March 4, 2012

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

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.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Colin Feb 11, 2015 10:34pm

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.

ellie_owl Oct 29, 2014 9:15pm

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!

Olga Oct 16, 2014 10:15am

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 🙂


Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

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