Who Gets to Define Yoga? (Hint: It’s Not MuMumelon.)

Via Dianne Bondy
on Sep 10, 2013
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Dianne Bondy

I heard an interesting comment today from a colleague in the yoga world.

He said, and I  quote ” There are a lot of the stereotypes that exist in the yoga world. It probably isn’t helped by the fashion world pushing a certain image because it sells $50 yoga tops!”

It’s more like $100 yoga tops—but the message is the same—and unfortunately people can’t wait to buy them. It really is too bad. Wear a second hand retro tee shirt and give the money to your broke-ass yoga teacher or donate to a family in need.

What Lululemon, media and marketing want you to believe is that size 12 is an extra large in yoga. Really?

Media at large is trying to define yoga based on selling clothing. The largest size the number one yoga clothing retailer makes is size 12 according to their website. Lululemon openly admits that making clothing over the size 12 is not their focus—they exclude a large market of yogis (no pun intended).

Not all people who practice yoga are defined by a size or a Lulu label.

Which brings me to my point…who gets to define yoga? I hope to hell not the media, and especially not Lululemon. I think each and every one of us gets to define yoga on our terms, day to day, and pose to pose.

Unfortunately, the image of yoga has been hijacked and has become  young, straight, thin, flexible, fashionable and, dare I say it, sexy. Let’s face it, sex sells! The images we see are just that: tiny, flexible and sometimes naked bodies selling yoga stuff.

Why does the media get to define yoga? Why is selling $100 yoga pants the cost of enlightenment? Why do we support this culture and think it’s cool and ok? I don’t get it!

Anyone who doesn’t fit this yoga stereotype can take heart. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find an incredibly diverse array of yoga students and teachers. Just take the time to look—they’re out there if you search. Go out and support them!

Make yoga and diversity your cause—include everyone because inclusion is cool.

I am excited to say that there are a lot of us out there that are changing the face of yoga and how it’s perceived.

We don’t have to study with a world-travelling celebrity yoga guru to benefit from the teachings of yoga—there are many great yoga teachers in communities all across North America (and other parts of the world).

These teachers come in all ages, shapes, sizes, skin tones and genders. These teachers are changing the face of yoga.

Go to their classes. Learn about yourself by stepping outside the box!

If you are a yoga teacher that breaks the yoga stereotype and is driven to create more diversity within yoga, please be more visible; as yoga teachers, it is a responsibility to make yoga available to everyone who wishes to practice.

We need to think bigger than just the studio—we need to define yoga.

(While we’re at it, can we make some yoga clothes for bigger bodies please?)



Like elephant yoga on Facebook.

Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Erika Reid Photography




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


37 Responses to “Who Gets to Define Yoga? (Hint: It’s Not MuMumelon.)”

  1. Rebecca Higgins says:

    Oh my goodness, I love you. Have to admit I wear the upper sizes of Lululemon and find it super exasperating! I am sharing this will all my clients, students and FB followers! You rock!

  2. Mimi says:

    Thank you for bringing this to light, well said! Yes, yoga clothes for larger bodies please.

  3. Lovely, Dianne! It's a great reminder.

  4. sabine says:

    So true – and I'm so glad someone else voices this opinion! I teach Yoga (or lead…??) in a small community and I'm constantly trying to bring this thought across in my classes. Just be who you are and do your practice and all else will fall into place – no fancy gear needed! Personally, I do own 1 or 2 pieces of L.L.L. but rarely wear them for Yoga (I wear a pair of pants for giving Thai Massage and a sports bra that no one sees – but it actually is very comfortable!) and encourage my clients to wear whatever makes them feel good.
    It is interesting to see how people relax and become more themselves over the year and begin to express their own personality with their clothing – instead of the standard "uniform" of super tight, super expensive. I love it when we can just be ourselves!

  5. Pat McKenney says:

    The practicing of asanas, pranayama and meditation are, more often than not in western society, approached as an exercise regimen which can be dispensed by a qualified "teacher", and so there is a plethora of those who are selling that idea for their own emotional, psychological and financial benefit, from the purveyors of products down to the individual "instructors". These practices of the craft of Yoga, however, are the very stuff of becoming more aware of and familiar with our own individual selves, our own package of characteristics, our own ability to open in awareness … and ultimately with the only one who defines our practice in the art of Union … our very own Self. Anything else is something else, and eventually will be known by someone else's definition. If those who wish to "teach" truly want to be of service, they would do well to view themselves as facilitators and helpers along a known path … and always place the emphasis for defining the practice on the practitioner, the only place where it is real, and nowhere else. May you be blessed with the knowledge of Union which lies within your own practices.

  6. Dianne says:

    Beautiful Pat thanks for sharing!

  7. Jen says:

    I completely agree with you.
    I just think Lululemon is so out of touch with real yogic values. Yoga should be non-materialistic, non fashion orientated and accessible to everyone. Theres just something about selling yoga legging for £120 which just seems so unethical.
    Besides didnt our ancestors practice yoga in a loin cloth and an old piece of carpet? It didnt do them any harm.
    I really enjoyed your article!

  8. Dianne says:

    Right on Sabine! Thanks for the read

  9. Dianne says:

    Thanks Susanna!

  10. Dianne says:

    Right? I want sme cute stuff I know it's out there!

  11. Dianne says:

    Thanks Rebecca! I just had to rant. I want to go to a store and buy yoga clothes without feeling bad about my size. Just one time!

  12. Samantha O says:

    One of my first epxeriences teaching as a new instructor was at a 4-day spritual workshop taught by a friend of mine years ago. She asked if I could start the group off with yoga in the garden wach morning and then introduced me to the participants (about 25). They were all beginners with no experience and we had a great time. After the last day of the workshop a tather large woman came up to me and thanked me. She told me when she found out the group would be doing yoga every morning she almost left the retreat. She was terrified because of her weight she expained to me through tears! But she stayed and got over her initial fear and found that yes, she too, could do yoga and love it and feel as good about herself as anyone else while at it. She felt great about herself! I was very thankful for her story and teared as well because as a beginning teacher I knew this is always what we hope to accomplish…that someone recognizes their light and true beauty and their happiness through yoga. It has nothing to do with size.

  13. Emily says:

    I have taken an odd stance AGAINST expensive fancy yoga clothing. And it hasn't been intentional. It's just that when I'm heading out to a yoga class the last thing I'm thinking about is how "cool" I'm going to look. I mean, isn't that completely against the point of it all anyways? I take pride in my wife beater, sports bra and $5 shorts. As an aside, I don't hate on people for buying nice yoga clothing–it's just not my thing. 🙂

  14. katybrandes says:

    Yoga clothes are available at so many other retail outlets (TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshalls, Walmart) that it's insane, unless a person is so full of themselves they wouldn't shop at those stores. Your practice is not about your outfit. Thanks for writing about body-shaming and for including the top picture. That's the face of so many other yogis than those who I usually see in any online yoga article. It's nice to be included.

  15. emergencyoga says:

    Honestly girl, you are my total role model for teaching yoga! Love your articles and this one goes straight to the heart. Yoga for regular people, shouldn't be that hard right? Keep writing and sharing. D xxx

  16. Briget says:

    Oh HELL yeah. I found a website the other day with yoga pants I just loved – wild colors and prints – but the ones long enough for my long legs are sized for the butt I used to have at 19! Do they think we're all still young? Strike another site where I could have been a good customer – don't they get that old(er) people have more disposable income??? Stupid!

  17. Amber Karnes says:

    Well said! Visibility is so important. 🙂

  18. @inasahajaa says:

    WE get to define Yoga!!! WE the people, diverse and glorious in our many dissimilarities, get to write the future of Modern Yoga, which I hope will continue to advocate social justice and environmental activism. Yoga for all 😀

  19. Dianne says:

    Right on! Testify we get to decide that yoga exists beyond size 12

  20. Dianne says:

    Thanks Amber 🙂

  21. Dianne says:

    Jen I so agree. It just seems so crazy all of it. It’s for all us including people who practice who are past size 12 really and truly.

  22. Dianne says:

    Samantha thank you for the beautiful share

  23. Dianne says:

    Right on! Emily we all can learn from that thanks for the read

  24. Dianne says:

    Thanks Katy. It’s true. I am grateful to be included. I am tired of not seeing everyone represented in yoga

  25. Dianne says:

    Ahhh shucks that’s emergencyyoga! I am all about yoga for all of us. We all are entitled to this practice and to feel like we belong. Lulu and others like them miss the point. It’s too bad

  26. Dianne says:

    Ahhh shucks thank’s emergencyyoga! I am all about yoga for all of us. We all are entitled to this practice and to feel like we belong. Lulu and others like them miss the point. It’s too bad

  27. Dianne says:

    Ahhh shucks thank’s emergencyyoga! Big love to you thanks got the read! i am all about yoga for all of us. We all are entitled to this practice and to feel like we belong. Lulu and others like them miss the point. It’s too bad

  28. avery says:

    While I agree with the premise of this article, that yogis come in all shapes and sizes, and that $100 is a lot for a yoga shirt, I think that parts of the article and the comments are just as close minded as they accuse Lulu to be. Sure, your practice is not defined by your outfit, but saying that wearing Lulu somehow negates the "point" of yoga, is pretty close ridiculous. Everyone's practice is their own, and if buying yourself a fancy top to motivate or reward yourself makes you happy, then I say go for it! I sometimes practice yoga in dirty pajamas, and sometimes it feels good to wear $200 worth of stretch clothing to a handstand workshop to give me an extra boost of confidence. The size issue, is really unrelated to yoga at all, Lulu (and other big name yoga clothing companies like Beyond Yoga) is a business, and does not disclude sizes above 12 because they personally think that people over a size 12 cannot do yoga, it is because MANY clothing/retail companies do not manufacture sizes above 12, that marker is a societal and fashion industry standard of "normal" that Lulu simply follows as part of a business model to maximize profits. In my less fit periods I can barely squeeze into a Lulu size 12, but I would never take is a personal attack on my practice.

  29. Ashley Sears says:

    It is so tiring hearing that "that isn't our market". Totally get that businesses need to make business decisions, but to act like those other markets don't exist just really irks me. I am a size 18 and TOTALLY love yoga. So much so I am banned from buying anymore mats. (Six is enough right?!) Good for you standing up. Love the photo! Namaste

  30. Key says:

    Totally agree. I get the best items from Old navy and Target and mostly on clearance. I've had whole yoga outfits that cost under $10.

    One thing though-please be mindful that a "wife beater" is a person who harms their female spouse not an article of clothing. I've never seen "wife beater" sold in any store.

  31. markfrederick says:

    This is all true and the post is a good one. However, marketing is all about exciting interest and, in sports or yoga, that lends itself to the slender and the beautiful and this is consistent across the board. I don't see this changing any time soon. And frankly, I will always stop to look at an image of a good-looking woman.

  32. Dianne says:

    Thanks Ashley I have the same problem with mats. I need to try everyone. Not our market is a great cop out for retails. That's okay if it is not your mat. You can make whatever you want just know that you will be called on it!

  33. Rachael says:

    your so right! i love yoga and have for years. I was really excited when lululemon came to Australia and to find size 12 was large well… I got so exasperated when I went looking for something to wear when I started bikram yoga that I started making my own. I have launched my baby brand "Mae West" with gym wear for size 12 + . http://www.maewest.com.au/ . We are small company at present, but in time, I hope to build and let every woman enjoy and feel great doing yoga.

  34. Dianne says:

    Will you look at her even if she isn't a size 0 and she is good looking?

  35. Dianne says:

    Rachael I am excited about your clothing brand! Yipee