I am choosing a title in French for this blog for a simple reason, everything sounds better in French. If I could have 20 bucks for each time I was told French is a beautiful language, and even the worst things sounded pretty, my wardrobe would be filled with Luluorange outfits (preferably tight colorful ones). You may have already guessed, I am going to talk about body odors and other bodily functions in the classroom. Don’t worry, and focus on the words in French, so flowery (think potpourri).
Dung Beetle (a.k.a moi) arrived in the States in 1994. As an international student, I was given a booklet describing American traditions, expectations, etc. One line stood out and I remember it to this day.”Hygiene is important to Americans and it is customary to shower every day”. We all know the reputation of French people, and I was offended.
As years went by and I became more Americanized, I realized I had come to be more and more sensitive to body odors (oops I meant odeurs corporelles). I did not associate sweat with a natural healthy process anymore. Instead, I saw sweat as something you have to hide, putting on deodorant as soon as I got out of the shower. Here we have, a yoga teacher, supposedly health conscious, using a deodorant containing aluminium salts (which it appears may be linked to some forms of cancer). Why am I doing that? I have been conditioned into thinking sweat is something akin to even less pleasant natural bodily functions, the unmentionable. You might think being sweaty after a workout or a yoga class is acceptable, but if you get near the person who is sweating profusely, more than half the time, they will tell you not to get closer because they are sweating and stink.
What about the unmentionable you might ask? This is when English becomes flowery. Flatulence is often referred to as “passing gas”. Instructors, you were most likely told that at some point during your career, a student may pass gas, or worse, you might be the culprit. I would prefer to say “originator”, “culprit” having a negative connotation I do not want to associate with a natural bodily function. Here, we have the term “passing gas” as if it were a passerby, waving at you on their way to fix dinner. I seriously doubt the dish will contain the musical fruit, often banned from kitchens. However, in no way is it a passerby, more like a prisoner escaping jail. What you hear is the bang of explosives as they make their way to freedom. I think the French term is more accurate “péter”. In French, you can “péter un plomb”, “péter un joint”, “péter le feu” and there are many more expressions. In colloquial French though, meaning the French language everyone on the street (or in a yoga studio) speaks, péter by itself simply means fart. Yes I said it (insert giggle). How do you explain Pavanamuktasana if it was not once acceptable to ”pass wind”? En français “avoir des gaz” (read methane, wink wink).
I know I am not going to change the world by writing this article, la sueur (sweat) et les pêts will remain what they are, to be avoided, or hidden, but I hope you feel more comfortable next time you experience one of the two. Unless your yoga class is on the beach, you will not be able to bury your head in the sand.
Eric Semet, MA, Certified RYT-200
Yoga I.S. ® Instructor: Miami, Florida