Yoga: Not just for Young, Skinny, White Girls. ~ Dianne Bondy

Via Dianne Bondy
on Mar 4, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

Jillian/Flickr

Picture someone who practices yoga, who do you see?

Did you picture a young, beautiful, flexible, thin, Caucasian woman? Do you think she can recite the Bhagvad Gita in Sanskrit while doing a one-handed handstand?

Yes, there is a Yogi stereotype and it makes me cringe. Where do I fit in? Can a size fourteen black woman fit in amongst what the media has created as the ultimate yoga beauty standard?

What about Yoga for the rest of us? What about the non-white, size 14, over 35 year old woman, who can’t fit into anything Lululemon (well maybe the headband)? Just sayin’. Whenever people meet me and I tell them I do yoga they seem shocked and even judgmental about my size. Then I kick up into handstand and I say: take that.

Every Yoga teacher training I take I am awash in all of this.

I instantly feel out of place and uncomfortable in my own skin, my brown skin. It has come to my attention that not many black folk do yoga, let alone train teachers and own a yoga studio. I am certainly in the minority. I like to think of myself as a trail blazer. I have never seen a yogi like myself on the front of Yoga Journal. The images perpetuated by the media seem to set the same ideal we see in fashion magazines. I thought Yoga would help us step aside from all of this.

Come as you are to your mat!

My first yoga experience was practicing at my mother’s side at the age of six. I rediscovered it in my late twenties after years of killing myself in the gym trying to look perfect. Yoga has taught me that I am perfect just the way I am. Yoga has helped me deal with growing up in a dysfunctional and abusive household.

I am not all those horrible things I was called when I was growing up.

I am a beautiful divine being deserving of love and happiness, even if I feel look like I don’t fit. Yoga has helped me break the cycle of abuse that so many people find themselves in. I am happily married to a wonderful man who cherishes me. We have two beautiful children together.

As I step into the future of yoga, I step away from lots of things, and evolve the practice of my own heart. What I will remember is what I tell my students all the time; stand in your own power. Root down through your feet, firm your legs, lengthen your spine and open your heart to the possibility that you are perfect as you are no matter what the media or society tells you. Sometimes we lose sight of that and we get caught in that idea that yoga is a function of beauty, when yoga is an expression of beauty, discipline, sacrifice and love. Yoga teaches us to feel with our hearts and experience with our bodies.

Remember everyone can do yoga. We breathe, we feel, we stretch, and we connect fully to ourselves, even if we don’t look like a supermodel.

Featured imaged photo contribution: Dianne Bondy

~

Editor: Tanya L. Markul

Photo: Jillian/Flickr

 

Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.


8,884 views

About Dianne Bondy

Dianne is an E-RYT 500 the founder of Yogasteya.com, and Co-founder of Yoga for All Online Teacher Training yogaforalltraining.com. She loves to educate, share, celebrate yoga and diversity and is a contributing author for Yoga and Body Image: A New anthology. She is also featured in Yes Yoga Has Curves and Yoga Journal. She is a columnist for the Elephant Journal, loves public speaking, runs yoga retreats, trains yoga teachers, has a devoted husband, two small boys and not enough sleep. Dianne is big, black, bold and loves all things yoga. Try to keep up with Dianne on Facebook, Twitter, and DianneBondyYoga.com instagram or download one of her FREE podcast on iTunes

Comments

84 Responses to “Yoga: Not just for Young, Skinny, White Girls. ~ Dianne Bondy”

  1. […] yourself. Through my experience of yoga I am finally accepting my curly hair, my brown skin and booty-licious big girl body. Believe in yourself, shine brightly, flip the script and invite your world to change by standing […]

  2. integratedmemoirs says:

    This is a wonderful article…LOVE IT!

  3. Florencia says:

    I love this article. I want to see more Hispanic people on the mat, that is part of my vision. I can fit in the stereotype of the yoga you described, but I do not want that yoga will become that image. It is not about curvy united, Hispanic united, as somebody mention, is about the whole yogi community working together to build a space of integration and a place that embrace and celebrate differences.
    Love
    Florencia

  4. Heather says:

    True. And ironic as it is brown-skinned people who invented yoga.

  5. […] All of this yoga “stuff” we do is not just for a hot bod. It’s not to feel holy and then just sit in our holiness. Its not to teach classes geared towards making everything look pretty and nice. We practice to create awareness, to kill unconsciousness and to use that to create change. This change cannot just be within ourselves, on our mats, in our cute outfits and awesome facebook pictures. We have to remember that we are part of a greater whole, a whole that still suffers. […]

  6. Javi says:

    Super, i will share your post.

  7. Cassidy says:

    Thank you for sharing. Your voice is powerful.

  8. anouscka says:

    What is a "perfect yogi" anyway? Does holding a beautiful asana say anything about the practice or mastering of the other limbs of yoga? I think not! Actually I met some real kick asana yogini's who turned out to be really horrible persons to others and have not seemed to get passed asana practice…(no judgment here though..:-)

  9. Heather says:

    It is a great post and honest…but let me just tell you it also works in the reverse. Just because I 'might' fit into the white girl image and blah and blah does not mean that it does not come with its own set of problems or issues.

    Many years I received nasty mail from a woman who had taken come yoga with me….she wanted to me focus on weigh loss issues and people like herself who had a weight problem. Well, first if you do not tell the teacher…what is anyone to know about your past..Hard to see if someone was once a size 16 and now they are a size 6!

    Plus, the other party made lots of assumptions on my behalf how I would benefit from knowing the issues. Excuse, me I also suffer due to the RIGHT body image and never being enough. I had a fair share of all that trash when I was in modeling and escaped with an eating disorder.

    So in the end, everyone should understand the standard that is set by the public and other people unrealistic and hurts everyone ….

  10. Alan says:

    Val, what a beautiful reply to Jean, also perfect yoga.

  11. Saroopas On Fire says:

    This is a female-centric article peppered with attachment. It might be worth sorting it out the reason for practice before scrutinizing the trends of studio yoga or mass media publishing about yoga. This entire essay should be replaced with the first Patanjali Sutra and then sit and be. Remember… Krisha means Black…so do worry about inclusion.

  12. Saroopas On Fire says:

    …to add – why show off with a handstand to prove some proficiency at asana? Is that what we derive from yoga – that we have to prove something to someone we don't really know? How do we prove we are good at meditating…? Do we sit quietly and chant in front of someone to prove it? Isn't it mindful to just account for people that are ignorant or just uniformed… let it go. The self, the jiva atma, is hard to appease without hard work. Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah. And please note that I used the phrase "female-centric" because this article asserts that stereotypes are in play in studio yoga, but makes this argument based on race and size alone, not gender. The yogis that have the appearance and ability of the euphemism you used will one day learn that all glory is fleeting. One day every posture is difficult and clothing is less flattering. That's life.

  13. Katherine says:

    What's funny is that yoga was originally for men only. There are DVDs available for Big Yoga , plus size yoga, etc. But that just keeps you in your house, not interacting with people who can help you improve. Keep teaching, keep training! And thanks for the post.

  14. Vision_Quest2 says:

    "Is that what we derive from yoga – that we have to prove something to someone we don't really know? How do we prove we are good at meditating…? Do we sit quietly and chant in front of someone to prove it? Isn't it mindful to just account for people that are ignorant or just uniformed… let it go. [ … ] One day every posture is difficult and clothing is less flattering. That's life."

    Nailed it.

    Again, I must put on my BS detector and figure out that showing off by fat, skinny, skeletal or a little junk-in-the-trunk yogis is their way of trolling for new (possibly stupidly skeptical) students …

  15. […] landscape is changing. The minority will soon be the majority. The fringe counter culture is now mainstream and finally we are beginning to shift how we think […]

  16. Mary says:

    I love your article! I teach an Aqua Yoga workshop and have heard many students express these same thoughts. Water is their way of feeling accepted into yoga. I know some people that water yoga isn't "real yoga" but just ask the yogis who feel out of place in a land-based class (nothing against land…I teach land, too, but try to make everyone feel extremely welcomed!) Do I hope that water yogis develop the confidence to go to the mat (if it is appropriate for them and their desire) at some point? Yes, but I'm also glad that aqua yoga offers them a way to practice. If we can meditate while doing the dishes, we can have a mindful yoga practice in the water….but I digress.

    My point is: THANK YOU for posting this. I admire your inner strength and love that you are setting an example and speaking out on the topic. Yoga isn't about who we are on the outside, but who we become on the inside. All of us, skinny, white, brown, heavy…. struggle along our own paths.

    Namaste,

    Mary http://www.whitecrowyoga.com/newsletter

  17. Janine says:

    Hi there, what an illuminating article – especially the comment … " I have never seen a yogi like myself on the front of Yoga Journal. The images perpetuated by the media seem to set the same ideal we see in fashion magazines. I thought Yoga would help us step aside from all of this."
    Thank you for that. Janine

  18. Dianne says:

    Thank you Mary! Keep doing what you are doing. We are all in this together. We just need to make room for each other.

  19. Dianne says:

    It's true Janine…thanks for the read and the support. It is true. We need more diversity in yoga.

  20. Dianne says:

    For sure! We need to be seen!

  21. Dianne says:

    Thakns Saroopas right on. It is so true

  22. Dianne says:

    Thanks Cassidy

  23. Dianne says:

    We all have something we are trying to figure out on the mat and in life

  24. Dianne says:

    Thank you Val I appreciate the read

  25. Dianne says:

    Right on MEERA yes! I love this. Thank you for showing us it can be done

  26. Paige says:

    I love this post! Yoga is all about being comfortable, I hate the thought of people being pushed out because they don't feel they fit in. x
    http://www.asquithlondon.com/yoga-pilates-clothes

  27. yara says:

    I LOVED THIS POST! THANK YOU FOR THIS!

  28. Olga says:

    I'm curious… Why do you feel the need to "fit in"?? "Fit in" where?
    Yoga is not about fitting in. It teaches you to accept yourself, just as you said.
    I am a white skinny girl, I do practice, but alone, I don't go to classes because I don't "fit in" either… I can't have someone tell me how to inhale, when to transition, and I won't even go into all the stares from the sides, jealousy, judgement, envy, lust… take your pick – it's all there. You are not alone – no one likes to be in that environment, and white skinny girls experience same emotions, including not being comfortable in our own skin.
    One cure for that – take responsibility for your own feelings.
    You don't think there are enough black girls doing yoga? Inspire them by practicing yourself!
    Become that change. Well, you kinda are… you are teaching…

    I have been practicing alone but in the public gym's ab area. People looked awkward at first. Some thought I'm showing off, some would stare at my butt. It felt like a right place to me, so I kept going.
    Now I regularly see guys and girls taking "my spot" doing yoga.
    A few came up to me and said thank you for inspiration.
    It wasn't my goal at all, it was a side effect of doing what I love, when and where I believed was best.

    Please love your beautiful brown skin and don't kick up into a handstand to prove anything – that's not what the handstand is for 🙂

    Namaste.

  29. ellie_owl says:

    You’ll be pleased to hear that Bikram Yoga is attracting a more diverse crowd to yoga (in London anyway). I go to class and see a good mix of men and women of different colours and sizes all sweating like hell & enjoying every minute. Black, white, Asian, Men, Women, Younger, older – it’s great mix. Yes, it’s got lots of women who are young and white but there is a remarkably good spread of people who aren’t as well. Unfortunately most participants are under 55 and given the class prices need to be pretty well off to be a regular (18 quid for one class!) but a growing portion don’t fit into that awful media feed stereotype!

  30. Colin says:

    Great article Dianne.

    Larger individuals are easily put off of practicing yoga, when they look at instagram, twitter, yoga magazines and inside classes – what do they usually see? skinny people that look like gymnasts. There is of course nothing wrong with skinny people who look like gymnasts, but yoga classes and especially the media should focus more aattention on promoting yoga for all.

    Yoga is for everyone! Yoga can be practiced by almost any individual and that is the beauty of it. There are many, modifications and excellent yoga props out there that provide everyone with the support they need for their particular circumstance.

    Here at Bhoga, we provide innovative yoga props and functional fitness home furniture to enable yoga to be practices by all and we have seen bigger bodies doing the most incredible things.

    People don’t want to feel that they won’t fit in if they flick through a yoga magazine or peek into a yoga class, they want to feel like they would look right doing yoga.

    Yoga is not for weight loss, Its great for many things, such as lengthening muscles, building strength and balance and lowering blood pressure and much, much more. Its amazing for the body and the mind, no matter what shape or size.

Leave a Reply