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How to Protect Yourself from Thinspiration Disguised as Yoga

in Featured, YD News, Yogitorials


by Hally Marlino

Have you noticed? Spring is the time of year when some people go on wood-chip diets and others try to sell you weight loss shakes made of hooves.

Is there an undercurrent of Thinspo masquerading as Health behind certain promotions put out by your gym or local yoga studio?

Be skeptical about words such as fitness, slim down, lighten, wellness and bikini season when they’re being used to sell you yoga. Hammer, don’t hurt ‘em, but discern.

Recognize. This kind of marketing does harm. It cheapens the sublime bearing that yoga can have on our lives.

Flip that biscuit. Don’t settle for anything but real gravy.

You might have to get a little macho, as in:


1. Courageous, potent, robust, lusty and vibrant. Okay then. These words stick to your ribs. Sounds like yoga.

From what my teachers have passed on to me, yoga is a practice of sustainability and recognition that we’re more alike than different in our hearts. Yoga is shelter. It’s not about comparison or punishment.

Your overall health isn’t something that is caged within your physical frame, anyhow. It’s not identifiable by your appearance.

My best teachers deal in the subtleties of kindness, tough love and what is wholesome. They’re experts at holding space. They walk beside us as we learn.

I won’t say anything about the turkey burgers who make cracks about kicking your ass or detox yoga because my resting bitchface happens on its own.

Here is my DIY list on how to protect yourself from thinspiration crap disguised as yoga:

  • Hide the tweedledees in your newsfeed whose greatest wish is to hook you into their powdered lunch replacer pyramid scheme. (It’s gonna taste grozz and costs like forty dollars plus arms.) Wish them venison jerky for Christmas.
  • Make the squats, make the pushups, make the asana. Lift and lower the heavy things. But only if it gives you satisfaction. You may accomplish this in your garage without giving a single dollar away. Because you are a whip smart machine. Fair warning- these activities will make you hungry. Cook a can of beans over your grill like some cowpoke. That’ll put hair on your chest.
  • Hang out with athletes who say, “Yes,” when you ask, “Wanna ride bikes and get nachos?” (Jocks tend to be jovial, reasonable people who like nachos.)
  • Don’t give your money to studios or gyms whose marketing feeds the culture of fear and inadequacy. If the language coming from a place implies that there must be something wrong with you that they can fix, remember what DJ Unk said in 2006 and Walk It Out, away from there.
  • Get some sexy knives. The Wusthof company will monogram your whole set. You should have a couple sleek tools to prepare your gorgeous meals. Slaughter cantaloupes. Peel potatoes for homemade gnocchi like you mean it. Making dumplings from scratch is aerobic, especially if you walk to the corner store for eggs. Fait accompli.
  • Cut the sleeves off of your Duran Duran tee shirt. Get some sun on your biceps. Feel the outdoors up your lungs.
  • Enjoy decent wines, stank cheese, bone marrow and fish heads. If that’s what you desire. You choose. Or you know, legumes and greens. What gives you fuel to get your life’s mission popping? You and your grandma know, it won’t come in bar form. You won’t find it in a tub with a plastic cover. What you need might smell like buttered rutabaga and bacon. Ask your Grams for the recipe. She probably understands balance.
  • Go to your garden (anybody’s garden). Pull a carrot out of the ground. Rinse it with the hose. Is there still a little dirt on it? Good. Take a bite. Tastes orange, right? Stay close to this feeling you get from your hands pulling food out of planet earth. Vegetables are self care.
  • But for cripes sake, if you forget about the majesty of Ritter Sport, or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos remind yourself. You’re not just a pretty face. You’re compassion, one-armed planks and bechamel sauce.
  • Arm-wrestle people who do not want to arm-wrestle. You’ll probably win. Stud.
  • Be so good to yourself. If you’re struggling with this one, let someone else be good to you. Reject the ‘you have to love yourself first’ theory. People who say that are the same ones who tell you they like all music except rap and country. They’re missing out on a motherlode of love.

Give ‘em hell.


ps: This isn’t a scholarly article. It’s something I’d write for you on the back of a napkin at the roller rink, and I hope that means more.


If you like the sound of blue collar yoga, you might like to practice with Hally. She found her teacher training a couple thousand classes ago, under the L train tracks, at a little studio in Chicago. Her wish is to provide opportunity for practitioners to recognize their gifts, tenderness and brute strength. She teaches in Madison, Wisconsin. Before yoga, Hally completed the 750 hour bodywork program at Lakeside School of Massage Therapy, earned a BA and spent just enough time in the U.S. Army. Find her at facebook.com/yogabeast or yoga-beast.com.


This article originally appeared on yoga-beast.com and was republished with permission.



31 comments… add one
  • Elizabeth

    This was hands down the best thing I’ve read all month. Testify.

  • paul

    macho is just a differently obsessed thinspo. seek peace and remember that most people think they need you not to.

  • Meg

    Absolutely righteous. I’m the sort of teacher who takes small classes out for chocolate cake after, and prescribes an ice cream bar with restorative poses for stressed-out Moms. Keep on keeping on, sister x

  • Linda Djupstrom

    Amazing insight so happy Nichole tagged me in on this or I would have missed it. I think my next week yoga classes may include some chocolate time:)


    Just remember that the author of this article is FAT. By fat I mean:


    • ARYA

      Just a reminder that the author of this comment is a TROLL. By that I mean,


    • CeeCee

      Are you serious right now? That comment is really the choice you made today? Of course you are anonymous. You would never say that to someone in person or use your real name online. I really hope you find some peace and joy in your life because with that amount of anger it seems like you are going to miss out on a lot of cool things in life and continue to be unhappy. Good luck to you.

  • John

    Articles like this always make me wonder about the Hatha yoga pradipika 2.19

  • colleen

    The message from Obeast is offensive and mean not everyone who does not buy into the thin marketing of yoga that is currently fashionable is fat. I for one am thin and fit in my fifties and have practiced yoga for twenty years, yoga is a doctrine not a fad nor is it about shaming people. It is a practice of self acceptance and the acceptance of others, learning to live and tolerate each other to make this world a better place. Obviously this is something that you are missing in your practice.

  • Melitta

    OBEAST’s comment is offensive and I hope will be deleted. First, the author is not fat or obese. Someone needs an eye exam. Second, even if the author were fat, SO WHAT?

    I loved her article. Fun! And thought-provoking, too.


    I imagine that you are obese, judging by your defensive response.

    Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:19:
    When the nadis become free from impurities, and there appear the outward signs of success, such as lean body and glowing color, then one should feel certain of success(in yoga).
    My commentary:
    Clearly, the first teachers of hatha yoga knew that a fat body is unhealthy. This verse clearly states that if you are overweight, your practice of hatha yoga is UNSUCCESSFUL. Fat people should not teach yoga.

    Thank you, John, for the great reference.

  • Fiz

    Wow thank you so much for writing this. So important and necessary. Good work.

  • Hello it’s me, I am also visiting this website daily, this
    web site is genuinely nice and the viewers are actually sharing pleasant thoughts.

  • Jeanne

    Yep! The pressure is hard to be thin on a yoga class. But I don’t want to be thin. The picture is beautiful by the way.

  • Great article. Telling a truth that is important to tell. As a personal trainer and Pilates instructor (and yoga follower), I feel that there is so much more to living in your body and loving it than how thin you are, or how you look in a swimsuit!

  • Terri H

    “Don’t give your money to studios or gyms whose marketing feeds the culture of fear and inadequacy. If the language coming from a place implies that there must be something wrong with you that they can fix, remember what DJ Unk said in 2006 and Walk It Out, away from there.”

    This right here is everything that needs to be said about yoga culture in the US.

  • Vicki

    There is everything beautiful and joyful found in these paragraphs.

    My heart fluttered reading “Slaughter cantaloupes. Peel potatoes for homemade gnocchi like you mean it. Making dumplings from scratch is aerobic, especially if you walk to the corner store for eggs. Fait accompli.” I thought that was my favorite part, but then I kept reading and couldn’t decide.

    It’s all perfect.

  • Nice picture and good article! There’s more to life than fitness, slim down or bikinis. And yoga can help us understand that.

  • Rhi

    “because my resting bitchface happens on its own” ha 🙂

  • Sarah

    For the people quoting the Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:19 and taking that to mean yoga has to go with being skinny to be successful and healthy: Ancient traditional yoga practice was for ascetics. People who did not live as part of society at all, or almost at all, and who dedicated themselves to stringent body- and mind-focused one-minded practises with the aim of realising the connections between body and mind in order to *transcend* the body in the direction of enlightenment. Not *be healthy* in the body. There is very little in yoga scriptures about *being healthy*, and there isn’t a connection between leanness and health in there, and that certainly isn’t the overarching goal either way. People who practice yoga and participate in society and aren’t ascetics – or even just different lineages of yoga – have other ways of making the doctrine work for them, and there is room for other goals in it. If health is your goal, the shaming and obsession that comes from ‘thinspiration’ is healthy for pretty much no one, and is hurtful to many. If your goal is transcending in some way, or even just using yoga to reconnect with existent and the interconnection of your mind and body and those around to, then ‘thinspiration’ is unhelpful because it is obsessed with crafting a particular aesthetic ideal and is only skin deep.

  • liezl


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