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Curvy Yogis Aim To End ‘Yoga Body’ Stereotypes

in YD News

jessamyn-backbend

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?

biggalyoga

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.

supportiveyoga

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.”

jessamyn-nolatree-crow

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:

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18 comments… add one
  • I think yoga is for everybody, it’s enjoyable and should not be stereotyped – instead I think it should be promoted as a good way to approach relaxation and mobility.

    Good post 🙂

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  • VQ2

    “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.”

    A little too easy to find a “faux-ga” studio in New York City.
    First thing you must do, is vet them philosophically.
    This goes even before you set foot in a class.
    Even if they must teach an edge-seeking practice, make sure they know that one “edge” does not fit all.

    Then, the issue of size.
    Let the games begin …

    You win if YOU find the right studio first.
    Let that “Iyengar place you need” that they tell you, be your idea first.

  • So good!

  • Thomas

    Very happy to see that. It was like, yoga is only for the skinny people. I’m not so much skinny as well and started yoga a while ago. When seeing these images, these girls are very bendable. Nice. I’m practicing but can not bend as much till today. Might be just the genes 🙂 Are leggings or loose fit yoga pants like these http://esiamcenter.com/cheap-yoga-pants-c-77/ more suitable for yoga?

    • VQ2

      I don’t know men’s fashion, Thomas, but maybe you could tell me why there is so much spam on this particular thread. And, are you part of the problem?

  • Melitta Rorty

    Overall great article, but I think if you are going to promote yoga for EVERY body then you should not use the pejorative term “ilk” (as in thin, white ilk) to describe human beings. Not cool, not compassionate.

  • Asananine

    Yes, noticed that term “thin, white ilk” as well. In another article above, a 92 year old is justifiably celebrated and their “body” is one characteristic deemed “incredibly inspirational”. If she were younger however, she would be classified as that certain ilk. It is possible to promote inclusion of all without being derisive of any race, class or group.

    • VQ2

      I’ve got a problem with the word “inspirational”.
      What is inspirational for a minority of yoga people, is aspirational for the majority.
      Entropy at whatever age, is a thing.
      And aging, infirmity and death happens, no matter how many talismanic “advanced (in asana only)” poses you throw at it.

  • Kyle

    Posts like this have been coming up everywhere, and I would like to provide my opinion.

    Exactly what is it going to take for fat yogis to feel as though they have been accepted?

    Should those who have worked hard to attain great bodies shame themselves?

    “Sadly, we’re still at a point where we need photographic reminders that yoga is for every body.”
    – Who exactly is we? What I think you really mean is that you feel like you don’t receive the same amount of validation as the woman in front with a “great bod” and this upsets you. The woman with the great bod has worked harder than you, and has earned everything. She didn’t crawl out of the womb skinny and fit, and you didn’t crawl out of the womb overweight.

    While all body types are most certainly welcome and encouraged to participate, Yoga is not a bastion for fat acceptance and celebration.

    If you want to be fat, then by all means live your life how you see fit. But don’t complain when you don’t get as many likes on your Instagram page.

    All of this comes from a place of compassion in my heart, and wanting others to lead healthy, vibrant lives.

    Namaste,

    Kyle

    • VQ2

      What about these women’s preternatural talent and open hips bothers you, KYLE?
      Why do you swallow, unquestioningly, Cosmopolitan Magazine’s ideas of what an “aesthetically appealing” woman looks like? Why do you think women of every size cannot choose to exercise in the way they want? What about the LIES of yoga, to begin with?

      Yoga’s dirty little secret is that more advanced postures are not about size or strength–except when an average sized or larger person has developed a beyond-probability amount of upper-body strength due to heredity and obsessive training.

      Did you stop to think, KYLE, that she DID lose 70 pounds doing Yoga and eating (more than a bit) cleaner, but does not talk about that widely?

  • Hippy

    Yoga, in my experience, is completely body shaming. Prime example: A woman at my yoga studio tragically committed suicide. I didn’t know her, when people described her to me, to a person they said: “She had really large hips.” It was then that I started practicing in the privacy of my own home. Zen? All inclusive? BS!

  • k4k

    Kyle: Your comment shows an ignorance of basic physiology. Some people are born with more active metabolisms. They tend to be thinner without really trying. Some people have lower thyroid hormone levels and more easily gain weight. Our natural bodies are influenced both by genetics and environment. Please don’t be so judgmental of people who struggle with body acceptance in today’s western culture.

    Hippy: You should definitely change studios if people generally think that way. I have found people at my studio to be very accepting of diverse body types.

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