In case you haven’t discovered all the witty and insightful posts from Elephant Journal yet, here is another one that makes me simultaneously smile and also breath a sigh of relief. Make Room For the Luscious Yogi so bravely written by Anne Falkowski. Why do images of yoga always seem to feature incredibly lithe, tiny and ridiculously limber bodies contorting themselves in strange ways.
Yoga when you are Overweight
When you go to an average hatha yoga class, you see a few toned bodies, you see average bodies and you see some bodies with more meat and flesh in certain parts. Does being bony and muscular seem to be the ideal in the yoga world? Does that make your claim to the sacred tenants of yoga of non-violence, non-attachment (detatchment) , compassion, non-stealing (generosity) more authentic? It doesn’t make their shoulder-stand or up-dog any more enviable.
As most serious practioners know, yoga was not originally an physical practice. It was primarily a meditation and breathing practice meant to help you reach higher states of enlightenment and consciousness for the betterment of humankind. It was also primarily taught by men. The poses actually got added later since it if the body had some conditioning it made it easier to sit for long periods in meditation.
When yoga got introduced to the West, the emphasis on the poses and alignment became the focus. People started to want to get in better shape, more limber, let go of stiffness and tightness and leave the class more calm and peaceful. Then came hot yoga which packed room of sweaty stinky people in a mirror so you could see how well ( or not well) you were doing the poses and have all kinds of judgement about how your tree pose wasn’t as balanced as the little person next to you. At many hot yoga studios, there are open showers like a gym so there is more bodily comparison.
Yoga advertisements and magazines are filled with more images of toned tightness in $80 Lululemon pants and crop bra tops.
I think one major institution in the yoga world which has done a great job of including all bodies, shapes and colors is Kripalu. I get there catalog and I frequently see images of large and older bodies not only in the brochure but also sometimes on the cover. Kripalu is the top yoga educational institution in the world.. it has an array of classes on all kinds on all kind of spiritual growth and wellness topics that range from drumming, sushi making to horse riding.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like I have the right to be a yoga teacher because I don’t have a perfectly cut and toned six pack like a la Taylor Lautner. I avoid dairy, rarely drink, have a fairly clean diet and exercise with both yoga and riding a stationary bike almost every day as well as strength training. I have so many cute tight yoga tops that lay in my drawer in the hopes one day my tummy will be small enough to wear them.
Then I remind myself that yoga is not a gym workout with oooomming. It’s a practice that helps you to become more self-aware so you can choose to reach to things differently. with less anger and fear and more calm and trust.