Body Image is important. There’s no way around it. The yoga world is filled with beautiful bodies, and yet few of us have the bodies we think we want. So how do we meet this challenge? For many (including Yoga Journal) this is a topic worthy of discussion. As most yoga practitioners are women, and I believe women often feel unfairly judged on their looks, the most vocal participants in this discussion are indeed women. For what it’s worth, and I hope you won’t mind my chiming in, I’d like you to know that you’re not alone. Men (or at least I) struggle with body-image issues, as well.
Whenever I teach workshops, people invariably ask if they can take photos or videos. My response is always the same: “Yes, so long as I’m smiling and I look thin.” I’m being playful, of course, and it always gets a good laugh, but part of me is not really kidding. I wish I did look thinner in pictures! Not to mention happier. One of my long-standing studio-owner friends recently joked back, “I guess we’d better throw away the whole lot then!” We both laughed. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t sting a little.
I dislike the way I look in pictures, especially now that I’m getting older. My body has changed, and in my mind, not for the better. Every image is painful reminder of the way I actually look — the way others see me. And yet they are fairly accepting of me for who I am, so why can’t I be? Perhaps this needs to be part of my practice of Santosha — contentment with what is.
Paralleling my personal struggles, Three Minute Egg® as a company has image concerns of its own. We seek to reach all kinds of people, have plans to engage “models” who more broadly represent the diverse group of yogis we’re trying to reach. When I first started working with my main model, Carrie, I felt very self-conscious about her look. I was concerned about the image I might be projecting as a company, because on the surface, Carrie is a pretty iconic California blonde. But getting to know her as I have over the years, she defies those stereotypes. Furthermore, she, too, expresses insecurities about her looks! Carrie is sought after as both a model and a teacher. Part of me thinks, ‘if she’s insecure about her looks, what hope is there for the rest of us?’ The irony is the main attraction of Carrie for me is not her looks. I chose her because of the quality of her practice, her creativity, and the joy I experience collaborating with her. When I watch her practice, it’s her Upeksha — even-mindedness — that speaks to me.
I think we can all agree that positive body image is not easy to attain. Fortunately yoga offers us several opportunities for growth. The asanas provide us with a direct experience of progressively positive body changes; and the spiritual principles guide us to become more accepting of ourselves, and others. The only thing standing between us and a positive self-image… is practice!
Here are some yoga bloggers doing great work on this subject. We at Three Minute Egg® love not only what they say, but how they say it.
As you can expect from the name, YogaDork has a sense of humor. We like that. The practice of yoga can be serious business for most of us, but if we can’t savor the fruits of our labors with some fun (but always relevant) news and analysis, then we run the risk of getting lost in our belly buttons — and we know how dark it can get in there.
YogaDork is timely and topical, dissecting the news of the day in ways that yogis can best absorb — through insightful comments that always get to the heart of the matter, while keeping us focused on what’s really important in yoga. YogaDork may stray occasionally into snarkiness, but always with the best of intentions. By shining a spotlight on yoga news and references in the mainstream press and in obscure places, this yoga blogger delivers a positive message: that yoga matters and it’s growing.
It’s a message we at Three Minute Egg® hope to emulate and a method that inspires us. Yoga does matter. It is good for our bodies. We care about all yogis and yoginis because doing yoga makes our world a better place.
Anna Guest-Jelley is the face and founder of Curvy Yoga. Having suffered from low self-esteem herself, she knows how much yoga has helped her body image and how little support there is in the yoga world for people like her.
Anna makes it real for the majority of men and women who don’t romp around the studio with the “perfect” body. Her loving, all-embracing attitude toward yogis — and especially yoginis — of all shapes and sizes make her instantly likeable. We fell for her charm and wit right away. Like Three Minute Egg®, Anna knows that your body is not square.
Anna is a champion of accepting your body. She’s comfortable talking about it through her posts and poses aimed at yoga students and teachers alike. CurvyYoga.com provides online support for practicing yoga and for improving your body-positive outlook. Serious and lighthearted at the same time, she promotes her love of yoga to everyone — no exceptions and no excuses.
Canadian yoga blogger Roseanne Harvey isn’t afraid to tackle tough questions on her blog It’s All Yoga, Baby. She fires up her readers by writing about issues and activism, but since she’s Canadian, she does it in a nice way, something we like. She questions the status quo too, another characteristic we admire. She’s a proud feminist who finds her truth through yoga.
Like Anna Guest-Jelley, Roseanne believes a positive body image is the main criteria for having a successful yoga practice. To her, it’s not about how others see you, but how you view yourself. She empowers yoginis around the world to love the body they were given and to move it gracefully through every pose.
Carol Horton is a writer, teacher, activist… and an intellectual. Her deep thoughts and insightful commentary will get you thinking. In her blog, she examines the contradictions that too often plague the yoga industry. Yet she maintains a positive outlook, as if she expects yoga’s growing popularity to throw a few detours and distractions on the path to harmony and union.
She deals with it by inspiring her readers. A positive body image is tantamount to the practicing yogini. It’s a message infused in all her teachings. Carol also practices what she preaches: In addition to leading successful yoga workshops and classes, she gives away the wisdom from her experiences — in person and in her regular blog posts.
Our final shout-out comes in the form of a nod to a book about yoga and body image called, you guessed it, Yoga and Body Image. Sections of the book are available online, although we recommend that you get the whole thing. It tells 25 personal stories from such yoga luminaries as Sean Corn, Bryan Kest, Linda Sparrowe, and many more. There’s even a story by Alanis Morissette.
The stories revolve around the message that yoga is good for everyone, regardless of your shape or size, regardless of what anyone else might tell you. Visit the website for a preview of the book. Edited by Melanie Klein and Anna Guest-Jelly, Yoga and Body Image (Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd, 2014) promises positive messages and heartfelt sincerity.
Yoga bloggers dedicate giant amounts of time exploring issues that affect their world, hoping to have a positive influence on the whole world. On the subject of body image, these contributions can’t help but become profoundly personal. Through positive reinforcement, creative solutions and an open dialogue we can all continue to benefit from their efforts. We hope you’ll carve out some time to visit their blogs and add to the discussion.