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Petition Calls For Required Body Positivity Training For All Yoga Teachers

in YD News
image via Change.org petition

image via Change.org petition

Should body positivity be a required part of yoga teacher training? A group of socially conscious yogis thinks so. A Change.org petition, started by Jeniffer Zimmerman of “All Bodies Rise Yoga,” is calling for body positivity training to be a required part of all Yoga Alliance-registered schools’ yoga teacher training programs. While Yoga Alliance’s influence has been waning, and their standards frequently questioned, they still currently remain the largest organization recognized for laying out a structure for yoga teacher training at the 200-hr and 500-hr as well as continuing education levels. We assume this is why the petition is targeting them.

With yoga’s increasing popularity, we’ve learned it’s important to make an effort to keep the practice as inclusive and accessible as possible. There’s been a growing awareness around diversity and making yoga a safe space for every body, no matter their race, body type, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability. Some yoga teachers and students have already taken it upon themselves to enroll in additional training to add those extra tools of awareness to their toolbox. This petition is asking for it to be made a requirement for all yoga teachers.

Here’s the full write-up via the Change.org petition:

All Bodies Rise Yoga is asking Yoga Alliance to include body positivity training as a requirement for all registered yoga teachers. The Ellipses Project defines body positivity as, “a radical redefinition and reclamation of the body. It arose in response to Western culture that recognizes only white, able-bodied, heterosexual, and thin bodies as worthy and beautiful. Body positivity must be inclusive and intersectional if it is to make a real change in society.” We would like yoga alliance to adopt  this definition.

The yoga precept of nonviolence (ahimsa) must include a closer examination of how westernized yoga culture has adopted the same harmful beauty standards as popular media, and how this contributes to mass body dysmorphia and body shame. Yoga teachers registered with Yoga Alliance need a minimum of four hours (200RYT) or ten hours (RYT500) of training to learn how to reduce the embodied trauma of narrow, and often unattainable, definitions of beauty that follow our students onto the yoga mat.

Of the total training hours, two hours (RYT200) /five hours (RYT500) will focus on the study of ethics of body positivity, which should include an examination of personal and cultural body biases, body politics, and language. The additional 2 (RYT200) / 5 (RYT500) hours should focus on teaching techniques for body diversity in the classroom, including props and accessibility of poses.

All Bodies Rise Yoga doesn’t have much of a web presence, but it appears to be a collaboration between yoga teachers Heather Heintz and Jeniffer Zimmerman. They describe themselves as “part of the movement that aims to make yoga culture more inclusive, safe, and accessible,” which we gleaned from a Hawaii yoga studio’s website where an ABRY workshop is being held the end of July.

Do you think body positivity training should be required for all yoga teachers?



36 comments… add one
  • S.

    How about if learning how to teach yoga is a prerequisite for YTTs? Most “teachers” don’t even know the fundentals, but just spew new age doggerel, blast music, and put aroma therapy oils on you during savasana.

  • I think it should be part of the training for everyone who works in the fitness field. The personal trainers I’ve met are very kind and sensitive to all the issues mentioned (age, skill level, size, eye), but that doesn’t always extend to group teachers of any class.

  • Norma Desmond

    In some way this smacks of further eating disorder therapy. Let’s all feel good about our bodies. Then let’s go home and starve and binge and purge to feel good and positive about our bodies.

    Much better idea – what about age positivity? Is yoga only for those under 30? 40? 50? 60?

    What about learning enough about postures to suggest modifications?

  • k4k

    I am not sure a petition is particularly useful but those of us who take classes should certainly vote with our money. If I felt that my teacher was negative regarding body shape/size, race, gender, age etc. I would go elsewhere for my yoga.

  • Would not body-positivity already be taught in the concept of Ahimsa? Does it have to be a separate training or addition? And who will be the arbiter of this training? Just askin’.

  • This seems unneccessary. As a yoga teacher, I could care less about the size, age, color of my students! I’m all about making the class accessible to everyone. I’m honestly just thrilled to have students. Maybe I’ve just been lucky and had good teachers, but in 10 years of yoga I’ve never been in a class where anyone’s appearance/shape was an issue. In my opinion, this seems to be a media issue-all the young, white, skinny models, versus a real life issue-at least in the San Francisco Bay Area where people of all types enjoy yoga. However, there are lots of different types of yoga classes, and certain power flow or super active classes may just not be for those not in tip-t0p shape….but that’s the same with any activity. It’s all about finding the right class/activity/sport for your body in the moment. I guess I just think yoga IS more inclusive than the media would have people believe right now.

    • VQ2

      “However, there are lots of different types of yoga classes, and certain power flow or super active classes may just not be for those not in tip-t0p shape….”

      How about we let the student’s temperament dictate just what classes they are going to be attracted to. Don’t let the book be (wrongly) predetermined by its cover.

      I know teachers are sooooo afraid of lawsuits. I’m sooooo sympathetic. (Actually I’m not.) But many of these students know already how to keep their own bodies safe.

      And they will know if they are not getting enough modifications suggested by the teacher to do the class safely to their satisfaction.

      Too bad yoga teachers have to work for their class fees.

  • monica

    It is something that does need to be taught. Just because it is not seen by everybody as an issue doesnt mean it doesnt exist. That is like saying ” I do not see colors, I just see humans” well that is not the world we live in. Many people wont go to yoga because the percieve it as a privledged, white, thin woman thing. Well it is not!
    This is also not a media only subect it is in fact a dailey problem for many.

  • If I was encountering any form of class or group that was not encouraging or embracing all types I think the best reaction is to just not support that place. Use your money to support those who embrace what you do. Dollars are like votes of support.

  • Dwayne

    I disagree with this idea and don’t understand it at all. “Body positivity” seems to lie within the boundaries of counseling/therapy or some such and not within yoga per se (notwithstanding the “you are perfect” psychobabble sometimes affected by yoga instructors). That said, I agree with other posters’ idea of “letting the market decide”…teachers who can’t/won’t adapt to differing levels/physiques/ages, etc. should find their students vanishing.

  • Kyle

    I swear every time I come to this site there is an article about how we need to accept fat yogis.

    It’s a reflection of society wanting to impose on men an attraction to fat women.

    This whole “fat acceptance” movement needs to STOP. Think about the children.

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  • Ireen branders

    If real yoga is taught, all this would not be necessary. The problem these days is that the essence of yoga is no longer there.

  • I think I should also implement these things at my class.

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