trying to tell her all thanks to The Yoga Farm and the people that made June a secret body image success!