I believe that ‘every body is a yoga body’. This is why I am passionate about encouraging anyone to try the practice regardless of size, age, colour or gender. However I cannot say that I have seen much of this encouragement in the media or yoga classes in the UK. Instead I see individuals being put off the yoga before they’ve even ventured onto the mat.
Bursting the yoga bubble
I realised that for many years I’d been living in a yoga bubble and hadn’t really given any thought to the image of the practice. I’m pleased to say the bubble burst. Actually, I do recall that I deliberately chose not to practice at studios where I knew everyone would have their legs behind their head, just like a photo I saw of Madonna, for fear of making a fool of myself. So I took myself off to a beginners’ class. I too was sub-consciously as affected by this image thing, as everyone else without even realising it.
Teaching in America
I became cynical about the type of people that practiced yoga, but this changed whilst I was travelling in America. Over there they have a more mature relationship yoga and are more accepting of differing body types and abilities. I was teaching to various yogis and hearing how yoga transformed their lives. This restored my faith in the practice and what it could achieve. Yoga changed and healed my life in so many ways.
A few years later, I read an article about a plus size yogi, having a terrible experience on their yoga journey. Describing how she’d either be stared at (being the largest person in the class), or was just ignored by Teacher, who should have been offering modifications and words of encouragement to her. This just not did not sit right with me, as yoga is supposed to be for everyone – right?
I started to notice that a lot of the practitioners were tall, slim, blonde and young. I will leave the topic of diversity for another time.
Yoga in the media
One of the biggest hurdles to normalising yoga is that a lot of people buy into the images being depicted within the media. Should we be accustomed to the perfect 10? Obviously these images help to sell the magazines, clothes and lifestyle, because it’s an aspirational dream for many of us.
This is which why I advocate body positive yoga. At the moment in the UK I am aware of a handful of studios that show images reflecting a true picture of our society. I feel that here we need to normalise images of the different yogis and body types and make a powerful statement, allowing yoga to be enjoyed not only by the few, but the many.
We are behind our counterparts in the States, although I am starting to see a change in the media who are now championing body positive yogis like Dana Falsetti and Jessamyn Stanley, to name a few. I would love to see the UK have our own yoga role models that will inspire others to give yoga a go. Last year I was fortunate to attend a class, and held a Q&A session with the Fitfluential Jessamyn Stanley on her recent visit. She left so many people feeling inspired by what she had to share.
I’ll finish by sharing a piece of advice on how to have a yoga body:
- Have a body
- Go to yoga