Picture someone who practices yoga, who do you see?
Did you picture a young, beautiful, flexible, thin, Caucasian woman? Do you think she can recite the Bhagvad Gita in Sanskrit while doing a one-handed handstand?
Yes, there is a Yogi stereotype and it makes me cringe. Where do I fit in? Can a size fourteen black woman fit in amongst what the media has created as the ultimate yoga beauty standard?
What about Yoga for the rest of us? What about the non-white, size 14, over 35 year old woman, who can’t fit into anything Lululemon (well maybe the headband)? Just sayin’. Whenever people meet me and I tell them I do yoga they seem shocked and even judgmental about my size. Then I kick up into handstand and I say: take that.
Every Yoga teacher training I take I am awash in all of this.
I instantly feel out of place and uncomfortable in my own skin, my brown skin. It has come to my attention that not many black folk do yoga, let alone train teachers and own a yoga studio. I am certainly in the minority. I like to think of myself as a trail blazer. I have never seen a yogi like myself on the front of Yoga Journal. The images perpetuated by the media seem to set the same ideal we see in fashion magazines. I thought Yoga would help us step aside from all of this.
Come as you are to your mat!
My first yoga experience was practicing at my mother’s side at the age of six. I rediscovered it in my late twenties after years of killing myself in the gym trying to look perfect. Yoga has taught me that I am perfect just the way I am. Yoga has helped me deal with growing up in a dysfunctional and abusive household.
I am not all those horrible things I was called when I was growing up.
I am a beautiful divine being deserving of love and happiness, even if I feel look like I don’t fit. Yoga has helped me break the cycle of abuse that so many people find themselves in. I am happily married to a wonderful man who cherishes me. We have two beautiful children together.
As I step into the future of yoga, I step away from lots of things, and evolve the practice of my own heart. What I will remember is what I tell my students all the time; stand in your own power. Root down through your feet, firm your legs, lengthen your spine and open your heart to the possibility that you are perfect as you are no matter what the media or society tells you. Sometimes we lose sight of that and we get caught in that idea that yoga is a function of beauty, when yoga is an expression of beauty, discipline, sacrifice and love. Yoga teaches us to feel with our hearts and experience with our bodies.
Remember everyone can do yoga. We breathe, we feel, we stretch, and we connect fully to ourselves, even if we don’t look like a supermodel.
Featured imaged photo contribution: Dianne Bondy
Editor: Tanya L. Markul
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