This is What a Real Yoga Body Looks Like. ~ Rachel Priest

Via Rachel Priest
on Oct 11, 2013
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Rachel Priest

For more: this will blow your mind and heart wide open.

Also, read: Maitri (Pema Chodron).

“Excuse me ma’am, I really enjoyed your yoga class tonight. But I wanted to come by and tell you that as a yoga teacher, you need to lose weight. Namaste.”

Wow, well this was an unexpected turn of events from the yoga class I taught tonight.

How many times has this all happened to us though? When someone (a stranger usually) comes up to us and imposes their idea of what we should do, be, look or behave like to fit their idea of perfect?

The answer is: all the time. And then what happens? We become sad, self-conscious and unhappy with ourselves, feeling like we are unworthy or not lovable the way we naturally are.

This is the message today: we need to start a revolution of self acceptance and love for who we truly are—and for once, not care what anyone else has to think or say.

For once, just say, “F*** it, I’m gonna do me! Be me and love me, for myself and no one else!”

Seriously, right now, say that out loud.

To cycle back to the beginning, this was a comment I received from a student right after teaching (what I thought) was a class with wonderful energy and great people sharing their practice together. She questioned my eating habits and other exercise practices I do outside of yoga… and then pinched my side.

I was at a loss for words—especially since this happened in a yoga environment, a supposed safe haven from judgment and hate. I had struggled with an eating disorder for eight years, and had found a good place—but these comments shook me and I began to question all of the personal progress I have made in my life.

I was faced with a choice, as we all are when people criticize and critique our life to try and “fix” us. I could either fall into old bad habits of the eating disorder and self-loathing.

Or, I could finally realize that I love myself and I’m perfectly fine the way I am, no matter what judgements a stranger may have and if you don’t think so, then great, that stranger can carry their judgment to their grave but I will keep living in light and love and no longer be affected by another’s hate or criticisms.

That is my message: we all need to rally together and promote self acceptance and love. Let’s keep on living our life happily knowing that we are all beautiful and undying souls and we were born perfect and will never be more perfect than we are at this very moment.

Because perfection isn’t an outward appearance or attire and seriously, who has a supermodel body and is truly happy within themselves everyday? Probably no one.

I know that I am not “perfect” by American standards and probably never will be. But what I am is loving, adventurous, silly, goofy, a strong kid and no one can crush my spirit.

I will never look like a typical tiny yoga teacher, but you know what? I look pretty freaking good—I am strong, flexible, knowledgeable and want to help people and so if that isn’t enough, then I will quit openly.

So looking into our own lives, where today can we realize that we are behaving in a certain way to please others?

Where are we not truly ourselves because someone made us feel inadequate to be ourselves and said we needed to change?

Can we just take a moment, look inward and then eliminate this person or situation from our lives?

For years I used the disorder as my crutch but now, it is my strength. Through my pain, I can help others who are struggling and keeping silent. If need be I can be the voice that shouts out, “you are beautiful and perfect exactly this way and fuck anyone that can’t see the beauty in you that I see.” But Ideally, I want us all to have the strength to do this.

We all need to let go and just truly accept ourselves for who we are.

When our time comes and our physical bodies die, do we want to look back and realize we lived our lives trying to change to please others? Or do we come to a point and realize that we are perfect now, we will never be here again and in that moment, we are more beautiful and no one…let me say that again, no one, can steal or snuff out our light.

So just as I am standing in that picture, in a bathing suit with everything showing, I can say that I think I look pretty good.

Can you look at yourself today and say, “Damn, I love you self, I have never met anyone like you. You are exciting, fun, happy, and I truly see you, how honored I am to know myself.”

Sometimes this is easier said than done and it has taken me a long time to come to this place. But whatever you are struggling with, pains, sadness, eating disorders, fears, desires, anxieties, etc. whatever it is, try to let a little piece of it go today.

Letting go a little piece of whatever your struggles are, even just changing one negative thought a day about yourself into a positive thought, do so.

Begin the journey of self-acceptance. People always ask, “Well, it’s scary to let go of my pain and other’s criticisms because it is all that I know—what will I find when I let go?”

I answer, “Finally, you will find You!”

Bonus: How we can make yoga more accessible to marginalized groups without turning into a “generous thief.”


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Rachel Priest

After growing up in Knoxville, TN, Rachel moved many times with her family and then continued to travel the world globally through the years. After struggling with an 8 year long battle with eating disorders, Rachel Finally found her freedom and self acceptance and love through the practice of yoga and rock climbing. Rachel currently lives in Charleston South Carolina and teaches at various gyms and studios in the area, promoting the idea of self love and acceptance. Beyond Teaching, Rachel is a beach bum at heart and loves the waves and ocean and soaking up the sun.


480 Responses to “This is What a Real Yoga Body Looks Like. ~ Rachel Priest”

  1. Michelle says:

    Thank you for this amazing, inspiring post. I myself have just started doing yoga and accepting all 200+ lbs of me. I know I need the shed pounds for my health, but it’s refreshing to hear that it’s okay to love me as I am.

  2. Ashley Loeb says:

    I am really saddened that this happened to you and I think it's an awful thing to say to anyone, anywhere. Seriously, what a ridiculously unnecessary thing to say. What good did that do? Did she think you were going to run out and stop eating? Well, whatever, it's awful, especially the pinch! Ugh!

    That aside, I wanted you to know that you look fantastic, and that it inspires me to see women with different types of bodies teaching and practicing yoga. I LOVE seeing teachers who are more muscular or shapely. It gives me a feeling of belonging and that no matter what, I can participate too. In fact, someday, I could even teach if I wanted to! So I want to thank you for being willing to put yourself out there, even when people aren't always as welcoming. You are inspiring.

  3. bikram peenybully says:

    If that’s you in the picture, you have nothing to worry about. i would so eat you and do other naughty to you in that pose. i would kiss every part of your flesh, run my hands through your hair, kiss yer neck, lick yer aereola and do anything you wanted me too. as fer overwright, my yin teacher is obviously not in the < 25 bmi, but she is a good teacher, and very ameable. thats what counts for me; i love her class. my first bikram class was by a very obese woman who could touch her head to the floor. we are friends now and last i saw her, she shed a lot of weight. so, yes, just be yerself and in yer case, i would so massage yer pink parts with my tongue and corona. dont worry about it!!!

  4. thewanderersarchive says:

    a beautiful soul, thank you x

  5. Lori says:

    You look amazing! Good article!

  6. yes, girl! you are totally awesome, look fantastic and are an inspiration! thank you!

  7. Carson says:

    Thank you for this post! This is the way it should be. Om Shanti, shanti, shanti.

  8. Charly Harold says:

    Thank you for writing this breath of fresh air. I got into yoga about a hear ago and was very hesitant because I didnt think I would fit in. I had always pictured the tall stick thin woman who could put her feet behind her head with ease. This is definitly not me. Thankfully I was able to find a studio that made everyone feel welcome and at home. As I started to have a consistent practice I begain to be thankful for what my body did for me and not the way my love handles looked. I felt strong and powerful. I was feeling confident and decided that I would one day like to be an instructor myself. I expressed this to a coworker who said as she scanned my body, “thats fine but I think when people go to yoga they expect to have a teacher with high standards on how they look.” I wasnt and still am not completely sure what she meant by this, but I knew I didnt like it. It shot my confidence down. I started looking at myself in the mirror during my practice instead of focusing on my breath. It took me awhile to let those words go. The only thing that helped was to get to what kept me coming back to yoga in the first place. The fact that it was my practice, for my mind, for my body, and for my health no matter what I looked like. In the mirror I started to see my muscles, my pear shape that suddenly became flattering to me, and my butt which is one of my husbands favorite parts of my body. I happy to be me and I owe a lot of it yoga.

  9. Christina says:

    Whoever said this to you obviously was not raised hearing “If you can’t say something nice, keep your mouth shut,” I hope she reads this post – & anyone else who feels free to give unasked for opinions – especially negative ones! When this happens to me I say “When I want your opinion , I’ll ask for it, but it’s not important to me so don’t hold your breath”

  10. Laké says:

    Love your words!

  11. dana says:

    That student who commented such a mean unkind pointless remark needs to come to more yoga! For myself as a yoga teacher who struggled with body image for years, yoga was my saving grace. I am enough I have enough. Thank you for sharing your story. I have such gratitude for all yoga teachers, they really are sharing HEARTS when they teach……and open up to spreading love Health and happiness which has nothing to do with what the physical body looks like. LOVE TO YOU

  12. Are you kidding me? Your body is amazing! Nothing wrong there, you look like a strong and healthy role model. Keep it up….

  13. Vardenis says:

    I agree, you do look great. But isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder really?

    Not to rain on any ones parade, but when someone (be it in the comments or an article) says something like: "I am shocked and appalled that someone would have the sheer audacity…" and then goes on how we should't be judgmental is a real hypocrite. And you have written some truly inspiring words and thoughts in the article, but my logic everything has to have a balance. Even loving yourself. For example, a drinking, wife abusing, people hating, unemployed, run-away father ( I know its a little overboard, but anyway…) should never EVER say to himself "you are beautiful and perfect exactly this way and fuck anyone that can’t see the beauty in you", although he probably does say that every day.

  14. mariamariaperry says:

    YOU are so beautiful! thank you for sharing your story so openly and with such strength!

  15. Ang says:

    This is a perfect example of how the masses in the West just don’t understand Yoga at all.

    I am sorry that you had to experience this. It only tells me that we have much to do as teachers. May it fuel your fire. We need to get Yoga out of the gym and we need more teachers like you!

  16. Aaron says:

    Girl, you fine as hell. Fo real.

  17. Asaf says:

    So beautiful and so true,
    I love you exactly the way you are

  18. Tatiana says:

    You look great and I liked your article a lot. "Don't worry, be happy!" – wonderful words from famous song. The people's attitude towards oneself depends a lot on the way you feel – it's like a mutual trance, where we share our feelings. As for the figure of modern models: if you compare the women's figures fifty years ago and now, you'll see the dramatic changes. And the modern changes are seen through so called "normal and fashionable" status, because there are many people like that. A lot of these thin and tall people have systematic problems in: nervous, cardio-, breathing, hormone, etc. systems. So, nobody doesn't need to feel unhappy, because the status "normal" isn't normal any more. So, friends, please, be happy to live your life in your own way! (clinical psychologist)

  19. Julie says:

    I don't even know where to begin.
    1) You look absolutely amazing…I would love to have your muscular body any day over a 105lb rail of a body.
    2) I think people need to change their view of perfect… and bones IS NOT perfect.
    3) Jealousy reared it's ugly head when she said what she said to you.
    4) I have often not wanted to go to a class because the teacher looked tiny and muscular and I just assumed (yes I judged) that she would look at my body and think "helpless". I would much rather have a teacher with a real body to teach me….I would feel less intimidated.
    And 5)Keep your attitude…..don't let anyone change the way you feel. You are an encouragement to so many people for exactly who you are!

  20. yogini says:

    Ride on sista!

  21. Camilla says:

    Wow, she clearly had many issues about body image and her own self-esteem. I can only think that life decided that you should encounter her, so that you did stand up for yourself and your beautiful body. Too many women, who practise yoga or not, worry about their image whatever their shape or size and can be judged so critically by other women. It's about time we all learnt to appreciate and love each other, and ourselves of course!

  22. April says:

    As a teacher of Plus size beautiful women I thank you for this post

  23. Cheryl says:

    You look amazing, I would kill for that body! Thanks for sharing this lovely inspiration story too.

  24. jo says:

    That poor tortured soul. What thoughts must hurt her every day. Your compassion is the best response!

  25. One of the best yoga teachers at Kripalu is round and cuddly. She looks like Buddha. She was tremendously popular when I was going there. Incredibly rude people with superficial values will hopefully get there some day.

  26. Laurie Dean says:

    Admire your strength and courage for being so open with your writing. So sad – but a reflection of the harshness that student probably also turns toward herself. She was expressing her dissatisfaction with herself – mirroring it back to you.

  27. Chuck says:

    Your statement was amazing. I think your struggles with ED have resolved and the body you currently inhabit looks PERFECT to me. Please stay strong and confident in you journey through life and let the negative words/judgements/actions Just Wash Away. Blessings and Best Wishes fro San Francisco Rachel

  28. Casey says:

    LOL clearly they missed the point of the yoga. You are awesome keep it up.

  29. Lydia says:

    I just want to say for what it's worth- A. People are mostly crazy. and B. You. look. amazing. 🙂

  30. lrk says:

    I'm shocked and speechless at the comments that were made to you. You are strong, inspiring and beautiful. Self-acceptance is an attitude and lifestyle that our culture needs so much more of.Thank you for setting an amazing example.

  31. Tim says:

    Excellent Rachel! Your look, your body is perfect. It is who you are supposed to be and the miracle that is you. Unfortunate that someone so judgemental would have the arrogance to think they know what you *should* look like. You are right where you are supposed to be, you are the being you are supposed to be– the perfect, beautiful you.

  32. Jason says:

    There are always people out there with mouths two steps ahead of their brains. This Canadian guy thinks you look fantastic! Stay strong and ignore the negativity!

  33. Katie Oliver says:

    I salute the divinity in you, in all of us even the woman with the viewpoint, I salute it in her too, hold tight and hey….good morning USA !!

  34. Paige Gentry says:

    Rachel !!! You are a GODDESS !! I wish you were here in Venice CA .. I would take your classes …. Xoxo praise to you …

  35. Jean says:

    You are PERFECT! Beautiful inside and out and no one can take that from you! You are strong and she was well, to be nice (which she may not deserve but hey, no haters here!) weak…weak minded and very ill mannered. She actually pinched you?! Wow…I hope she can somehow see the grave errors of her way and heal.

  36. Jack says:

    So, throw out the word "perfect" for almost everything (well, maybe except souffles); there is beauty, beauty, beauty in so many different forms, and the SHM (standard human mind) often sees and experiences things in such a narrow spectrum……many blessings to you Rachel, and I'd "do" yoga with you any day, and feel blessed for the experience…..

  37. motheroak says:

    That's a lot what my yoga body looks like, we have unnatural expectations of what women should look like. I am strong and curvy and literally just about all muscle. I am not a little girl. i am me. adult magnificent curvy beautiful woman who is not cutting herself down to someone elses size.

  38. ShannonThomas says:

    First of all, you are truly beautiful! Second of all, thanks for sharing – needed to hear that today (-: Please keep sharing, the world needs your wisdom and ability to see beauty.

  39. Ananta says:

    Thanks for your bold article…and if it hasn’t aleady been said, you have an amazing body.

  40. @tinycurator says:

    You look hot as hell. SMOKIN' hot! Big love and admiration from New Zealand.

  41. Martin says:

    Dunno where to start! These kind of people are generally best left go fuck themselves. I’m pretty sure that women put a lot of unnecessary pressure on themselves and other women to look a certain way. Men don’t go out of their way to pass comment on another guy’s weight like that. But equally important is the falsehood of all men wanting women to look like a supermodel. I certainly don’t. Rachel, you look stunning. Any size issue this shallow cow had against you is basically her own failing. She failed to acknowledge the powerful structure you have and mistook it for excessive bulk. It seems obvious that you have are a woman with many strengths and physical strength is the most visual. I’ll assume your Yoga skills were lost on her as apparently someone hadn’t paid attention in class.

    I do feel however that there is an uncomfortably growing problem of society trying to accept fatness in people. I’m not talking of an extra few pounds here or there though. I mean serious bulk that causes mobility problems. If a person can’t rely on their own power to get around with ease due to their diet then something should be done. All the empowering ‘big girls are beautiful’ chat in the world won’t help them when their joints start packing in at an early age. Besides a general removal of a sedentary life and increased self control of food intake, Yoga is almost a perfect solution. Using your own body in controlled poses to relax and exert yourself at the same time – ideal!

    As I said earlier, you look amazing. People like yourself getting targetted by the petty minded are only being raised higher. I hasten to assume that the person who pinched you was probably less than the mythical perfection. She certainly was at least lacking in manners and tact!

  42. Kat says:

    I bet you’ve really grown so much in realizing your self worth and loving your body, that the universe had to present you with what you are most afraid of. Anyone who has had an eating disorder knows that having someone confront you in your safest space, after an amazing yoga class, pinching your waist and telling you you aren’t thin enough…that is what you are afraid everyone will think, including yourself. The day you can laugh at her, and tell her to get a life as you are a freaking goddess and that you find your own healthy body beautiful – when you can say that and be genuinely amused – that won’t keep happening to you. You are being given an amazing opportunity to work through your own issues. We ALL have them. Let’s be honest, you look amazing. Curvy and strong and healthy and beautiful. Own it. You go girl!

  43. Doris says:

    Thank you for this! I needed this!

  44. Chloe says:

    That's a reflection of the person saying it, not you. Keep on loving yourself. You are a beautiful!!! And my gosh, so strong!

  45. Gabrielle says:

    Thanks for sharing. From one strong womanly yoga teacher to another. Shine on! Live and speak your truth and in doing do, you are inspiring many. Much live

  46. Vince says:

    All platitudes aside, you are strikingly divine. I’m sorry you had to experience such negative energy like that but we really do learn and grow from this flexing of our heart and ego.

  47. louise avery says:

    Cant believe anyone would pinch you and comment on your weight very rude. Bless you for being so proud and honest and amazing…

  48. Nic says:

    YOU.ARE.AWESOME. thank you for your inspiration. you are simply amazing xo

  49. Vanessa says:

    I love you so much! Thank you for writing it. I shed a few tears and I appreciated every word. Bless your beautiful body and spirit!

  50. Zac says:

    I was watching some tricking videos last night and stumbled on a video of a guy doing a tornado kick and a back handspring. He happened to be overweight, and one of the comments he received was "Damn that was cool dude! Just think: if you keep that up, you'll have a body that looks so good, you won't be ashamed to take your shirt off in the locker room. Very impressive!" It made me realize, just like this article did, how harmed we are by those idealized body types. They make people think we should be ashamed when every body is capable of doing so many beautiful things. But it's the people who say these things that are the most harmed, because they can't enjoy their own talents in their bodies without going through a highly demanding regimen. Respect to those that have the "ideal" form without feeling like all people need to have it though, for their hard work and their knowledge that just because someone has a different shape doesn't mean they're lazy.

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