I’ve seen an increasing amount of conversations that focus on “what a yogi looks like”. When I walk into the yoga room I find myself surrounded by a variety of ages, of ethnicities, of body types—a veritable potpourri of people. When I find myself at a grocery store (Sprouts, Whole Foods, Erewhon, etc.), the magazines I see would have me believe that only thin attractive (and usually caucasian) people practice yoga. As a rule, when magazines represent other body types on their cover they have as the headline “yoga for weight loss,” with the explicit message that if one doesn’t have a “thin” body whatever activity one engage in must be for weight loss.
When I stop to think about it, this conceptualization that you need to be white and thin to be a yogi troubles me at a deep level, for I have benefited on so many levels from yoga over the years. After my very first hatha yoga class I clearly remember the astonishing joy that came from having an easier time shaving my legs. During the last yoga class I attended on Monday, I felt the inner vibrations of stillness and silence. I find it extraordinarily arduous to clear my mind of pesky chatter, so I revel in the moments of sublime silence. All the other classes I’ve attended have contributed to my growing self-confidence. I used to be a wallflower; it would take me months to really converse with people. Now, I have communities and friends wherever I go. That’s the gift of yoga, one open to all people, to EVERY BODY.
Recent months have seen rise to groups of people who work at changing the perceived image of a yogi from one reflected in popular media to one rooted in reality. The Yoga and Body Image Coalition is one such group that has made a number of strides: http://yogaandbodyimage.com/yoga-and-body-image-coalition/
I spent years defining myself by my body size. I spent most of my life watching others define and judge me by my body size. It doesn’t matter how much I weigh. It doesn’t matter that the medical books classify me as morbidly obese. My health matters. How I live my life matters. My happiness matters. But the judgment that comes with people defining me and others by externals does NOT help anyone live a better life. Not the judged, and certainly not the judgee (yes, I just made up that word!).
I am a yogi. I look like a yogi. You look like a yogi too. Embrace life. Embrace yoga. Embrace joy. Open your heart to all the possibilities life holds!
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