Most of you all know I love yoga. I read yoga blogs, Yoga Journal, yoga books, yoga websites, subscribe to yoga youtube channels and check out yoga pictures daily. I love seeing the amazing things people are doing around the world with their bodies and minds. It makes me happy when a blogger I follow can reach a stage of an asana that (s)he has dreamed of doing.
I love learning all I can about this ancient practice and have made practicing a daily habit. I have started catching myself when I do not so yogic things. Yoga is changing my life. Literally.
It’s no secret that I enjoy yoga. However, I am critical of it. I am critical of western yoga specifically. I love that it is becoming popular in the west. I love that people who wouldn’t have access to it before are gaining entry, like myself. I love that there are an array of yoga studios to try out and find what really fits different personalities. I love the teachers I have met.
However, I am critical of all these things as well. I am critical of yoga-celebrities. Although, I admit to following a few. I am critical of Lululemon. However, I did purchase #themat from them. I am critical of how yoga is perceived to be a ‘skinny, white, young, flexible girl hobby’ although in some regards I fit the mold. I am critical that there aren’t more people of color and more sizes of people in studios.
Western yoga is often critiqued as being a big capitalist business. And to some extent it is. Yoga teachers gotta eat and pay rent too, ya know? Spiritual enlightenment don’t pay the bills.
So I get that. What I don’t get is the exclusion of voices from some teachers, studios and supposed yoga companies (Lulu I am looking at you). There have been accusations of guru Bikram saying ‘blacks don’t get his yoga’ and that yoga isn’t for overweight people. Is that inclusive? Is that how western yoga wants to market itself?
A yoga friend of mine told me a story about when she traveled to a new studio. The instructor told her that she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the class and should come to a beginner class later in the day. The instructor, according to my friend took one look at her and decided that yoga wasn’t for her body type. She tried explaining that she had been practicing the primary series for a awhile and was very familiar with it. She was still told to come back. She stayed anyway. She said she spent the next 90 minutes trying really hard to prove herself to the instructor and never found her yoga state of mind.
This friend of mine is an AMAZING yogi. She is strong and gets into more advanced poses than most other people I know. She has a really beautiful practice. However, she was told that yoga wasn’t for her based on a first judgmental glance. I can only imagine how many hopeful new students enter that studio with the desire to learn more about yoga but are made to feel inferior. If my friends first experience ever with yoga was at that studio I wonder if she would be where she is now with her practice, self confidence and demeanor? I wonder how many hopeful students go back to that studio.
As a 5’8 woman who is a size 2 on most days and size 4 on others, I get that I come from a standpoint of weight privilege. When I talk with people about yoga, they don’t question my participation. Often I get told that I ‘look like someone who does yoga.’ I critique and challenge those statements. The fact that yoga has a look is problematic.
I also critique my response to those statements. I need to step up and challenge those statements with a “what do you mean by that exactly? What does a yoga person look like?” Asking those questions allows for conversation and understanding and I need to stop being afraid of being a facilitator of such moments. Having support silently doesn’t do anyone any good. We all have to be the good and live the change if we want the world to get better and western yoga to be more inclusionary.
I support all yogis and their pursuit of happiness and I don’t care where they shop, what size they wear or what income bracket they fit into.
What yoga can do for the mind and body should be shared with the world. It is bigger than all those trivial facts. It should be celebrated. It is for everyone.
Size 18 and want to get your yoga on? Beautiful. Size 0? Beautiful. White? Beautiful. Person of color? Beautiful. 22? Beautiful. 78? Beautiful. Can’t afford or don’t want to support products and studios that are exclusionary? Beautiful. Dog? Beautiful.
Yoga is for anyone who desires to step on their mat and find themselves. That’s the kind of yoga I love.
This post was inspired by a beautiful piece I read over at elephant journal. You should definitely check it out here.
Love, Life, Health, Happiness and a Full belly,