Yoga today can be considered trendy, but should more accurately be described as a many-branched ancient practice. Having existed for over 5,000 years, yoga and its philosophies transcend much of today’s modern elements while still representing contemporary life through its different variants. The ubiquitous boutique studios and high-end apparel have caused many Americans to lose sight of what is at the core of yoga. Ancient yoga and its texts were originally in use by priests. Modern yoga has strayed very far from its deepest and most powerful roots.
I believe one’s yoga practice is a time for connection to the self and greater meaning, opportunity for self-reflection, self-acceptance, stress relief, physical fitness, and a means of increasing mental, emotional, and physical awareness – all of these in order to promote optimum health and well-being. It’s a tall order and its multi-dimensionality can not be captured so easily.
1. Yoga does not shame your body.
“Trouble areas” is the least scathing term I have seen recently in yoga marketing and social media. With occasional benign-seeming articles about ways to “get your thighs in shape” or “reduce belly fat”, viewers are primed and desensitized for the more derogatory titles. With gradually-increasing offensiveness (“Yoga Poses for a Perky Booty”), you just may hit the lotto if you look long enough. Want in at the Secrets club? Secret to… “Bikini Prep”, “Lose the Arm Jiggle”, “Look Good Naked”, and comparisons of body parts to wiggly, jiggly, disgusting food items. Although there may be some very substantial and accurate information presented under those titles, the language produced (and accepted) within the fitness world is hurtful and lazy marketing for the sake of profit.
Some IG accounts I highly recommend:
@accessibleyoga – Accessible Yoga
@amberkarnesofficial – Body Positive Yoga
@diannebondyyoga – Yoga for All
@ybicoalition – Yoga & Body Image Coalition
2. There are no quick fixes in yoga.
Once you get past the body-shaming media gauntlet (hoping your beautiful body image lens hasn’t been cracked too badly), those looking to improve their physical fitness must remember that there are simply no quick-fixes. “No Fuss Thigh Slimmer”? No fuss? If you’re not working, your body isn’t changing. I love power yoga, but it’s a separate beast than Yoga (with the capital “Y”). True yoga doesn’t tout fitness goals. It also shouldn’t claim any amount of easy and/or immediate changes. The smooth, rolling river of patience and consistency, winding and bending, is what makes a sustainable and beneficial practice. Your tendency to tighten your shoulders, breathe tightly in your chest, to hurry hurry through days, and to make friction where it isn’t needed – these are the areas where you will see change – with time and effort. Perhaps you’ll make related dietary changes, or your physiological functioning will get an upgrade with more sleep and time outdoors. Slow down, breathe, treat your body well, and live a little more in the realm where love is all you need.
3. Yoga is not your hallway mirror.
Your journey is for you. One of the most precious gifts that yoga can give us is the ability to turn our attention inward. Checking in with our bodies and minds, and subsequently experiencing ourselves without judgment allows us to discover ways in which we can grow. Your personal growth affects those around you as well. With so many people living and breathing their own magazine-style, glossed over personal brands, becoming the and our eyes looking out rather than in, we will not discover all that we could be. The soulful resonance that surges through a deep practice will never be seen in a photo. Human development never ends. Ditch the cameras and mirrors and just be.
4. #DRUNKYOGA. Nope.
5. Trust yourself
My feet do not touch my head in bow pose. My hips refuse to let me stand in a “normal” (looking) Warrior I. But I LOVE planking. If these were parts of a Yoga Profile of a yogi, everyone’s profile would be incredibly varied. Every body’s bones are different lengths and every body’s joints are differently-shaped. Some people simply can’t bend themselves into some postures. That is totally normal.Everyone is on a spectrum of physical abilities, as well. With countless variables affecting one’s yoga practice and body, it is so important to remember to cherish your body and to listen to it. Whether you need a rest or you are able to push yourself a little further, your body will let you know. Trust yourself because yoga is not about “collecting” poses.
6. Yoga was stolen by Lulu Ladies.
Yoga was originally created by men for men. In India for that matter. A bunch of “skinny white girls” doing yoga in the city? Yoga has come a long way and it’s a complex mixed bag of outing sexually predatory “gurus” and abusive teachers, while still being lost inthe sea of cultural appropriation. Although the diversity of those practicing yoga has become a beautiful tapestry of backgrounds, mass media has almost single-handedly white-washed the whole shebang. Over the past few years, some yoga teachers have worked tirelessly to improve yoga representation and increase sensitivity to appropriation. As cute as those “Namastay in bed” tees are, please don’t.
Check out @SuzannaBarkataki for all of your very important cultural appropriation awareness needs.
7. Be (Proud of) Yourself
If you feel so damn proud and want to wear your triple-digit yoga pieces to a class to show off your handstands and take selfies at the front of class, and that’s totally your jam, be you. My jam is practicing yoga with acoustic indie stars serenading me from my phone while wearing some version of pjs and praying the baby is sleeping peacefully. Do what feels like home in your body and what brings you ease, joy, and wonder in your practice.