Yoga isn’t about Skinny. But Slim? Okay.

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A year ago, Kate Moss inflamed the blogosphere (and irked women and parents everywhere) by saying what everyone already knew she, and the modeling industry, already believe:

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

She then followed by saying, good-naturedly—”I try to remember, but I always forget.” In the media fire that immediately followed this waifish model’s statement, everyone forgot that next sentence—an admission of being only human, and that infamous slogan being only a reminder, not a rule.

Still, diet and health issues are paramount for all of us, and particularly for sensitive, impressionable young women beset upon by an entire industry bent of obeisance to “The Church of Size Zero.”

And so it comes as a bit of a surprise to one of my friends to see a book (by one of elephant’s favorite yoga friends, Tara Stiles, a former Ford model) entitled Slim, Calm and Sexy. My friend, ironically, is tall and slender, a figure that Cosmo readers might die for. On a hike with my dog, recently, she related to me her concern about that word,


Later that day, I emailed her:

What was your problem with Slim Calm Sexy? That the model’s body is being represented as ideal?

She emailed back:

For me it was about portraying the “typical” yoga body as slim – some people can do all of the yoga that they want, and yes they will be more fit, but likely some may still be beautifully curvy. Curvy bodies are healthy bodies too. I think it may make yoga seem less accessible for some women.

Know what I’m saying? You can actually be curvier and wear baggier clothes if you’d like and go to a yoga class for your health and spirit and be more fit, but still curvy.

I’d find it intimidating to start yoga too, imagining that everyone in class may have a dancer’s body in tiny sleek yoga wear!

Love the “calm and sexy” part! Just would prefer “healthy” or “fit” instead of slim, as it only represents one yoga body type.

Tara is totally lovely and it’s not a knock, I just worry about that potential message of: “practice and you’ll be slim,” or “practice and you’ll get a dancer’s body…”

Here’s a random article I found about yoga and curvy women:

Makes sense?

To be clear, I asked Tara about this (off the record). And she said what my friend and I figured—that it was more a word about being fit (and I invite you, Tara, to offer your own understanding of that title in this forum—and we’re genuinely excited to review the book). Interestingly, she also reminded me of the dangers of obesity, particularly in America these days, and how yoga was a natural, calming way to stay healthy—a great alternative to diets and exercise routines that don’t last. Slim, in Tara’s vernacular, isn’t about image, but about health.

In any case this isn’t about Tara, though she is model-thin she’s also fit, thoughtful, and a warm and caring person. Rather, this question (that a community devoted to yoga and fitness must consider) is aimed at the confluence of the fashion or modeling aesthetic and the yoga “industry.” Can we keep the two separate? Yoga Journal, for one, over the years, has done a great job of portraying old and young, black and white, Asian and Latino, slim and curvy. But we hear an awful lot about the “yoga butt,” and Lululemon’s success, for one, may be built on how their clothes make you feel slim.

On some level, to echo concerns on other subjects I’ve raised with Richard Freeman or John Friend in Walk the Talk Show interviews, bring it on. “Yoga Butt” may seduce countless women into yoga class for the first time…where they’ll learn to accept and love themselves as they are, and get a bit more fit while doing so.

But “yoga” is itself not one thing, not a monolithic entity: some yoga teachers teach acceptance, and some teach a spirituality-infused aerobics.

And so we ask again? What is yoga? Is it spiritual? Is it temporal?

Hopefully, always, both.

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view.


27 Responses to “Yoga isn’t about Skinny. But Slim? Okay.”

  1. Carrie says:

    I totally agree great article

  2. Dylan says:

    Cool article. Good questions posed. I personally have found yoga has taught me to accept and be proud of my body in ways I never felt before. Granted, I am not a woman, but us men are also bombarded with ideas/ideals about what's "sexy" or "acceptable" or "right" these days – and hence have our own insecurities. If nothing else, the overall message and vibe of yoga has taught me to tune out all these outside messages and influences and voices more and more – and embrace the True Essence of Self. Tyler Durden might not be the Most Yogic Role Model ever, but he was right on when he said "It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to accept anything" and "The things you own end up owning you" and "You are not your F'ing khakis." When we're moving and sweating and breathing and flowing together as one beautiful and limitless entity – yet separate still – we are raising the Love and Sex Appeal in our often too materialistic world. That includes our inner worlds. The bottom line: we're all Beautiful and Sexy and Perfect in our own unique way. Yoga helps us "get" that. Aum Shanti.

  3. lindsey says:

    Great conversation, Way. I hadn't thought about this yet in the sense of what you mentioned about women going into a class looking for a yoga butt and coming out with way more than they ever dreamed of in terms of self-acceptance. Appreciate this article, thanks!

  4. Sarah says:

    Yoga is not about skinny/slim, tall/short, big/small, beautiful/ugly, rich/poor, young/old… but rather about detachment from all of those conditional thoughts and ways of thinking that we have obtained through our environment and ego. Yoga is about love and acceptance of who we are and about finding our inner God and living a balanced life that does not produce, promote or contribute to the physical, mental and spiritual harm of others, our environment and our selves…

    As for the "ideal" body that is being represented by highly slim Yoga teachers… the question is, how balanced are they really?

    Another question that comes to mind is why it is that we take everything to the extreme in the west? Money? Greed? Competition? Perhaps we need continuous reminders on the origins of Yoga… Who started it? Where? When? and why? What is Yoga actually about?

    Thank you for an excellent website and for always promoting further awareness… I believe awareness to be the first step towards empowerment…


  5. Julia says:

    If she meant "fit" or "healthy", then she should have used that word. Not slim. Slim is a body type. Not a lifestyle. I will never be "slim" so I guess I'm out of the running on that score.

  6. via
    Currently, I am a size 14. A few years ago, I became certified as a hot yoga instructor with corepower. During that time, twelve weeks of intensive yoga, I never shrunk smaller than a size 12. I will always be a curvy, sexy yogini. I will never be a size 0, nor do I want that for myself.
    Being incredibly flexible, I always found it funny to watch … See Morethese super "thin" women sit next to me in class and compete with me. I never asked but judging by there facial frustration, I can only assume they were dumb founded as to why the "big" girl next to them was bending like a pretzel.

    Christine B
    I've noticed in my yoga classes, that doesn't doesn't necessarily predict flexibility. I have a belly dance DVD, and the participants are very sexy and curvy, the instructor has a six pack. That's so unattractive, she really needs to cover that up. She does not look good in a belly dance costume. I'm not trying to be rude or say one size is better than the other, I'm just being honest about my personal taste.

    Charles J
    'Skinny', 'slim'…aren't those the thoughts Yoga rescues us from?

    Bridget M
    Big ups to Tiffany, I concur, as a women of ample portion people seem to assume I have a limited range of motion, but I am hyperflexibile. I am amazed how rigid in mind and body people can be. I enjoy yoga and if anyother woman in Minneapolis is looking for a great class I would highly recommend attending Big Ass yoga @ the Minneapolis Yoga Center.

    Cindy K
    core strength is what is important whether it manifests in a "six pack" or not. Some people have natural flexibility, yoga can balance strength and flexibility.

  7. Ebeans says:

    Yoga Journal? Whenever they have a "big" model it is for "big yoga". Making a point about having someone of a certain size is saying that it isn't the norm. Browse their home practice pose builder section of their website. Not one person that is "normal" looking in terms of age or build.

  8. jack ralph says:

    some of the sexiest women i know are both curvy and slim.
    but then sexy is a state of mind so it really doesn’t matter what shape you are.

  9. rachel says:

    I think slim is a dangerous word to associate with yoga. If you come to yoga class trying to be slim (and I've done it sometimes), that's often the worst practice. Your friend Tara sounds like her heart is in the right place, but it seems like marketing.


    • elephantjournal says:

      Well said. Her heart is in the right place, and she's the queen of marketing. That can be a good thing—getting this stuff out there for the masses.

  10. At the risk of being redundant, I agree with all the women who feel that "slim" was a bad word choice if she truly meant "fit" or "healthy." Some of my all-time favorite yoga teachers have been curvy women, and I love seeing a variety of body shapes take on different asanas. It is important to have role models who show us that beauty is about loving our unique bodies and being the best me I can be, not the skinniest me I can be. I make clothing for women, and I intentionally create garments for all body types, and in turn, I put women of all sizes down my runway. Sure, I love slim models– but I"ll tell you who gets the loudest whoops and hollars, and who fills out my clothing the best….it's confident, curvy, sexy ladies every time. Just sayin'….

    • elephantjournal says:

      I think Tara had in mind that you could be slim (ie in good shape) at any size…if you're bigger boned, or curvy, you obviously can still be fit. The danger of "slim," of course, is that it's easily confused with "skinny."

  11. And I can't imagine a skinny that feels as good as chocolate tastes….

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