Why Am I Still the Only Fat Girl in Yoga Class?

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Dianne B

Moving from Tolerance of Differences to Celebration of Differences.

It’s 2013 and I am amazed at how the world continues to grow and evolve. We are so blessed to be living at this most incredible time in history.

I was recently watching a TV show from the mid-1990s on Netflix and was appalled at the content of the show. The language, theme and plot was exclusive and hateful. It was degrading to women, people of color and society in general.

This was a popular show in the mid-’90s called the “Gary Shandling Show.” It debuted an episode where the main character Gary Shandling was asked by his female producer to add an element to increase the ratings and make the sponsors happy. It was evident that he didn’t want to do this, and instead of seeking a compromise, he berated his boss based on her sex. His entire staff became hostile and derogatory to female producer. The show goes on to poke fun people who are different in the name of comedy.

How are we supposed to have greater community and understanding if our differences are challenged?

Wow—we have come a long way.

I feel the spirit of cooperation and inclusion is the new way of doing business and building community in 2013.

Now, how do we continue to move forward and make the world an even better place?

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Women, people of color and people of all sexual orientations have come a long was from being on the periphery of society to the mainstream. The culture is shifting. More and more we are embracing that which is different from ourselves. We are moving away from the idea of tolerance of differences to the concept of celebration of that which makes us unique.

Look around you and embrace the entire world. It’s vast and incredible.

One place in which I still see diversity lacking is the yoga studio and yoga publications. The images I regularly see in these places are not what I see in the world. How do we encourage diversity within the yoga community?

As teachers, we use inspiring language and ideas that are universal and we stay away from words that are stereotypical and exclusionary. We embrace new students are are different with love and compassion. We take yoga to places it has never been.

We need to celebrate the people who are bringing diversity to yoga. People like Anna Guest Jelley of Curvy Yoga, bringing yoga to people with bigger bodies, Dr. Gail Parker of Taking Yoga Off the Mat—the Yoga of Inclusion, and Universal Empress Nadine McNeil.

These are some of the exceptional beings raising the vibration of the world through their celebration of diversity. Yoga is for everyone. We are learning how to expand our vision. We do this by encouraging, inspiring and relating to all human cultural experiences with sensitivity and awareness. We learn to open our hearts and minds to all the great possibilities of growth by embracing someone or something that is different from us.portrait of a group of people standing together

If yoga is the way we raise the vibration of the world, and is one of the steps on the path to true happiness and enlightenment, then it must be inclusive. It must be there for everyone to enjoy. We must see different people doing yoga.

I invite and encourage you to stand up and be seen. Share your unique gifts with world. Make it your intention in 2013 to be a part of creating a space where everyone is welcome and included.

It starts with us. Together we inspire change and lift the vibration of the world.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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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


7 Responses to “Why Am I Still the Only Fat Girl in Yoga Class?”

  1. Krishnabrodhi says:

    This article speaks to experiences I have had my entire life. In the early 80's I had the great fortune of growing up as a person of color in a very multi-cultural neighborhood. None of us kids grew up with the strong idea that activities and interests were exclusive to race. We all did everything together. From BMX biking, surfing, skateboarding, breakdancing and becoming martial arts heroes after watching kung fu theater. We also listened to all types of music together. This idyllic experience lasted until I went to junior high. I was bussed to a school that was outside of my neighborhood for the first time. And it was there that I began to experience the most racist intolerance I have experienced in my life to date. And it was all from the people of my own race. At junior high I got my first experience of being around a majority of people of my own race that had grown up in extremely racially homogenous neighborhoods. And in those neighborhoods they did have a lot of strong ideas impressed upon them about what people of their color should and should not do. In that context their color and identification with their group is defined by what they do and what they like. Which is why from then on I got called oreo cookie, bounty bar, coconut or a plethora of other pejoratives meant to indicate I was just a black kid trying to be white. When in actuality I was just trying to be me.

    You mention in your article that there is a need for tolerance and inclusiveness in the yoga community. And I totally agree. I feel that stands for a lot of groups and activities. What is interesting for me is that I have never felt intolerance and exclusion from people that do the things that I do that are “non-traditional” black pursuits. I even remember having an thoroughly wonderful conversation about music with a skin head with white power tattooed on his arm while we were waiting for a punk band to come on stage. It seems to me that a lot of the intolerance and exclusion comes from withing the groups that feel they can't do, shouldn't do or never even had the idea to try a particular activity. I can't count the number of things that I do some people of my race think that “Only white people do that.” And that saddens me.

    Like you I have been to a lot of events in my life like spiritual workshops and gatherings that would be wonderful for people of all color but I rarely end up seeing people of my color attending. But I think over time that is changing. When I was growing up there were three black kids in the whole city that skateboarded. And all three of us knew each other. But that has completely changed. It is now common to see people of all color skateboarding. And doing it not just wearing traditional “skater” clothes but wearing clothes from within their own culture. Which to me really signifies that skateboarding has transitioned from being something associated with a particular color to something for all people like driving a car.

    I think this can happen for yoga as well. For people of all colors, shapes and sizes. 🙂

  2. Dianne says:

    Krishnabrodhi was an amazing post. I feel strong about everything you said. Why does anything have to colour, gender, or culturally exclusive. People are missing out living exceptional life tethered to old beliefs. Thanks for the share…

  3. Arenze says:

    Am I the only one who finds it odd that the pictures in the article show slim people? One of the reasons fat people don't join yoga classes is that all images available of yoga show skinny model-types.

  4. Krishnabrodhi says:

    I didn't find it particularly odd personally. Even if it was a picture of an actually yoga class and I saw no one of my size I wouldn't automatically assume I was not welcome based on that alone. I've skateboarded, snowboarded, been to punk concerts, hiked the grand canyon, became a massage therapist and many other things having never seen a picture of someone that looks like me doing those things. An image does not have to include every single shape, size and color of humanity for it to not be considered unwelcoming and excluding. I understand that a person of size may base a decision on a photograph but I think using that alone is a poor reason for not trying something. It is basing a decision on an unverified assumption.

  5. Dianne says:

    sorry Arenze I could not find pictures of plus sized people doing yoga…believe it or not! Not in the media library…

  6. Stacey says:

    Thank you so much for writing this; I have shared it on facebook and with others who would benefit from reading.

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