Name: Amy AKA Ramona Meow
Occupation: Yoga teacher - amyyogini.com (professionally) dancer/burlesque performer for fun :)
Please describe how YOU see your body in general when you look in the mirror.
Honestly it varies, sometimes I feel like a fuckin badass and other times I don’t feel so hot. In general, I love my boobs because they are super cute and perky. I love my legs because they are strong and my arms because they are trying to be strong. I also love my butt because it is super fun. My feet are amazing (that’s a dancer thing). And I ADORE my tattoos. Some days I feel insecure about my belly, some other days I like it and think it’s cute. I always wanted long curly hair though...
What do you consider beauty to mean? What is beautiful to you?
Beauty to me is confidence. Like it’s beautiful when someone is fearlessly owning what they love and enjoy and what makes them feel good, and really rocking that. That is beautiful to me, someone really enjoying themselves.
What does a healthy body image mean to you and what are your body image goals?
I’d like my body image to be more of an unconditional love. I think I can work on incorporating more balance rather than swinging between extremes. There are absolutely teachers in my life who have inspired me to think differently about my body in a positive way - my yoga and dance teachers have taught me how sensational and complex and unique and important our bodies are, that we should spend time to know and love them, how they work and how they move and how they affect our spirit. They’ve taught me that our bodies should experience pleasure in all that they do. To remember and celebrate all these things are my goals.
Can you talk about a time in your life where you felt body confident? When you didn’t? What shaped your feelings?
I feel body confident when I feel in charge of and very connected with my own body. When that control has been removed from me in the past, I’ve felt like shit about my body image. Years ago I was the victim of an incident involving a person I formerly had a relationship with very vengefully revealing and exploiting intimate photos of me without my knowledge or consent. (This is revenge pornography, or non-consensual pornography and is a form of abuse, and if others are in a similar situation there are resources available. I am linking here the website for the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, a non-profit that provides support to victims of NCP and advocates for legislative and technological change.) I felt powerless and violated and it had a terrible effect on my self image. It is also something that will never go away and still affects my life to this day. So, dance and particularly performing burlesque has been extremely therapeutic and helped me reclaim that control. The appeal of burlesque to me (aside from the fact that it’s a super fun and exhilarating art form) is that performers are in complete control of who, when, why and how someone may see them. This whole ￼concept of “NOW you may look - because I say you can” is very enticing to me as a way to regain control of my own autonomy.
Have you had issues or challenges with clothing in regard to body image?
I definitely have a lot more trouble deciding what to wear when I am not feeling positive in my body image.
Does your body image affect how you eat?
As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve found a major shift in focus away from eating for a certain end result and more toward eating mindfully and lovingly for sustainability. It’s more important to me in general to be healthy and not to deprive myself. I have a very physically demanding job and if I don’t feed my body healthfully and sufficiently I really notice a lack of energy and generally a feeling of 'stuckness'. Also if I don’t have dessert, I’ll be a pissy bitch. I love sweets.
When do you feel best?
I feel best when I am dancing/performing/moving. When I don’t move for
a day, I feel horrible and stuck and stiff.
How has your body image changed over time?
Growing up training in dance in high school and college - it was difficult not to compare myself to others when I was younger and more insecure. I didn’t always know who I was. Now I don’t really give a fuck - I feel more body confident more often because I have a much greater sense of self and I choose the forms of expression that give me pleasure. I’ve been a dancer all my life, but just recently have begun performing in burlesque shows in NYC. Not only is it super fun, but it’s such an amazing adrenaline rush of body positivity - not just inclusive of, but also CELEBRATING all body types. It’s actually a goal to be unique, as opposed to other dance forms where you have to look like everyone else. A year ago, though, even, I never could have done it. It’s taken a LOT of yoga to give me the confidence and self-appreciation to approach performing with a sense of joy and love rather than fear and insecurity.
Who do you feel influences your body image most?
My boyfriend always makes me feel amazing. My teachers have influenced me hugely in showing me why to value mine and all bodies.
What pressure around body image do you feel?
As a professional yoga instructor I do feel pressure to look a certain way to an extent, largely from media and advertising surrounding the industry. It’s totally pervasive and not representative of the reality. It’s also dangerous in the wellness industry when it creates a lot of false expectations and comparisons - I’ve seen yoga teachers who are actually very sick, but use being a raw vegan or whatever it is to mask that - hiding behind this “healthy lifestyle/wellness industry” to cover up their own issues. (Of course not all, I’m talking about outliers here - but I think we all recognize that a pressure exists). That’s dangerous when it imprints on their students. You do have a responsibility to an extent. I try to emphasize to my yoga students that the way things feel are so much more important than how they look - and I try my best to heed my own advice and walk my talk.
What are your thoughts on media/advertising/social media and how they affect body image?
It’s all bullshit and has a terrible effect on body image for young girls especially. I could have saved myself SO MUCH time of feeling like shit and beating myself up as a teenager if I could have just seen more media representation of what women actually look like.
How do you feel about altering appearance through cosmetic surgery and applications like Photoshop?
Photoshop is not great as far as being abused to create super unrealistic expectations of how women look. Cosmetic surgery, on the other hand - a person has a sacred right to do with their own body whatever they choose and I do not believe anyone should be looked down upon for that.
Do you have any advice, tips, or suggestions for women who would like to improve their body image?
GO TO YOGA!! It takes a while. It might seem overwhelming and confusing at first. But there are SO MANY styles, SO MANY teachers and philosophies, that you can find something that resonates with you. ANYONE can do it. And the more you do it, the more it makes sense, the better you feel, the more things shift, and the more you learn to be with yourself, listen to and know yourself, and eventually truly love yourself. It sounds corny. But it is SO important. It teaches you to be fearless. And eventually - that feeling when you try something new and finally get it - you cannot hate yourself when you feel that feeling. You cannot hate the flab on your arms when you feel how strong they are holding you up in a yoga pose. It’s not about being physically fit, although that is a happy side effect: but rather as The Bhagavad Gita says: “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self."