This is What a Real Yoga Body Looks Like. ~ Rachel Priest

Via Rachel Priest
on Oct 11, 2013
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Rachel Priest

For more: this will blow your mind and heart wide open.

Also, read: Maitri (Pema Chodron).

“Excuse me ma’am, I really enjoyed your yoga class tonight. But I wanted to come by and tell you that as a yoga teacher, you need to lose weight. Namaste.”

Wow, well this was an unexpected turn of events from the yoga class I taught tonight.

How many times has this all happened to us though? When someone (a stranger usually) comes up to us and imposes their idea of what we should do, be, look or behave like to fit their idea of perfect?

The answer is: all the time. And then what happens? We become sad, self-conscious and unhappy with ourselves, feeling like we are unworthy or not lovable the way we naturally are.

This is the message today: we need to start a revolution of self acceptance and love for who we truly are—and for once, not care what anyone else has to think or say.

For once, just say, “F*** it, I’m gonna do me! Be me and love me, for myself and no one else!”

Seriously, right now, say that out loud.

To cycle back to the beginning, this was a comment I received from a student right after teaching (what I thought) was a class with wonderful energy and great people sharing their practice together. She questioned my eating habits and other exercise practices I do outside of yoga… and then pinched my side.

I was at a loss for words—especially since this happened in a yoga environment, a supposed safe haven from judgment and hate. I had struggled with an eating disorder for eight years, and had found a good place—but these comments shook me and I began to question all of the personal progress I have made in my life.

I was faced with a choice, as we all are when people criticize and critique our life to try and “fix” us. I could either fall into old bad habits of the eating disorder and self-loathing.

Or, I could finally realize that I love myself and I’m perfectly fine the way I am, no matter what judgements a stranger may have and if you don’t think so, then great, that stranger can carry their judgment to their grave but I will keep living in light and love and no longer be affected by another’s hate or criticisms.

That is my message: we all need to rally together and promote self acceptance and love. Let’s keep on living our life happily knowing that we are all beautiful and undying souls and we were born perfect and will never be more perfect than we are at this very moment.

Because perfection isn’t an outward appearance or attire and seriously, who has a supermodel body and is truly happy within themselves everyday? Probably no one.

I know that I am not “perfect” by American standards and probably never will be. But what I am is loving, adventurous, silly, goofy, a strong kid and no one can crush my spirit.

I will never look like a typical tiny yoga teacher, but you know what? I look pretty freaking good—I am strong, flexible, knowledgeable and want to help people and so if that isn’t enough, then I will quit openly.

So looking into our own lives, where today can we realize that we are behaving in a certain way to please others?

Where are we not truly ourselves because someone made us feel inadequate to be ourselves and said we needed to change?

Can we just take a moment, look inward and then eliminate this person or situation from our lives?

For years I used the disorder as my crutch but now, it is my strength. Through my pain, I can help others who are struggling and keeping silent. If need be I can be the voice that shouts out, “you are beautiful and perfect exactly this way and fuck anyone that can’t see the beauty in you that I see.” But Ideally, I want us all to have the strength to do this.

We all need to let go and just truly accept ourselves for who we are.

When our time comes and our physical bodies die, do we want to look back and realize we lived our lives trying to change to please others? Or do we come to a point and realize that we are perfect now, we will never be here again and in that moment, we are more beautiful and no one…let me say that again, no one, can steal or snuff out our light.

So just as I am standing in that picture, in a bathing suit with everything showing, I can say that I think I look pretty good.

Can you look at yourself today and say, “Damn, I love you self, I have never met anyone like you. You are exciting, fun, happy, and I truly see you, how honored I am to know myself.”

Sometimes this is easier said than done and it has taken me a long time to come to this place. But whatever you are struggling with, pains, sadness, eating disorders, fears, desires, anxieties, etc. whatever it is, try to let a little piece of it go today.

Letting go a little piece of whatever your struggles are, even just changing one negative thought a day about yourself into a positive thought, do so.

Begin the journey of self-acceptance. People always ask, “Well, it’s scary to let go of my pain and other’s criticisms because it is all that I know—what will I find when I let go?”

I answer, “Finally, you will find You!”

Bonus: How we can make yoga more accessible to marginalized groups without turning into a “generous thief.”


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Rachel Priest

After growing up in Knoxville, TN, Rachel moved many times with her family and then continued to travel the world globally through the years. After struggling with an 8 year long battle with eating disorders, Rachel Finally found her freedom and self acceptance and love through the practice of yoga and rock climbing. Rachel currently lives in Charleston South Carolina and teaches at various gyms and studios in the area, promoting the idea of self love and acceptance. Beyond Teaching, Rachel is a beach bum at heart and loves the waves and ocean and soaking up the sun.


480 Responses to “This is What a Real Yoga Body Looks Like. ~ Rachel Priest”

  1. Lisa says:

    You are a goddess. 🙂 You are obviously strong! Thanks for sharing this. I also don't have the typical yoga body and I'm kind of glad I don't! My teachers tell me that soft is good… it makes breathing and other bits of yoga a little easier!!

  2. Jack says:

    Yes, and it's sexy as hell

  3. DL Sweet says:

    Rachel – right on and thank you.

  4. jules says:

    great article, but surely every yoga body is a 'real' one ?

  5. elephantjournal says:

    Yes, every yoga body is a real one.

  6. vettermm says:

    Honestly, the poor excuse I don't go to yoga is because I'm tired of seeing size 2 yoga instructors and feel I'd be judged. This article has helped me change my mind. Thank you!

  7. Sqyoga says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I have a very similar story to yours and would be devastated if that happened to me. I admire your strength. What is an appropriate response to such students?.

  8. Karen says:

    Rachel, imagine what that student says to themselves every day. Can you imagine walking around all day long, looking at and judging others, focusing on other people's bodies, putting all their energy into deflecting another person's soul, and instead telling them what they believe is lacking in their physical presence? As if, in the long run, any of that matters? Now, can you picture that student lying in bed at night counting every single morsel of food, every unit of energy they burned, feeling scared, smug, self conscious, angry, jealous, tortured, and unfortunately, empowered enough to say such terrible things to a kind, soulful, unselfish person like you? What would that be like? Aren't you so glad you're you, and not them? The only thing you can do besides counter someone's judgement with a judgement is bless them, wish them well, let them go along with their narrow minded comments. Because that's what they have, truly, a very narrow view of what the world and their presence in it should look like.

  9. alexis says:

    strength is beauty!! i loved this, and needed to hear this for myself 🙂 thank you!

  10. Gina says:

    Go,Rachel,go!!! Beautiful words reflect the beautiful spirit, well done!

  11. Megan says:

    Yoga has NOTHING to do with being skinny!!!!!! Thank you for this beautifully written article. I have a 4 year old daughter built strong like me 🙂 I want her to have a yoga teacher like you! Keep up the good work sister.

  12. Gina Bodhi says:

    Mindblowing, really… I'm a 5'2, 200lb. Vinyasa Yoga Instructor and I'm glad to say I've never had outright criticism about my size before. I have, of course, had the seemingly positive but actually "neg" comments, i.e. "You're so good {non-verbalizing of "for someone your size/like you!")", but thankfully I can use those as an opportunity to reinforce the fact that yoga really is for Everybody and Every Body, as well as a much more faceted practice than just the physical asanas. Great article, and you look gorgeous, strong and healthy to me!!!

  13. Jessica says:

    First of you look great and I feel a bit sad for your student for focusing on something so unimportant.
    As a yogini you might consider this whole thing as a life lesson and an opportunity to affirm and ground your beliefs and your own view of yourself. This student made you look at yourself from her (and let's face it all of western media obscessed society's) point of view. You then looked at yourself and saw the amazing and complex person that you are and you got to reaffirm the love you have for yourself and ground yourself properly. Each time we are tested we must do as you did and come out stronger and more centered from the experience.
    Thank you for sharing your story it made me look at myself (and I like me!).

  14. Dawn says:

    I think YOU look gorgeous, and I found myself feeling sad for the student who made the comment. What are the odds that she is struggling with an eating disorder or body image issues herself? I hope she continues to take your classes; maybe she will learn what she really needs to learn (and it's not yoga poses) from you.

  15. Amy says:

    As a yoga teacher myself, I get judged as well. This lady was telling me that yoga doesn't really help for weight loss as the way I look, I told her that "you should focus on your own weight instead of mine, because my body is my own business and your body is your own business." She shut up and I have't seen her from yoga since.
    I hope yoga is helping others to become less judgmental as we have no idea what other people gone through in their lives.

  16. chachabella says:

    The same goes the other way. I am 5'4" 120 pounds. By no means rail thin. And people are always telling me to eat more, and then patronizing me for NOT eating pie at dessert. It would be lovely if people would just allow us to be ourselves, without judgment, criticism, and bossiness.

  17. Babzilicious says:

    I attended a yoga class that was taught by a woman who was "overweight." It is, to date, the best class I've ever had in the 10 years I've been practicing yoga. Rachel, you look strong and grounded. It would be an honor to take your class.

  18. Great article. Wanted to write a word of encouragement. I think the person who said those things to you violated you especially when she (or he ) pinched you. It is rude and it appears to me that she was jealous.

    At the same time, this situation arose to actually show YOU how much you have grown and far you have come. You are adding value and helping others who struggle with eating disorders, question their worth, deal with internal negative dialogue. I say bravo to you to recognize that you can choose to dismiss the “lies” of the world and to carve out a path filled with healing and hope. Also it is normal to feel hurt or caught off guard when a stranger makes inappropriate comments or offers unsolicitated advice – but they only tell on themselves. 😉

  19. Nicole says:

    I think you're awesome!! I never have been able to understand how people can be so rude and blunt about something that is none of their business – your weight. I'll never forget a "friend" in college saying to me, "If you work out so much, how come you aren't skinnier?" I too am a very active person who is not a super duper skinny mini person, and I've made peace with the fact that people are going to have their opinions about my appearance, but it's how I feel about myself that matters most, more than anyone else. I'll all about the self acceptance and love, and I think that this post is amazing!

  20. Kimberly Fay says:

    I would love your strength – both physically and mentally. You are an inspiration to us all!

  21. dashnj says:

    You look awesome. Hopefully the rest of her issues will work themselves out in your classes.

  22. eric e says:

    I love the article, and you are more than gorgeous! Keep up the positivity and keep teaching, you have a beautiful soul!

  23. erin says:

    What an offensive title.

  24. Meera Kerr says:

    Wow! Insulting you was really bad enough, but to actually pinch you was really over-the-top-boundary-blasting. I'm happy to see you used it as a moment to investigate the Self–Jnana Yoga! My Guru, Swami Satchidananda used to say "I'm not the body, I'm not the mind, Immortal Self I am". In Big Yoga® we adapt Yoga so ANY Body can enjoy the profound benefits of Yoga. Thanks for your share–Meera PS, You look fabulous!

  25. Rikki says:

    That is shocking behaviour yogi or not! Sounds like the poor thing has more issues than you do for sure!!! You are beautiful. Thank you for speaking your truth. There are so many landmines on our path through personal growth and I can't imagine having to deal with that very personal criticism. I honour you for that. xx

  26. brando says:

    Love this! It’s amazing how yoga has led me to a journey of self acceptance! I hate that people think the must have a perfect body just to practice yoga. I do ashtanga yoga almost everyday, I’m eating better, loving myself more, and my relationships flourish because of it. I’m not stick thin. I eat. Something I didn’t do near enough of when I was younger. I’ve gained a lot of weight due to a hormonal imbalance and I plan to lose it in a healthy way! It’s about the journey!

  27. Philo says:

    I'm not surprised someone would say that to you. An old Guatemalan lady asked me once if I was pregnant. When I told her it was just some pudge, she asked how come I had a puffy belly if I was a yoga teacher. Ha. Thankfully, yoga has made me better at dealing with comments of this nature. That being said, I applaud you for writing about it to show people that we don't have to look a certain way in order to help people… but I will admit that the title was a turn off to not read it for a while. Through my years of yoga practice and study, I have varied in weight and strength, with injuries and spells of intense activity versus months of too much work. My body changes and sometimes it is lithe and thin and strong, and I do look the part that Abuelita was expecting me too. Saying one way is real and the other is not is biased on both levels and excludes the other. When we end up in situations where we are judged on our appearance by little old ladies or ignorant yoga students, it hurts, but know that most people just don't understand what's really going on. I explained to Abuelita in broken spanish that my body is always changing depending on my lifestyle, and that I use yoga to adapt to the needs of my day. I told her that you use yoga to become stronger, healthier, or more peaceful, and what you look like is not a judgement of how well you do it. She understood, and that was enough. But like I said, no body is a real yoga body. I'm sure a hundred people have already said this, but I just wanted to share the story the same as you. 🙂 Thanks for writing this!

  28. rachel says:

    You are beautiful and strong and never let anyone destroy your spirit, I plan to become a Yoga teacher and it pains me that this kind of thing exists in the beautiful practice, and yes I have cellulite and if anyone said that to me I would tell them to F**k off (with love). I am in recovery from 25 years of Bulimia and it was on the mat that I discovered self-acceptance, its just a shame Yoga seems to mean something just about physical appearances to so many, they are missing so much. YOU ARE GORGEOUS JUST THE WAY YOU ARE so yeah I agree with Maryann F**k her 😀 Love you xxxx

  29. working on myself says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have been horrible in the past. I was the asshole judger. I am less that person now. Plus I think you look great. Strength is sexy.

  30. Lynn says:

    I still can't get over the stunning rudeness of a student addressing their teacher in this way. You're quite correct: you don't look chubby; you look STRONG. But no matter what you look like, so long as you're the one imparting your skills, your students owe you enough respect to refrain from telling you your business. And teacher or not, they certainly owe you the common courtesy of personal boundaries and not touching you without permission.

    All of which I'm sure you already know; I just… can't get over the sheer rudeness. Appalling conduct from a student, and a very graceful response from you.

  31. Apr says:

    Absolutely beauty is inside. Which in returns shines out for the whole world to see. I am a big girl (according to American health standards MORBIDLY OBESE). I haven’t always been big. But bigger than average because I always Carried muscle. But as some of us know life happens, things happen, the world isn’t always accepting or empathetic. If you lose yourself to ‘them’ your forget the most amazing things about YOU.
    Constantly I am told by people how surprised they are I am ‘that flexible’ ‘that strong’ ‘that capable of heavy exercise’.
    To the world and the people that are fixated on physical capabilities of any said body types:
    My body is not my boundary. My soul knows NO limitations. My LIFE is what guides me. Not my body! If you don’t believe me, WATCH ME!
    My Deepest Namaste!

  32. tina says:

    I think your body is bangin!!

  33. Bri says:

    I'm quite thin by nature, and my body is just as real as yours.

  34. embraceyourbodyandsoul says:

    Rachel, you are amazing. Thanks for the inspiration. I just wrote this new blog post after reading yours.

  35. CaraH says:

    It is so sad that women are so judgmental, non-accepting and cruel to each other, especially in a yoga environment! I think you embody what yoga is all about – and BTW, you are beautiful, voluptuous and sexy just as you are.

  36. Ozfest says:

    ummm. the way you naturally are? People are not born out of shape and overweight (not saying that you are)… Personal decisions lead people to becoming out of shape and overweight. Sometimes decisions also keep people from being the best version of themselves under the pretense of self acceptance. However that is simply weakmindedness because its easier to stay the way you are than it is to make a decision to work hard and change your circumstance for the better. No one says you need to look like Barbie but if you arent giving 110% on dieting and exercise and you decided that you are perfect the way you are, then you are simply settling for an unambitious and underachieving version of yourself. Unfortunately lack of motivation and ambition always catches up to you- in the form of regret.. However I do agree that the choice to settle or squeeze all you can out of life should be left completely up to the individual. But please as an instructor/coach you should be inspiring people to be the best version of themselves and not just settling for themselves at that particular moment.

  37. Alli says:

    Gosh I think you are stunningly beautiful; a picture of health and femininity in one radiant, glowing body! I have no idea what your student was thinking but she obviously has some kind of body issues herself. Just keep doing what you're doing lovely woman! There are some crazy people out there…

  38. thank you from the rest of us who don't have 'perfect' bodies

  39. catfishmcgowan says:

    Thank you Rachel! This is exactly what I needed to read, exactly right now.


  40. Naomi says:

    No cellulite = plastic surgeons procedures! I am reminded of the line from Legally Blonde "Thanks for keeping my secert El, no one gets an ass like this from exercise". I wish I could have back every bit of energy I ever wasted on anything but loving myself and life and those awesome crazy people I love so much. SO yes, F*CK EM cause it's your life baby, and confidence, love, self respect are what makes us radiant. No one ever gets to their last breathe and says, damn I wish I had denied and hated more! LOVE makes us gorgeous, and don't give a damn about anyone who can't see that glow!

  41. Sue says:

    sounds like a pretty good answer Rachel 🙂

  42. Lynn Roberts says:

    Rachel, I loved this! Such great wisdom. And F____ that person who said that to you! LOL

    I help women feel amazing for a living, I'm so grateful for what I get to do every day. Please write more. 🙂

  43. Julie says:

    My favorite line? "I look pretty freaking good—I am strong, flexible, knowledgeable" – YOU DO! Thank you so much for sharing – here's hoping that more of us are able to shine brightly, exactly as we are, because we are f'ing PERFECT.

  44. Jill says:

    Wow! Thank you for sharing your strength truth and love!! You are awesome! I amsnaring this! So well said! Namaste …

  45. How wonderful that you chose to write this instead of giving up! Never give up.

    PS: you look amazing! was this poor person (for indeed they might be poor in spirit, with their own self-esteem flagging dismally) blind?!?!

  46. Rochelle Reed says:

    Sheesh, I can't wear Lululemon not because I'm fat but because I carry the genes of the short, stocky and incredibly strong Middle European women who had to work the potato fields for survival while their husbands were conscripted into whatever armies were raised by kings, kaisers and tsars. Yes, I've got a peasant's figure, 38-26-39, too hippy and short for a Lululemon size 12, and I'm not going to go 12 percent body fat to change it. It's the conceited, exclusionary attitudes of labels like Lululemon that make those of us who don't conform to their ideals feel unworthy and worse. I hope Lululemon goes the way of real fur–so gauche that it's only worn by those who are too ignorant to understand what it means.

  47. eileen says:

    Hi Sandee,

    I'm 54 & a rockin' size 14 @5'4". I think my body is amazing. This is what a woman is supposed to look like. These silly little people with whom we feel we must prove ourselves….they are threatened by our power (& awesomeness) and need to find a way to diminish us in order to feel ok about themselves. I will never again make myself small in order to appease anyone's 'problem' with my body or my IQ (over 140). Love yourself, babe; they'll sense it and won't mess with you.

  48. Finally loving my big strong thighs says:

    Thank you Rachel, for your honesty, strength, and for your confidence. Thank you for trying to instill that gift into others. It’s wonderfully liberating to love your body and let go of self hatred. I do believe that the sexiest trait that any woman (or really any human) can have is confidence in herself: in her body, mind, abilities, strength etc. I’m sorry that woman said what she did to you. She obviously has demons of her own, perhaps she is desperately trying to conform to impossible ideals of perfection and is having trouble struggling with that. I too have struggled with an eating disorder in the past. It’s a very dark and exhausting place to be in, to constantly hate your body, doubt yourself, stress over every thing that goes into your mouth… With great support I was able to overcome that darkness and truly love myself. Now I run with my dog and go to yoga, but I will never be thin- its not my body type. And I’m ok with that. My thighs are like rocks. They are strong and carry me we where I need to go- I live downtown in major city and walk everywhere. I love my body and another great thing I have is a loving and gentle boyfriend who is obsessed with my big thighs and big butt. He makes me feel like the sexiest woman alive. And dammit- I am one of them 🙂

  49. Mel says:

    You look amazing, and anyway as you know that isn't even the point. Thanks for representing for the real women in the world not some marketing nonsense. Keep it up! Xxxx

  50. Erica says:

    I already commented (a long time ago), but I must say again how much I love this. Thank you! Erica