The first time I rolled out a mat, I wasn’t doing yoga. I was in the midst of my senior year of high school. I had suddenly realized my body was not ideal and that I was supposed to do something about that before I went to college if I ever wanted anyone to love me. So I ate saltine crackers all day until I had dinner with my parents so they wouldn’t know anything was wrong. In between I punished myself with exercise.
This narrative is all too familiar. I am not unique. Our culture has broken our connections to our bodies. Children who are still growing and changing are developing eating disorders. Disordered eating seems to be the norm, a rite of passage, especially for women in this culture. It is maddening.
Occassionally in class I will ask my students to introduce themselves to the group and state why they have come to yoga or why they keep coming. Fairly often I hear to lose weight or get back in to shape. After class this week, one of my students came to me to ask if yoga is a realistic way to lose weight.
It is difficult for me to approach this question. Because short answer is: yes. It can work. It depends on many factors, but it is possible, though sometimes slow. That’s the short answer.
The long answer is, that’s not what yoga is about. Although I started my journey with weightloss in mind, yoga has become so much more to me. It is a precious practice that has taught me and transformed me into the woman I am today. It has also helped me to come to the realization of what absolute bullshit weightloss and the diet industry are in general.
Yoga is often coopted by the diet industry to sell the next fad pill in the name of health. Recently, I have seen a campaign against Daily OM advertising a 21 Day Yoga Body. Years ago, I would have fallen right in to that trap.
#Repost @embodylovemovement ・・・ @DailyOm, please STOP using the sacred practice of yoga as a ploy to capitalize on insecurities. There is no 21 day yoga shred. There is no yoga body. If you have a body it is suitable for yoga. Shred your message! #embodylovepatrol #embodylove #yoga #bodyimage #bodypositivity #bodypositive
There is hope. There are so many beautiful body positive warriors out there in the internet and on mats around the world fighting against this rhetoric. One of my favorites is “Every Body is a Yoga Body” by the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. Dianne Bondy, founder of Yoga for All, has been an inspiration to me in my teaching and I look forward to taking her online training this Spring.
It will take all of us to get on board to make acceptance a part of our community. Yoga is not about creating an army of cookie cutter health nuts. It is about boiling ourselves down to our essence and connecting with that same authentic space in each other.
I envision the future of yoga (and idealistically, the future of our culture) as a place where our body is nothing other than what carries our soul through the world. Small, large, healthy, weak, strong, broken, it has no bearing on the person beneath the skin. Maybe if we stop demonizing bodies, stop look at our own bodies with hatred, we will start to heal.
Feel free to share your stories and resources with me in the comments and share my story with anyone you think it might help.Here are a few other resources I have found helpful in my journey towards body acceptance in myself and others: