One of my favorite guilty pleasures of the summer is marathon watching sessions of What Not to Wear. In this show, friends of “fashion offenders” secretly nominate their friends for a fashion makeover, At that point, Stacey and Clinton, the show”s fashion advisers, surprise the fashion-challenged friend, and hand over a $5,000 shopping card for a new wardrobe, provided the subject toss out just about everything currently in the closet. At first the subject resists, but, of course, by the end, the former fashion disaster loves her new look, and feels more confident and more “like herself” and consistently realizes that her new look represents who she really is and where she is going. Along the way, there is resistance, tears, anger and elation, and not necessarily in that order. You might think this is a show about looking good on the outside; but it is much more than that.
I LOVE this show. It represents, in a very tangible and compelling “fashion”, a person’s journey toward the authentic Self. At first, the person is hiding under layers (current wardrobe) that send a message that is actually hiding the person inside. Sometimes women will wear baggy clothes that hide the body, often they are stuck in the past, and many times they simply haven’t spent the time to update their wardrobes. And, sometimes they just don’t feel worth the effort.
This is a lot like starting a Yoga practice; often people are hesitant to step on the mat because they do not know what they will find. We all know that in our practice we ask that we detach from our current notions and conditioning regarding the roles we play, the things we think we should and shouldn’t do. Even when we have habits and patterns that are harmful, we are often attached to them; perhaps just because they are comfortable. And change is scary. Watching the women (so far I have only seen them work with women although it would be very interesting for men to go through the process) take a first honest look at themselves is quite eye-opening. They look at what they have been over-looking for a long time and are asked to step back and look again, with perspective. They often don’t like what they see, but they still don’t want to make changes. However, Stacey and Clinton are unrelenting (much like a consistent Yoga practice) and little by little, layers begin to soften and then peel away. By the time the hair and make-up come in, each woman is ready for whatever lies ahead. To me it is so interesting how the women, who were so resistant and the onset, sit in the hairdresser’s chair and tell Nick to “just do anything” The shell is cracked open, they have detached from many of the layers, as well as the illusion of control. My favorite part is where Nick swings the chair around to the mirror and the “new” woman gasps in happiness and glows with a shiny smile from the inside out. My next favorite part is where they “come out” and friends and family get to see the new look. Everyone cries and talks about how, “now she is as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside”.
And that’s just it. Whatever the layers are that we hide under, it’s time to first recognize them (this takes some time) peel them off (this takes even more time) and allow our authentic Self to shine on through (this takes a lifetime!). We can do this on the mat every time we practice, and then take our practice off the mat.
It’s interesting to think about how the changes and evolutions that happen inside us are ultimately reflected to those who see us. I have found my wardrobe preferences have changed considerable since moving into Yoga as a full time gig. My new choices reflect where I am now, and where I am going. But, if any of my friends think I’m not there yet, I would love it if they would hand me over to Stacey and Clinton for a make-over…
It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are. –e. e. cummings