When I walked up to Inner Evolution Yoga, the studio I teach at, last week, I was smacked in the face with a huge poster of myself on the door, advertising my Beginner’s Workshop.
OK, the poster really is not that big, but it felt enormous and I immediately felt uncomfortable seeing myself blown up for everyone to see as soon as they walked up to the door of the studio.
My automatic thoughts were negative and right away went to picking my appearance apart.
You see, although I know it is irrational and mostly self-created, I often fear that I don’t “look” like a yogini or much less a yoga teacher.
As enlightened as I strive to be, as much as I try not to let my ego creep into my practice or my teaching, as good as I think my self-esteem is (and, I really do like myself) I still struggle with body issues and fearing that I don’t necessarily fit the yoga teacher image.
And what is that anyway? And who created it? And why do I believe it?
I know I have my own mind and my own free will, but I can’t help but put some of the blame on the media. Print media and social media on the whole seem to give most attention to gorgeous, white and seemingly fit yoginis, who can bust out beautiful poses. And while I have nothing negative to say about these beautiful women and their practice, I know that is not where I am at, and that does not make me any less of a yogini. I also know, yoga does not always look like that for everyone, but why is that what is most displayed?
The lack of diversity in size and color surrounding the image of yoga has been on my mind A LOT lately. Although my little issue with seeing my poster is definitely my own issue I need to work on, it still makes me wonder how much it is related to the portrayal of yoga to the U.S. masses.
I subscribe to Yoga Journal and have been disappointed with the lack of diversity and size in their cover models. Although I am a Kathryn Budig fan and thoroughly enjoy taking her classes through Yoga Glo, I was a bit surprised that she was chosen to represent “The Body Issue” and talk about self-acceptance. Her interview was great and she had decent insight on the topic, but has it really been that much of an issue for her in the world of yoga? And, is it speaking to anyone who does not quite look like her and encouraging them in their yoga practice?
The lack of color is another topic I have more acutely aware of lately. Every so often, I become aware that I am the only person of color in a yoga class, workshop or training. This is certainly not always the case, but I feel it is more times than not. I have often wondered why this and what is about the way that yoga is portrayed, that is not attracting more diversity.
I think I literally said aloud “finally!” when Bibi McGill was featured in their October issue.
The lack of diversity in the world of yoga, in regards to both shape and color is something that I am aware of and it is only a small issue in how I see myself fitting into this world. I know I am a yogini striving to be a better yogini and most of the time that has absolutely nothing to do with the way my poses or I look. These issues will not hold me back from my practice or continuing to teach from my heart.
But I do have to wonder if these issues keep people who look like me or don’t look like me from starting a yoga practice? Is the portrayal of yoga in the media telling people that it is not for them?
My dream is to bring yoga to everyone. What has been most on my heart lately has been to facilitate yoga for at-risk adolescents and Spanish speakers. These are both far off dreams at this point, but something I have been thinking about more and more that is seeping into my soul. I do not know where the universe is leading me, but I am finding it to be a heart felt desire and calling.
Knowing this work may be ahead, I must continue to strive to do my own work and remove my ego from my yoga practice. I will continue to work on being present and peaceful with myself, without making comparisons and over saturating myself with media yogis.
I want to hear from you. Do they think the portrayal of yoga in the media sends out a certain message?