According to Mikhail Bakhtin, a carnival includes “Elaborate costumes and masks that allow people to set aside their everyday individuality and experience a heightened sense of social unity“. To me a carnival is all about fun, and at the same time the word also symbolises illusion. Here’s a poem.
No harvesting embarrassments
or red-faced shame
looking back pondering
the past and who’s to blame:
Let moving sounds cloak you
as wind in copper beech
The trickle of a gurgling liquid
crystal flowing stream:
Moving through the carnival
where masks hide pain
Ignore the bling and neon signs
come home to you again:
January is a bit of a carnival in the so-called wellness industry. I practice and teach yoga, but never use the words ‘weight loss‘ or ‘fat‘ as a selling point. One year I saw an ad online that declared people should take a January ashtanga course to burn off “those extra Christmas mince pies“. I thought that was sad. And shallow!
To me yoga is about being comfy in my own skin. It is also about cultivating gratitude, slowing down my busy mind, and enjoying better health: everything starts there. And to many, yoga is a spiritual practice.
In a world of image obsession we need to remember that being thin does not automactically mean that a person is healthy. Wellness is more complex than that, and surely it is crucial for mental health to first of all know and accept that at different stages of life our body size will be ever-changing.
One thing has not changed since the 50s (see above) and that’s the targetting of women in advertising. The marketing is relentless when it comes to the female body, and for many women a message of ‘you are not good enough as you are‘ becomes internalised. There is ample data from sociologists and psychologists about this phenomenon.
Our size fluctuates throughout life, yet how many of us become more concerned with the size of our arses instead of the smiles in our hearts? I certainly did in my 20s. Snide comments from a bully made me feel worse, but as I have alluded to in the poem, the past is over. We can look back to figure stuff out, but then it’s crucial to move on.
As a mother I am amazed at what the body is capable of, from giving birth to hillwalking, from illness to recovery. I don’t have social media apps on my phone or watch TV, so feel clueless about the latest fads, thankfully. But I still know that the body-our precious vehicle for life- is constantly being objectified. This applies to men too: sexiness sells, right? Apparently, so does weight loss neurosis.
Girls need to learn from us that their minds, hearts, and happiness are much more important than waist size. The world does not need future generations of women who spend their whole lives dieting or who can’t simply enjoy the odd treat without obsessing over calories.
Maybe a cultural shift is happening. Certain websites and social media platforms claim to have banned dieting adverts. Phone addiction is clearly a massive problem, and I really believe that more fun and fresh air is the best way to get out of one’s head and into the body.
As always, when it comes to somatics and living a more content life we need to look beyond multinationals, alogrithims, and governments. You know this. Most of us have the power to look within, and that’s a fine place to start.
Kathryn Crowley lives and writes in Kerry, Ireland.