May 23, 2014

Yoga, Swimsuit Season & Shaming. ~ Cindy Zackney


I do not aspire to have abs of steel.

Recently a friend of mine, who is not a yogi, suggested I could get more people to the yoga studio I own in Long Beach CA if I advertised “Summer is coming—get your body in shape for swimsuit season!” Well that kind of message, my friends, is never going to happen.

It has never been, nor will it ever be, my intention to guilt you into exercise.

I don’t care if you ever look like you should be on the cover of a magazine. I couldn’t care less about celebrities who do yoga. In my world view, yoga is not merely exercise, hard bodies, sweating or yoga butts. I certainly don’t aspire to be like people who run shaming campaigns. And neither should you.

The man in the picture is BKS Iyengar, at 85-ish years old, he is one of the fathers of modern-day yoga. He is someone I admire. Not celebrities, models or the latest fitness fads. He is not promoting yoga by posing on the cover of a magazine with 6-pack abs.

He continues in his eighties to teach this 7,000 year-old spiritual practice, asking people to find the true meaning of yoga: self acceptance, self discovery and connection with the Divine. None of this has to do with muscle tone. The physical practice on the mat (asana) is only a means to an end. We intend to create a pain-free body by doing the postures. So then we can sit with a calm mind and contemplate the Divine.

As we progress in our asana practice, our bodies will become stronger, of course. It’s a nice side effect. But I do not aspire to have abs of steel. And I do not intend that for my students either.

If local yoga studios, fitness centers or trainers in your city are using guilt to talk people into taking classes, I’d say it’s time to start a conversation about shaming campaigns, and the true harm these tactics are doing to our spirits.

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Photo: Provided by the Author

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Cindy Zackney