You might have seen the post by mommy blogger Laura Mazza about her experience farting loudly in a yoga class and running out the door immediately afterwards. On the surface it’s pretty funny, and I have to give her credit for sharing something embarrassing publicly and giving people a forum in which to relate to each other. That said, the more I think about it, the more I wish I could rewind what happened to her and change it.
For those of you who haven’t read her viral Facebook update, there are two ways I think you can read it:
- Frazzled mom attempts self-care by going to yoga class for fitness and relaxation, farts loudly, runs away and shares with her network because it’s too funny not to.
- Mother who has a gigantic (now global) audience attempts to correct a medical condition based on advice from a healthcare professional, becomes embarrassed by her body’s natural response to what it was being asked to do and escapes to McDonald’s where she declares to thousands of people that she would rather live with a protruding, separated abdominal wall than risk further embarrassment in front of a small group of strangers.
Guess which way I’m reading it?
I don’t want to put Laura in the crosshairs or shame her for any aspect of her experience, but I wish I could go back to before she was in that position and talk to her.
In her update, Laura shares that post-babies, the damage to her abdominal wall has resulted in a stomach that “kinda points out like a cone.” Her “physio” (I’m pretty sure she means physio-therapist) recommended yoga to help correct this. She also shares that for the weeks leading up to this class she had been experiencing IBS symptoms, and she questions the strength of her pelvic floor.
Let’s be honest. That’s a recipe for yoga flatulence.
If I were advising her beforehand, I might have encouraged her to start with yoga at home until the IBS symptoms cleared up. In addition to giving her some privacy in case anything escaped during her asanas, it would also have given her a chance to find out on her own which poses were most likely to lead to undesirable results.
Another thing I would have advised her to do is to discuss her yoga ambition with her primary health practitioner. If IBS is a factor, chances are that seeking advice beforehand would have either dissuaded her from trying yoga until it was advisable or given her some tools to use to treat her symptoms well enough to allow for a comfortable yoga experience.
Beyond these steps, I would have advised her to talk to the yoga teacher. She describes the scene in a way that suggests that she’s never met the instructor before and doesn’t know anyone in the class. I know that her experience isn’t unusual, but it also isn’t mandatory. If you’re considering any new fitness activity, you can go in early by minutes or days to talk to the trainer or instructor about what they do, what you’re concerned about and whether it’s a good fit/time for you.
Even if I weren’t able to rewind that far and give her those before-class steps to take, it would be great to rewind to class-time and let Laura know that when you’re working out in a group setting (or any setting), you need to listen to your body. If you suspect that any exercise is going to have an adverse effect on you, you can opt out of it, modify it or hold off until you can discuss it with your trainer or instructor privately. You can also walk out of group classes for any reason if you need to. People take water breaks, bathroom breaks, diaper-changing breaks (at gyms with on-site childcare) or whatever they need, and it’s OK. If she felt something coming on, I’m 99% sure it would have been fine with the instructor and the rest of the class if she’d excused herself for a moment and then returned.
If I could rewind to the moment she left the class, vowing never to return, I’d at least beg her not to go to McDonald’s, because that’s basically the opposite of any fitness activity.
The reason I’m addressing this is that Laura has an audience of about 50K people on Facebook, and her post is being re-shared all over the world. (She lives in Australia, and here I am reading about it in California.) I want the people who see this response to know that her trauma could have been avoided, that there’s no reason to let fear stop you from trying—or returning to—anything that’s good for you. As funny as a good fart story is, I wouldn’t want it to stop anyone from trying yoga.
One more thing to consider: getting over your biological functions is an indicator of you being a badass athlete! Did you know that endurance athletes relieve themselves during events rather than stopping and losing time? Do you know what a “hot” yoga class smells like? Have you ever seen a ballet dancer or distance runner’s feet? Letting one go in yoga can be a rite of passage if you look at it through this lens!
Finally, you might be thinking that what I’m saying makes sense, but that it’s easier said than done to go talk to a fitness professional about IBS or to see your doctor because you’re worried about passing gas in yoga class. That’s true, but in this particular case she shared the story in all its glorious detail with 50K people to start and the whole world after, so the yoga teacher and her physio definitely know what was up now. Better to get in front of it, right?
I’ve been a fitness instructor for 17 years (and counting), and I have heard my share of accidental cheese cutting. Most people are able to entirely ignore it (or maybe indulge in just a small giggle), EVERYONE is relived that they aren’t the only one who feels that way and they’re more relaxed if they happen to slip up, too.