by Marla Mattenson
The Practice of Leadership panel at the Yoga Journal LIVE! conference in San Diego last weekend was inspiring, thought provoking, and yet left me with more questions than answers. Moderator, Hala Khouri (Off the Mat), opened the panel with a grounded, clear protocol for sharing and expressing thoughts without attacking. She described the process of calling someone “up” rather than calling “out” when sharing. This set the stage for a rich exchange.
Sociologist and yogi, Melanie Klein gave us an intelligent definition of body image, which is different from the physical body. Body image is the mental construct of how we feel about our body, which can change on a daily basis, even multiple times per day. Further, everyone has issues of body image.
The idea that media and advertising has a major impact on what people view as healthy was addressed. Yogi and studio owner, Dianne Bondy brought forward how larger yogis, specifically yogis of color, rarely see relatable images in yoga magazines and therefore have an even larger barrier to cross to get to the mat. Clearly, images in magazines and advertisements need to reflect the wide diversity of yogi practitioners. But we, as individuals, as teachers, practitioners, and leaders in our community also need to peel off the layers of body image issues to understand and encourage acceptance instead of comparing.
How do we look for similarities amongst each other based on qualities, not physical prowess and size? How can we unlink sexy with slim to allow ourselves to feel sensuality in our bodies regardless of size, ability, race, gender, age? And how am I perpetuating the old view of what a yogi looks like in my own practice, in my mind, in my yoga classes? Let’s take a moment to release all constructs and view each other from the inside, reach out and connect to a fellow yogi and make each other feel welcome – welcome home to the beautiful body where we live.
Stay tuned for a full recap from panelist and Yoga and Body Image Coalition Co-Founder Melanie Klein.
Marla Mattenson has practiced yoga for over 20 years, is a Vipassana meditator, and a leader in math education in California.
Photo credit: Tony Felguieras