How Standing Out in a Room of Skinny Yogis Spurred this Teacher’s Body Acceptance
Subscribe to Outside+ now to get unique access to all of our content, including sequences, instructor tips, video lessons, and much more. Return to Yoga for Everyone’s Body Please accept our gratitude for your support of our journalistic coverage of yoga for every body on behalf of Patagonia. I was 12 years old when I distinctly recall feeling ashamed of my body for the first time. I was at a weight-loss meeting with my mother (who had never weighed more than 100 pounds in her life), impatiently awaiting my turn for a weigh-in when I realized what had happened.
I’d shed a pound and a half in total!
However, as I turned to leave, my smile was interrupted by the appearance of an unexpected, out-of-place face: my sixth-grade math instructor.
The fact that I was by a decade—or perhaps by two or three years—the youngest person at the conference was humiliating enough.
- I was numb and disgusted with myself at the time.
- My parents, like so many others, were brought up to place a high value on thinness, and they passed that value on to me.
- One thing they were correct about, albeit perhaps not in the way they intended: fat prejudice is still alive and strong in the United States.
- I decided to try it since it had been recommended as a treatment for my persistent migraines, and I figured I had nothing to lose.
- Attempting a movement practice for goals other than weight reduction was the first time I’d attempted one.
- Nonetheless, I remained in the back of the room, attempting to be as little as possible.
- Because it was only myself and the teacher in an afternoon session, I decided to move my mat to the middle of the room for the first time.
My thoughts turned to finding an escape route, but there was none available.
It was a miserable situation.
I was enraged by how easily they were going to be able to locate yoga.
It turned out that they were skinny and fit, but that they were not supple and coordinated in the manner that yoga requires.
“Do things in this manner.” I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced a more satisfying moment in my life.
This demonstrated to me many important truths: that I was capable of being present in my body and responding to it, that being connected to and not hating my body was feasible, and that yoga played a significant role in assisting me in achieving these objectives.
Yoga, on the other hand, had been establishing the groundwork the entire time, urging me to pay attention to what was going on in my body in the present moment.
I was able to transform my story from one of Me vs My Body to one of a pleasant, conversational connection with my body as a result of the combined efforts of yoga and body acceptance training.
I began to doubt whether or not this was truly true.
Accepting your body is a process that begins with your thoughts but continues with your body.
Once you have shifted into a body-led state, your body will be able to direct you toward long-term transformation.
In addition, see Curvy Yoga: 3 Ways to Make Space for Your Belly in Any Pose for more information.
Guest-Jelley urges others to “take life by the curves” as a writer, yoga instructor, and advocate for women’s empowerment and body acceptance.
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About Body Positive Yoga
You may practice yoga while honoring your own body — the one that you are now in. Personalized, adaptive practice and mindful transitions are important components of my instruction. My goal is to help you give yourself permission to appreciate the body you bring to the mat today while also being empowered to learn about the body’s wisdom and power. I blend my seminars and retreats with the fundamental ideas of equality, agency, consent, bodily sovereignty, and radical compassion, as well as the principles of radical compassion itself.
- I prefer to have a good time and demonstrate to you that moving your body does not have to be a burden.
- Yogis in non-yoga settings such as libraries, parks, festivals (and even the internet!) are among my favorites, and I frequently provide free and easily accessible courses that are suitable for all bodies.
- I am a trainer for the Accessible Yoga organization.
- I’m located in Baltimore, Maryland, and I travel all over the world to teach workshops and organize retreats on various topics.
- In the Clubhouse, I work with people to help them develop unshakable confidence, make peace with their bodies, and enjoy life to the fullest extent possible.
- Begin by visiting this page.
Body positivity advocate Jessamyn Stanley on how to ace yoga, whatever your size
Yogi expert Jessamyn Stanley demonstrates how to flow no matter what your size is. Jessamyn Stanley was apprehensive about her first yoga lesson. “When people tell me that their first yoga session was dreadful, I tell them ‘I feel you,’ because I felt the same way,” the internationally renowned yogi, Instagram celebrity, and body acceptance campaigner says in a soothing tone. “I feel you,” she adds. Fortunately for the rest of the world, Jessamyn persisted. From her home in Durham, North Carolina, the 30-year-old now travels the world teaching yoga, and she is slowly but steadily changing the perception of what it means to have a ‘yoga body.’ Since beginning her practice seven years ago, she has amassed a fan base of 366k followers on Instagram, mostly as a result of her inspiring and straight-talking Instagram postings.
Jessamyn’s path, on the other hand, hasn’t always been as smooth as one of her compelling home flow videos would have you believe.
Then there were the difficulties she encountered after realizing that she did not conform to the white, thin ‘ideal’ of a typical yogi.
“It was a really isolating experience,” says the author.
According to her, the experience “allowed me to explore within myself for solutions to the questions I had been looking out into the world for.” She credited it with giving her the confidence to drop out of graduate school, which she described as “miserable,” and with assisting her in grieving after her aunt passed away shortly after.
- To begin, she used Google to progressively expand her repertoire of postures from the 10 easy ones she already knew how to execute, gradually increasing her confidence.
- The rest, as they say, is history.
- This prompted her to utilize the platform as a chance to question people’s preconceptions.
- ‘If it wasn’t for yoga, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with it all,’ she says.
- Make an effort.
- The author admits that it’s “very easy in life to simply stay within the boxes that you’ve created for yourself.” “I think it’s incredibly important to be yourself,” Jessamyn says.
- It is up to you to maintain control over your emotions if others gaze.
Don’t be afraid to show up,” says the instructor.
Pay close attention to what makes you feel wonderful.
It’s possible that you’ll trip.
“It’s likely that you’ll trip and fall a lot,” Jessamyn warns.
Classes may be quite beneficial for learning the fundamentals, but learning to flow on your own is essential.
It won’t set you back any money.
She began out by using her father’s old Pilates mat.
Take caution when using social media.
“However, I don’t want to get overly concerned with every comment and ‘like,'” she says. The cyclone is not immune to me, and it is critical for me to maintain full consciousness at all times.” In the jungles of the world.” Images courtesy of Getty Images and Instagram
Yoga Isn’t Just For Skinny People
I am a yoga instructor in Los Angeles, which is known for being one of the most superficial cities on the planet. Despite the fact that I’m not skinny and that I’m approaching what most people would regard to be middle age, I do not appear to be an Instagram model, nor do I wish to appear to be. I am a yoga instructor who teaches yoga to regular folks. It is common for me to be met with one of two reactions when telling people that I am a yoga instructor. “Yeah? I can’t practice yoga because I don’t look nice in yoga pants / I don’t look like the yogis I see on the internet / I can’t touch my toes, among other reasons.” Or:”Oh.
You’re a yoga instructor, right?” The fact that someone who looks like me can guide a roomful of people through an hour-long drill makes them seem as though they are startled.
Through my instruction, I hope to demonstrate to others that yoga isn’t only for white, rail-thin fitness models practicing Hanumanasana or Sirsana at the beach in barely-there gear, as you would see on Instagram or in fitness magazines.
The reason behind this is as follows.
Yoga doesn’t care what you look like
For the most part, people’s first exposure to yoga comes in the form of marketing schlock or some aggressively sexualized female (women dominate the yoga business in the United States) performing some amazing yoga postures in some beautiful, exotic locale. Do you still not believe me? Simply go to Instagram and type in the word yoga. According to the most current report, conducted in 2016, more than 28 million individuals practice yoga. By 2020, it is expected that the number will have increased to as much as 55 million.
- Yoga literally translates as “to yoke.” Yoga is a physical activity that involves the union of the body and the breath in a series of movements.
- Nonetheless, as is usual with everything tangible, visible, or worthy of being shared on social media, there are implicit and subtle biases and prejudices that become woven into the fabric of the activity over time.
- Should you practice yoga if you do not belong to a certain race or come from a specific background?
- Will you be denied admission if you don’t have the right qualifications?
- It doesn’t matter who you are or what body you have; yoga is for everyone and every body because at its foundation, yoga is about our relationship with ourselves in this now, just as we are, and that is a major ingredient of the wildfire-like development of yoga.
- When I teach yoga, I often make the joke that yoga teachers are innately self-centered individuals.
- Since the beginning of human history, suffering and the desire to be free of agony are universal experiences that everyone can relate to.
- And yoga is effective because it allows us to deliberately reconnect with our bodies, which we frequently lose touch with as we grow older.
- Yoga is about much more than that.
It is all up to you. Yogic practices are suitable for everyone — and every body type — since at its foundation, yoga is about our relationship with ourselves. Photographs courtesy of Getty Images
What about all of the recent controversy around yoga?
For the most part, people’s first exposure to yoga comes in the form of marketing schlock or some aggressively sexualized female (women dominate the yoga industry in the United States) performing some amazing yoga postures in some beautiful, exotic locale. Having doubts about my assertions? Simply open Instagram and type in the word “yoga” to get started. Over 28 million individuals practice yoga according to the most recent data conducted in 2016. By 2020, it is predicted that the number will have increased to 55 million.
- To yoke is the literal translation of the term yoga.
- Rightfully so, as visual animals, we are captivated to gorgeous, muscular bodies doing incredible athletic feats, doesn’t it?
- Should you practice yoga if you don’t have the body of an Instagram model?
- What if you don’t have the correct skin color, the proper yoga attire, the right body structure, the right sex or sexual orientation, or the necessary amount of money to be accepted into the yoga world?
- Answer: Yes, in the simplest form.
- At its foundation, yoga is about our relationship with ourselves, exactly as we are in this now, and that is a fundamental part of the wildfire-like spread of yoga that has occurred in recent years.
- Whenever I am teaching yoga, I like to make the joke that yoga teachers are innately self-centered individuals.
- Since the beginning of human history, suffering and the desire to be free of agony are universal experiences that everyone shares.
- Additionally, yoga is effective because it allows us to deliberately reconnect with our bodies, which we have lost touch with in our modern lives.
- Yoga is about so much more than that.
All of the decisions are in your hands right now! At its foundation, yoga is about our relationship with ourselves, and therefore, yoga is for everyone — and every body — The Getty Images collection contains a variety of images that are available for licensing.
Finding a yoga class that is right for you
In my many years of practice and teaching, I’ve worked in a number of settings. I’ve taught thousands of individuals over hundreds of hours, all of whom have improved their health as a result of my instruction. I’ve worked with both older and younger students. People suffering from depression, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder have benefited from my yoga instruction. I’ve taught yoga to people who are gender fluid, people who are transitioning from one gender to another, LBGTQ communities, and Trump fans, among other groups.
I’ve shared my knowledge with friends and family, as well as my accountant and other strangers on the internet.
Finding a class or a teacher that embraces you is essential.
Try yoga in a variety of places and spaces
It doesn’t matter where you are in your yoga journey; everyone is welcome. When it comes to pursuing peace, the Bhagavad Gita, one of the world’s oldest Sanskrit (and yogic) scriptures, has this to say: “On the road of yoga, no effort is lost, and there is no chance of unwanted effects in pursuing peace.” If you’re interested in giving yoga a try, there are a variety of options for finding a practice with qualified instructors. I’ve taught goat yoga and yoga in breweries to students who had never before seen a downward dog before coming to me.
- In your location, a simple Google search for yoga studios or events should return an abundance of results.
- You may also try yoga for free on the internet.
- You may also try one of the many online yoga choices if you are self-conscious about practicing yoga in a public setting.
- You should be made to feel welcome no matter how you arrive at your mat, with whatever baggage you may be carrying.
If you practice in a physical space, introduce yourself to the teacher
If you are new to yoga and attending your first class at a physical location, step up to the front of the room and introduce yourself to the instructor. Arrive a few minutes early to ensure that you have enough time to talk. Every yoga instructor wants to make new students feel welcome, therefore we will usually spend some time at the beginning of class with those who are new to the practice. When you connect, inform the teacher if you are suffering from any injuries or physical difficulties.
A great teacher will constantly tailor his or her instruction to the individuals present and their ability. The teacher’s goal is to make you feel welcome and comfortable in the environment, regardless of how you feel, how you appear, or what your physical limitations are.
Look for someone who knows how to use props and modify poses
Walking up to the teacher and introducing yourself is recommended if you are new to yoga and attending your first session at a physical location. Arrive a few minutes early to ensure that you have enough time to talk with your colleagues or friends. We spend some time with new students at the beginning of each yoga session since every yoga instructor wants to make them feel welcome. Before connecting, inform your instructor if you are suffering from any ailments or physical difficulties. Always remember that a great instructor will tailor their lessons to the individuals present and their ability.
Find your community
There are a plethora of yoga instructors available. Some of them are well-known on social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. Some of them collaborate with huge companies and businesses to bring their material in front of as many people as possible. There are thousands of various types of people that teach yoga, and there is a teacher out there for every student and every situation. All you have to do is look. You will be connected to other instructors and students who are at the same position in their lives or practices as you will be once you have discovered your community and your teacher.
- Finally, yoga is about connecting your body to your breath in the present moment, which is what the practice is all about.
- Yoga will gradually and gently alter your life.
- Abigail Bassett is an Emmy-nominated journalist, writer, and producer who specializes on wellness, technology, business, automobiles, travel, art, and culinary topics.
- She works as a freelance writer and yoga instructor in Los Angeles at the moment.
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Valerie Bertinelli Says a Fifth Grade Teacher’s Comment Spurred Lifelong Body Image Issues
- As a result of a statement made by her fifth grade teacher, Valerie Bertinelli has had a problematic relationship with her weight for the majority of her life. In addition to being a newcomer to the entertainment industry, the statement fueled ongoing pressure to reduce weight. Bertinelli, who is 60 years old, is still trying to unlearn that way of thinking.
Valerie Bertinelli has been candid about her difficult relationship with her weight for quite some time. As she recounted in her most recent interview with People, the Food Network star began her career as a chef. “I remember my fifth grade teacher patting me on the tummy and saying, ‘You might want to keep an eye on that,'” Bertinelli remembered of the moment he became acutely aware of his own body. “How could he do such a thing? You can imagine how it feels to be that age and have someone hit you for no apparent reason.
- She earned the part of Barbara Cooper on the popular comedy One Day at a Time when she was just 15 years old.
- “I wasn’t,” she stated emphatically.
- “However, I was persuaded to believe that I may benefit from losing a few pounds, as in, “Let’s see if we can get you into a lower size.” Because of these pressures, she embarked on a destructive road of “constantly striving to be better,” she explained.
- “I’m allowed to feel enraged for that young kid now,” she added.
- Her ultimate objective is to come to terms with the fact that she is who she is at any size.
“At this point in time.” She went on to say, This implies you’ll have to undertake some inside work.” Fortunately, I’ve mastered the art of covering it up and eating through it.” That kind of reflection takes time, but she has found inspiration in the body positivity movement, which has been pioneered by celebrities like as Lizzo and Ashley Graham.
In the event that someone makes a negative comment about their body, they might respond with, ‘Screw you, I’m gorgeous.’ Those are phrases I would hope to be able to utter one day.” She’s working on it, and she’s discovering other ways that will help her along the road.
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The intersection of yoga and body image is the subject of a ground-breaking gathering of varied voices. Erica Mathernever grew up in the Midwest in the 1980s, and she always felt like she belonged. The brunette remembers being “tall, busty, and brunette in a place where blondes were the norm.” As a result of the pressure to perform well as an athlete and to conform to the images she saw in women’s magazines, “my mind spiraled out of control and created horrible body faults when I had none,” she claims in her memoir.
But it wasn’t until she discovered yoga in her mid-20s that she began to see signs of improvement in her body dysmorphia, which she attributed to treatment, close friendships, and the passage of time.
As Erica puts it: “Yoga is a practice that teaches us to be present with what is happening right now, and it offers us the tools to interact with and handle what is happening right now.” In the context of body image, this is accepting your body as it is and not attempting to modify it in any way.
Erica developed the first Adore Your Body Telesummit last year, which was inspired by the rising discourse about body image in the yoga community.
With more than 700 attendees, the summit prompted Erica to imagine hosting a live event centered on yoga to promote body positivity—a gathering that would include the voices of yoga teachers and practitioners of all shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities, and abilities—and bringing them together in one place.
- “When I first entered the discourse around body positivity, I was unsure of my authority to speak up because I am a very slender, possibly attractive, and unquestionably white woman,” Erica explains.
- “I wanted to provide a safe area where people could begin to have these dialogues.” The following is the tale of Dianne Bondy: I grew up in a little town outside of Toronto with black immigrant parents, which made me stand out in every manner from everyone else in my class.
- These sentiments of loneliness and inferiority were reinforced by the visuals and discussions that overwhelmed me throughout the day.
- I began practicing with my mother when I was three years old.
- Yoga is my passion, and my aim is to share yoga with EVERYBODY on the planet.
- Everybody has yoga in them; it is time to make it a part of our everyday lives.
- Chelsea Roff’s life narrative is as follows: Yoga proved to be a game-changer in my journey to recovery from eating disorders.
- Yoga, which may be thought of as a moving meditation, has taught me to notice and respond to the demands of my body, to cope healthfully with challenging emotions, and to treat my body with kindness.
- However, I believe it is vital to point out that the culture around yoga in our nation might exacerbate issues with food and body image.
Chelsea Jackson Roberts’s life narrative is as follows: To be honest, by the time I attended my first yoga class, my body had already undergone two decades of mockery for being too big, too curvaceous, or simply not the correct body type for the kinds of places that little girls typically dream of fitting into while they are growing up.
- After all, there were only one or two women of color on the cover of a certain yoga magazine that I obsessively read before getting the courage to walk into the first class that I attended in person.
- Despite the fact that I am in my second decade of practicing yoga and teaching in communities, my body is still challenged by individuals who are not accustomed to seeing people with full bodies move in certain ways.
- I am constantly reminded that my body is always being scrutinized.
- In addition to serving on the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, Chelsea Jackson Roberts is a yoga educator who specializes in working with underrepresented and underprivileged communities.
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How This Millennial Brings Body Positivity To Her Yoga Practice
Allie Mullin provided the photograph. Meet Jessamyn Stanley, a 30-year-old yoga devotee who strives to shatter yoga clichés by demonstrating that women of various shapes, sizes, and races can benefit from the practice of yoga. The Smithsonian Museum is hosting Stanley’s Yoga X Hip Hop: A Cross-Cultural Conversation class this month. You might remember Stanley from her advertising and commercials with Target and Kotex, or you might have signed up for her class at the Smithsonian this month. In any case, Stanley is getting notoriety for his efforts to spread the message that yoga should be accessible to everyone.
As a body positive yoga instructor, she takes satisfaction in encouraging her students to appreciate their physical appearances and to ask themselves “How do I feel?” rather than “How do I look?” when practicing yoga, which is not the standard in most yoga studios today.
She got fascinated by how self-satisfying the yoga practice was, and she began to observe her progressive spiritual awakening as a result of it.
She made the decision to create her own home practice because she wished to practice more frequently.
In order to continue to grow through her practice, Stanley decided to enroll in the 230-hour Teacher Training Program offered by Kimberley Puryear of Asheville Yoga Center, blog on a consistent basis about her yoga lifestyle, and offer tips and advice to other yoga practitioners on a variety of topics.
She mostly communicates her teachings of self-love through her social media accounts, where you can find her discussing everything from the newest yoga stance she has accomplished to her ideas on her own body and the intersectionality of religion and yoga, among other topics.
I recently had the pleasure to chat with her about her wellness journey, favorite mantra, and how she practices continual self-care.
Zoe Litaker provided the photograph.
When and why did you first start practicing yoga, and what motivated you to do so?
I began practicing yoga on a regular basis during a particularly tough period in my life, as did (what appeared to be) the majority of others.
I was a graduate student in a program that didn’t exactly match my ever-changing aspirations, and I was also dealing with the loss of a long-term relationship.
I had actually done Bikram yoga once previously when I was in my twenties, but my experience had been so terribly bad that I nearly didn’t listen to my friend’s recommendation.
I would recommend it to everyone.
I almost completely quit practicing when I moved to Durham, North Carolina in summer 2012.
It took about a year before I was able to establish what is now a (mostly) daily home practice that I am committed to.
I first became acquainted with Vinyasa flow yoga through online sessions on yogaglo.com, and this form of sequencing has become a staple of my own practice ever since.
Fluker: Besides being an experienced yoga instructor, you are also a wellness champion who promotes the benefits of yoga.
Stanley: It is important to my general survival that I prioritize self-care, and I consider it to be my primary aim in every moment of my existence.
Teal’s foamy bath and Epsom salts on hand for when the mood strikes.
I disconnect from social media and as much technology as I possibly can on a regular basis.
I also try to spend as much time outside as possible since the sun is good medicine.
Question from Fluker: What is your favorite yoga position?
Fluker: As a body positive advocate, what are some prejudices that you may have come across while practicing yoga and found offensive?
Stanley: I receive a lot of feedback on my social media presence, and a lot of it is about how my physique defies a lot of the stereotypes about who can and cannot practice yoga.
People who claim that they made the mistake of thinking that yoga was something only slender white females were permitted to do.
Zoe Litaker provided the photograph.
Stanley says, “Within yourself, you will find the solutions to all of your questions.” Fluker: What are some common myths and misunderstandings around yoga?
Stanley: Because of the commercialization of yoga, the majority of the population is completely unfamiliar with the practice.
People are always claiming that there is a difference between spiritual and non-spiritual yoga; however, this is not true, as all yoga should be considered a spiritual practice.
To my mind, it’s the most significant and genuinely infuriating misconception: that yoga has been recast as a luxury workout fad for rich people rather than as a life practice that should be taken by everyone.
When did you first notice that you were in love with your body?
Prior to developing a more in-depth yoga practice, my perspective of my body image may be directly linked to the representations of beauty I saw in the popular media.
It is my commitment every day to rise above the cacophony of our society in order to see the inherent beauty that exists within each and every living thing on this planet, including myself.
Stanley: I’d like to offer two suggestions.
Stop imagining that it should or could look any different or better than it does right now, and instead accept it as it is.
When practicing yoga, the only thing you should be aiming for is to reach a state of relaxation.
This is a mindset that needs to be changed. Our curves give us strength and power; don’t undermine that strength by believing in negativity that has been endorsed by society.