image via @MyNameIsJessamyn
Sadly, we’re still at a point where we need photographic reminders that yoga is for every body. The good news, however, is there are some folks out there who are dead set on proving it. Thanks to Instagram (thanking Instagram? this won’t happen often), images of yogis with bodies of all shapes and sizes are flooding the Internet, challenging what a typical “yoga body” looks like, or at least what we’ve been told it looks like based on magazines, advertisements and even some of yoga’s top/famous teachers.
When we say yoga is for everybody do we really mean every body?
image via @biggalyoga
We’ve posted about body-positive yogis taking to Insta to make a statement. As the website TakePart points out:
“The hashtags being used on Instagram vary—plus-size yoga, curvy yoga, fat yoga—but the accompanying images of women striking a pose send the same clear message: There is no one typical yoga body.”
And this may be the most important message of all. It’s not about, hey, I have a larger body, look what I can do! It’s more like, hey I have a larger body, and it’s a yoga body, too.
image via @supportiveyoga
Since Instagram’s yoga stars tend to be of the thin, white ilk, a few capitalizing on their popularity with lucrative book deals, it’s refreshing to see a rise of diversity on the social media scene. Jessamyn Stanley, a yoga teacher and writer from North Carolina, has become somewhat of a sensation amassing over 87,000 followers on Instagram (@MyNameIsJessamyn). A self-described “fat femme” body positive advocate, Jessamyn has made news recently for her yoga photos and body-loving message.
“I think it’s intimidating [to see the ‘typical yoga body’ at the front of the class],” she told New York Magazine. “It creates more of an aspirational experience as opposed to an inspirational one. It doesn’t actually elicit what yoga should give people. The whole point of this practice is to burn away the parts of our lives that are built up over the years that don’t matter, and to burn that away to who you truly are.”
image via @MyNameIsJessamyn
Jessamyn shares photos of her own yoga practice to counter the thought that yoga is only for lean and bendy bodies. Due to the nature of the Internet, and the world, she offers advice to those who might feel self-conscious about their bodies and their weight.
“I get emails from people all the time and they say, ‘I’m worried that people are going to be staring at me,’ and I’m always like, ‘They ARE going to be staring at you,’ ” she told NYmag. “That’s just the reality of it. We live in a society where we are trained to think that being overweight is wrong, so people are going to stare at you. They’re going to have ideas about you. The only thing that you can control is your reaction to that.”
As we know, but sometimes forget, yoga isn’t only about asana. And yet, asana is the most visually popular form of yoga, and the most distinct way to portray the practice. Obviously you don’t need to post photos of yourself on Instagram to be body-positive, no matter what size or shape you are, or how many arm balances you can do. The important thing, and what we feel Jessamyn is trying to convey in her public posting, is that “yoga body” does not need to have a single definition, except perhaps that it is just that, a body that does yoga.
“Yoga for everyone,” or every body, may seem like a no-brainer we can all agree on. This commenter via TakePart shows how far we’ve come and how far we have to go:
Jan Hedden: Several years ago, when I weighed 175 (about 25 lbs overweight for my height) I was told by a yoga instructor in an upscale gym that she didn’t think “this was the right class for me” even though I could accomplish each pose with as much ability as any other novice in the class. Years later, and much heavier, I discovered a local studio whose owner is certified in “curvy yoga.” I started practicing again, and discovered what amazing things my body could do when I wasn’t being made to feel ashamed of it.
PS. If you’re interested in learning more or becoming a curvy-informed yoga teacher, there are several places to start. Here are a few:
- Curvy Yoga – training program created by Anna Guest-Jelley
- Yoga For All – training with Amber Karnes, founder Body Positive Yoga & Dianne Bondy, founder Yoga For All
- Body Positive Yoga Home Practice Kit
- Yogasteya – online yoga classes for all body shapes, sizes, and abilities
- Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body – book by Melanie Klein and Anna Guest-Jelley
- Yoga and Body Image Coalition
- Accessible Yoga Conference – September 12-13, 2015
- Headstanding Yoga Dog Poised To Take Over Instagram
- Body Positive Yogis Make a Statement on Instagram
- The Struggle Of The Black Yogi
- First Ever Accessible Yoga Conference Sheds Light on Adaptive Yoga For Everyone
- Seattle Yoga Studio Aims to Embrace Diversity with Accessible, Inclusive, LGBTQ-Friendly Environment