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. SMSchain says:

    Rachel, you're perfect. End of story.

  2. Jo-Dee says:

    this is beautiful. As a "non conforming yoga looking teacher".. I can relate to this article so well, but if someone came up to class to me and said that… I think it would have gone down a bit like this,… warning, fowl language.

  3. Toddasana says:

    “you are beautiful and perfect exactly this way and fuck anyone that can’t see the beauty in you that I see.”

  4. I'm a 54 year old male yoga teacher/psychologist. My weight varies around the high 180s – low 190s (and I really work hard to keep it that low). I have a lot of muscle, as well as some fat. That is how I am embodied. I certainly will never show up on the cover of Yoga Journal, and I don't fit the image of a yoga teacher, and I have also received an occasional comment to that effect. However, I view that as function of how in the west hatha yoga has become used with ego attachment with body image, and not yoga as a vehicle for greater awareness. With that said, I find my rather atypical appearance as a benefit as it helps my students (typically folks in drug rehab or facing health or mental health challenges), more accepting of asana as a vehicle for change.

  5. Nadia says:

    I don't see any weight you need to lose. Only see strength, freedom and celebration.

  6. Joanne says:

    Life is for living not for worrying so much – you look fab as you are and it's time everyone spent less time focusing on this and more time being themselves and enjoying life. We all deserve to do that <3

  7. Stacey Harlow says:

    You look absolutely amazing Rachel. I would love to look as good as you do! Don’t allow others to define you. If we listened to every negative comment and/or advice that people have us we wouldn’t know who we are or what direction to go. Everyone, listen to yourselves and who YOU want to be and look. I’ll follow my own advice here from now on

  8. Maggie Leonard says:

    The only thing I can think is maybe your student was a wee bit jealous but unconsciously. I think you are super-hot and your body is awesomely beautiful.

  9. Ling says:

    You are beautiful. You are amazing.

    Do not let those who cannot appreciate your beauty beyond the the physical body dampen your fire and passion.

    Continue the great work and keep smiling 🙂

  10. victoria says:

    That's what your yoga body looks like. I have a yoga body but it doesn't look like yours nor is it fake. Personally I think you look healthy and very attractive and strangers telling you to lose weight should not be accepted by anyone other than a doctor diagnosing you with a disease caused by your weight. Thank you for sharing your experience but please don't single others out with the "this is what a real woman looks like" campaign.

  11. Nyla says:

    Beautifully written…just like you Rachael! Thank you for this incredible article! BRAVO 🙂

  12. sandra_kay_m says:

    I am also not one of the tiny people doing yoga in their over-priced brand name yoga clothes, however, I have been regularly practicing since 1996, mainly on my own (or via YouTube) for the last ten years after moving to a rural area. A few years ago I had the opportunity to attend a class in DC. It took every fiber in my essence to keep from punching the instructor in the face when after a very challenging class she said she was amazed at how flexible I was and that I kept up with her class for being a "dumpy farmer." Instead, I just said "namaste" and walked away.

  13. Candice says:

    Your light is infinite! Keep shining girl! You are beautiful!

    Thank you for sharing something vulnerable and look your message has struck hundreds of hearts and probably even made someones' day. 🙂

    Peace, Love, and Namaste 🙂

  14. @BreannaHo says:

    Thank you for sharing, Rachel. As a yoga teacher, I am baffled at the majority of skinny bodies that make up our teachers. Nothing against skinny people. It makes me question how much of yoga is about image and how much of it is about the yoga.

  15. Audrey says:

    You look great – ignore the haters – there are so many negative people in the world.

  16. raspufall says:

    Thank you for teaching yoga despite not fitting the typical mold of yoga teacher…..whatever that may be. Honestly, the yoga classes I enjoy most are those taught by people with an authentic genuineness, no matter what they look like. I'm not sure how you held your tongue as this person made those comments, or if you should have. I've decided that I can no longer condone people's poor behavior by silently allowing them to say hurtful things like that. That woman needs to know that her comments are hurtful, wrong, and uncalled for. However, that may not be your role….if only I lived near you. I'd be happy to educate her on how opinions are most often better left in your head!

  17. Abby says:

    Fantastic! Awesome! Beautiful!

  18. Jason says:

    You know I have never heard of a man walking up to another man or woman to tell them about their weight. I have only heard of women doing this. From that one picture there, you have an amazing body. I love thick women, healthy of course, it beats a skinny body any day, not that I hate on skinny girls, I'm just saying.

  19. Every Yoga Teacher reading this should share it and bring the topic up in class-we need to remind our students that yoga is more than an Asana:) I will be sharing.

  20. Jena says:

    I am also a "curvy" pilates teacher. I think you look healthy and awesome. I've also decided to like my body and who I am. thanks for the inspiration.

  21. gdomenica13 says:

    1. You're gorgeous. I see nothing one would have to "learn to love" there, honestly, even though I fully know and understand what you mean by that. 2. The yoga student who came up to you and ACTUALLY SAID THAT should quit yoga. Forever. Because the compassion bit, which is very important, isn't working. Okay, so maybe I should not say quit and say instead she needs a yoga intensive because HOLY CRAP. 3. Thank you for writing this. It came into my vision at a very good time.

  22. olga says:

    there are many real yoga bodies. just saying…

  23. viocartman says:

    Rachel, i was really touched by this article :D….it moved something in me because for a long time i let other people impose their negativity and their judgements on me. Since 2 months ago i think, i started a healing process both phisically and mentally (especially mentally :D) where i accept myself as i am with all that we consider good and bad and it is been amazing. I thank you for this wonderfull article which i hope a lot of people will read and i would like to keep in touch with you on Facebook, here is my account

    I wish you and all the beautiful people reading this article a great day, a great week and an amazing life :D, all the best

  24. winniekortemeier says:

    We all need to practice saying " I like my body just the way it is, and I would appreciate it if you kept your criticisms to yourself." If we practice this, then when someone comments on our bodies, we will be prepared to answer. It's high time these negative people were called on the carpet for their rude behaviors.

  25. @classyoga says:

    The blind leading the blind. Real Yoga is all about the Hindu religion, taught by Hindus and not for a fee.__Swami Param

    • kelli says:

      Actually real yoga is everything. Yoga is about being in the present moment without control. So Hindu or not. We can all practice yoga as we please. Also great article. You look and sound so strong

  26. Brigitta says:

    Simply beautiful! I’m not into yoga so much(for now), but your ideas seem so healthy to me!

  27. Laura says:

    Congratulations on your self-acceptance and awareness! Your article is wonderful although I sense your title and tone belies your message. Judgement and comparison lead us on the path of suffering and away from self-compassion. We are all ‘real’ bodies.

  28. Tony says:

    Rachel- a body is a wonderland and yours is beautiful! Reading about your soul was wonderful and I am thrilled to know that your comfortable with your appearance. To me, you are far more attractive than any skinny (unhealthy in appearance) woman who would stand next to you. Keep up the great work and your desire to help others. You’re BEAUTIFUL!

  29. Lindsey says:

    Yeeeeew! You rock. Thank you for encouraging all of us to love ourselves harder. Sometimes we need to be reminded of how truly wonderful we are.

  30. Laura says:

    You are beautiful, strong and healthy looking.

  31. Jan says:

    As a lady who constantly struggles with weight and body image, I thank you for your honesty and self-acceptance. I’m not there yet but I try. If I could do my entire practice with my eyes shut and never have to look in the mirror, that would be bliss. I have had both men and women offer up their suggestions to me for how I can be “more healthy” yet my physicians all say I’m in perfect health albeit overweight. I came really close to my ideal weight about two months ago…and then I steadily started increasing again. I will figure this all out someday but until I do, I discipline myself to stay active, stay grounded and stay on my mat. Thank you for inspiring me.

  32. lloyd says:

    there are also many many positive people in this world. lets focus on that.

  33. gorrion21 says:

    I am pretty sure that those people who judge you so hardly are the ones who also judge themselves the same way, and probably struggle with a tough battle within, eating disorders, etc… it´s ironical isn´t it?
    For the last 4 or 5 years I have been fighting with eating disorders myself and problems of self-acceptance, low self esteem, feeling not loveable, etc… I am now a yoga teacher as well and I believe no matter how I look and what kind of fights I am carrying within me, I can help people, I want to… i was very inspired by your story and saw myself in your skin. Yoga can be an amazing tool to help ourselves and others, but some people can use it the wrong way, just as they use gym, jogging or dieting, as a way to change "who I am" and "how I look".
    And.. you look amazing!!! sexy, strong and ALIVE 🙂

  34. Guest says:

    So what did you say to her?

  35. anndelise says:

    I’m brand-brand new to yoga, so admittedly i come with a bit of idealism bias, but this kind of situation seems to call for a reminder as to why we each practice yoga. Why the teacher/author practices, and why the student practices. It can be as simple as saying something like “I practice yoga for health, resiliency, and recovery. And to help me let go of the ‘shoulds’ and expecations that block me from truly living. I teach yoga so that others may safely discover yoga’s benefits for themselves. What do you practice yoga for?” (With a sincere interest in why they practice yoga for themselves.) This way the focus turns away from judging externals of bodies, and turns the thoughts onto the internal and psychological benefits of yoga. And, hopefully, generate a discussion that other students can join in on.

  36. Duncan says:

    Want me to punch them in the face? …Okay, not really. I’m still working on what to do with my frustration… okay, fury, when someone is hurtful that way and I can’t or it can’t be cleaned up. I’m powerless, I’m powerless, I’m powerless. Let it go, let it go, let it go. Okay! Okay! Okay! Be patient with yourself, dammit! (I talk to myself pretty regularly.)
    To you I say, I’m sorry any of them hurt you that way.
    Loving you,

  37. Louise says:

    Beautiful article, thank you!

  38. calla says:

    Wow what an amazing piece. Made me feel very proud to be in my own skin with just a few words in. Im moving to south carolina. Bluffton. Do you teach any classes there?

  39. You are AWESOME! Your post is freaking awesome! It is with immense respect I acknowledge YOU and all the inner work you have done to arrive here and share your deep message with others. I also want to invite the shadowy side in each one of us to see that part of ourselves that is the critic, the judge, and acknowledge it, embrace it as a voice of the past that doesn’t rule us anymore. Much love to you all that reads this post.

  40. Andrea says:

    Hi Rachel, I think you look amazing! Healthy and beautiful. Whoever it was that said those comments to you, was WAY out of line. Its simply not OK. I wonder if anyone ever came up to (her?) and spat out their unsolicited and uninformed “advice” like that. I’m sure she wouldn’t like it. Makes me so mad when people actually think they have the right to say things like that to anyone – and this applies to any aspect of life. If it involves me personally, and I didn’t ask for your opinion, then I don’t want it.

  41. Yemi says:

    Wow. I saw this photo and I thought that's a beautiful woman and look at her body (without reading the text). So I couldn't believe someone told you to lose weight. People who say that must be very unhappy with themselves. Thanks for your words of wisdom and you look great. Honestly.

  42. Frances Mary says:

    Thanks for sharing this article, it is refreshing. I split up with my ex quite recently, partly because he didn’t like me the way I am. I was fed up of being called fat. I have met a guy since splitting up who told me that I have a fantastic figure & don’t need to lose weight. It is so subjective isn’t it! I think we need to love ourselves as we are. `You look great and are in no way fat! And neither am I!!! People who pass these judgements are insecure.

  43. Petra Sando says:

    You have a beautiful, healthy looking body, Rachel! Because you do NOT fit the cliche' you ARE the type of yoga teacher I would be more comfortable learning and exercising with! Because of health issues and chronic pain and fatigue, I have gained a lot of weight, but I am getting to the point where I slowly try to get back into exercising and increasing my very diminished flexibility. I used to be a gymnast and I am not feeling like myself at all. At the same time I have a lot of trouble being active outside and around other people. Role models like you make me feel like doing it anyway! Thank you for this great article and many blessings to you!

  44. compassionateone says:

    Thank you Rachel. At 60, I have had a yoga practice since I was 16 (on and off), and have always done my best to eat well and stay fit. That being said, I have never fit the image of the perfect American body. I look more like your photo, but a bit older! And I have struggled with food issues and body image waaaay too long. I am just coming to terms with the idiocy of it all and being grateful for what my body can still do, strength and flexibility-wise. The brain is the most important organ to keep fit…it is what allows us to understand truth and beauty beyond the precepts of a particular culture/society. Keep doing what you're doing and spreading the word! Our sisters and daughters need all the help they can get.

  45. Anon says:

    I don't want to be another dude making a "you're beautiful" comment, but I can't believe someone said that to the woman in that picture. Do you, Rachel. Thanks for sharing.

    I had people laugh at our soccer team because I don't fit the ideal soccer player body type. I of course had the last laugh.

  46. Pam says:

    You look great. That person has an issue of some sort.

  47. fauxgypsy says:

    You are beautiful as you are. I know I will never be as thin as most of the yoga teachers that I see and tgat has discouraged me. In the picture you look joyful, strong, and healthy. That is something that I would choise over skinny any day of the week.

  48. F George says:

    FWIW, I think you look fit and sexy!

  49. Annette says:

    You look strong and beautiful!

  50. Michelle says:

    You turned a negative experience into something beautiful. Thank you for being so honest and real. May I reblog this? To me, true fitness and health is being real. We need more voices like yours out there.

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