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. prmeegan says:

    Thank you so much for your lovely article. Your words, much like yourself, are beautiful. As a larger woman who's been practicing yoga for 25 years, I get these types of comments and the sideways looks from other yoga practitioners and teacher alike ALL of the time. It floors me every-damn-time. Yoga class is suppose to be about unity, safety, oneness, positive energy, et al. I wish they could see me as more than my round belly, big boobs or curvy hips. But like my father used to tell me, "what other people think of you is none of your business". And it's true. I can't change what people's perceptions or prejudices are. It's too big a task and I'm not an "in your face" kinda gal. So I'm just going to keep being me -strong, funny, intelligent, loving, loyal, compassionate me. And I'll keep enjoying the look on their faces when I out downward dog their judgemental asses. 🙂

  2. Milanda says:

    Much love from a Knoxville, Tm native! I’m back at yoga for the first time since a yoga teacher said “You can do this, stop whining”to a room full of ppl. Now my instructor is awesome and inspiring but mostly KIND! Probably a lot like you. Thank you for this fab article.

  3. Jen says:

    Beautiful! Love your message.

  4. Claudia says:

    I love this. Let's hear it for curves, tits and big bums! x

  5. Paris C. says:

    While I enjoyed the article very much, the title is rather offensive. I am small and have always been. I also work very hard to be lean and muscular. And I work even harder to become a yogi. I have a large chest and the makes some poses difficult, but I adapt. We are all built different and we all have different goals for our bodies. To imply that you are MORE of a yogi because of your size than somebody else who is smaller than you because of that experience is a bit… Well, pretentious.

  6. Kara says:

    Love the content of the article, but the title really implies that the rest of us don't have a "real" yoga body. Part of that self-acceptance is also accepting that we all come in different shapes and sizes. Being very thin or muscular doesn't make a yoga body any less "real." As yogis – and as women – we need to stop idealizing one shape over another and move toward a place where we can feel free to be exactly as we are – thin, fat, muscular, and everything in between.

  7. MeghanMathis says:

    Beautiful, natural, REAL. Great example of self acceptance for all. Thanks for recycling this article EJ.

  8. Mauds says:

    People have very little awareness of the self hate they have, so they project it on others, not a nice thank you for teaching the class. I don’t see what yoga has to do with body type anyway. Rock your gorgeousness with pride.

  9. Carlee says:

    I am in love with this article. You rock, Rachel! You're beautiful, we all are. Never stop believing in yourselves!

  10. elephantjournal says:

    I disagree that the title implies that at all—I think it's quite the opposite, actually. We all have a real yoga body—and I chose this title because this piece beautifully describes the experience of having a body that is real and human and doesn't fit it into what we're often told a "real" body "should" be. ~ Bryonie

  11. Kristina says:

    You look amazing! I love your legs! I desire great flexability and strong legs!!! I feel inspiration when I see your pic!

  12. Mi Corazon says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I continue to find it painfully remarkable that yoga has become so fully co-opted by materialism in every sense. In this case, the materialism of appearance. Do these folks not understand, yoga is a spiritual practice of union within. Practicing yoga through the body is not intended to make you more desireable, either as a photo-worthy subject or as an athletic icon. When I started doing ecstatic dance with Vinn Marti, I was surprised and eventually grateful that every mirror in the room was covered over, and the motto was "Dance Ugly and Drool", because in dance, too, the attention can so swiftly shift to appearance and skill over authentic internal experience. Its all a house of mirrors anyway and our continued fascination with how we look in our asanas rather than what it opens up inside us only buries us further in the illusion. I'm so glad you didn't give in to your student's obsession and maybe we can have a moment of compassion for her and a wish for her to have peace with her own embodied experience. Blessings!

  13. Robyn Walton says:

    Rachael you look like a woman. One reason I love yoga is how it allows anyone to join in. There is no set type of body that can or cannot practice yoga. Obviously your student does not realize this yet and of course we do not know what shit has been said to her over the years. Move forward!

  14. Magnus says:

    I wonder what that woman would do in my class, given that I’m a man…

    And correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the core philosophy of yoga tell us that our bodies are a) fundamentally perfect and b) only the meatbag we walk around in?

  15. Nikki says:

    Thank you thank you for this article…I have struggled my whole life with self acceptance and self love…and I have to say, I would be proud to look like your picture. You look strong, healthy and most of all happy. Namaste!

  16. AHO59 says:

    The relationship you have with yourself is mirrored in the relationships we have with others. Your advice to 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.” will be reflected back to you. What a joy.

  17. Bob Lusk says:

    You are beautiful

  18. Andrew says:

    You look so beautiful and strong!! You have a real woman's body (and for me that is no euphemism, it is one of most beautiful things in the world!). And I'm glad you feel beautiful, too! From loving ourselves we can love and be compassionate with others. Thank you for your reflections!

  19. Peggy says:

    Real yoga teachers come in all shapes and sizes. I’m one of those 5’3″ strong and sturdy types. I’m 50, a certified yoga teacher and a 2nd degree black belt in Muay Thai. My six pack is under a layer of body fat. I’m also a breast cancer survivor. Yoga, the union of mind, body, spirit, is the means for me to transcend the baloney the rest of the world wants me to eat.

  20. morningdorrie says:

    You are BEAUTIFUL! Thank you for being.

  21. Eddie says:

    This woman is in all respect, an athlete, as yoga isn’t competitive much like drumming and other physical tasks we do to better ourselves. Never confuse swimsuit models with athletes.

  22. Anna says:

    Where do you teach in charleston? I visit there a lot and love to check out yoga classes!

  23. Tim says:

    If thats you in the pic on the beach your hot so forget them also make a comment generally to the class about being judgemental and also how you do not know another persons history.

    I am told I need to lose wieght all the time as a soft tissue therapist. But these people fail to take into account my legs are a mess and have already had surgery or I have struggled with depression and poor self esteem. For this reason I trt not to be judgemental and try to be respectful and educate others where I can.

    Proud of your strength and accomplishment s.

  24. Natalia says:

    You look gorgeous, Rachel. These legs! These boobs! Who would say “no” to that? Right: No one. Thank God we all come in different shapes & sizes. I think we should all strive to optimize our bodies so that we can shine & walk through life with self-esteem (and I don’t even do yoga). But the best possible outcome can be skinny for the first girl, strong for the next one & curvy for the last. If you yourself feel at home in your body, then that’s it. And some stranger who feels entitled to give you their opinion about how you need to live your life just really still needs to find themselves.

  25. "Self acceptance is the new skinny!" ~Elise Cantrell ( from the book 40 Days to Enlightened Eating)

  26. Michelle says:

    Thank you for this amazing, inspiring post. I myself have just started doing yoga and accepting all 200+ lbs of me. I know I need the shed pounds for my health, but it’s refreshing to hear that it’s okay to love me as I am.

  27. Ashley Loeb says:

    I am really saddened that this happened to you and I think it's an awful thing to say to anyone, anywhere. Seriously, what a ridiculously unnecessary thing to say. What good did that do? Did she think you were going to run out and stop eating? Well, whatever, it's awful, especially the pinch! Ugh!

    That aside, I wanted you to know that you look fantastic, and that it inspires me to see women with different types of bodies teaching and practicing yoga. I LOVE seeing teachers who are more muscular or shapely. It gives me a feeling of belonging and that no matter what, I can participate too. In fact, someday, I could even teach if I wanted to! So I want to thank you for being willing to put yourself out there, even when people aren't always as welcoming. You are inspiring.

  28. bikram peenybully says:

    If that’s you in the picture, you have nothing to worry about. i would so eat you and do other naughty to you in that pose. i would kiss every part of your flesh, run my hands through your hair, kiss yer neck, lick yer aereola and do anything you wanted me too. as fer overwright, my yin teacher is obviously not in the < 25 bmi, but she is a good teacher, and very ameable. thats what counts for me; i love her class. my first bikram class was by a very obese woman who could touch her head to the floor. we are friends now and last i saw her, she shed a lot of weight. so, yes, just be yerself and in yer case, i would so massage yer pink parts with my tongue and corona. dont worry about it!!!

  29. thewanderersarchive says:

    a beautiful soul, thank you x

  30. Lori says:

    You look amazing! Good article!

  31. yes, girl! you are totally awesome, look fantastic and are an inspiration! thank you!

  32. Carson says:

    Thank you for this post! This is the way it should be. Om Shanti, shanti, shanti.

  33. Charly Harold says:

    Thank you for writing this breath of fresh air. I got into yoga about a hear ago and was very hesitant because I didnt think I would fit in. I had always pictured the tall stick thin woman who could put her feet behind her head with ease. This is definitly not me. Thankfully I was able to find a studio that made everyone feel welcome and at home. As I started to have a consistent practice I begain to be thankful for what my body did for me and not the way my love handles looked. I felt strong and powerful. I was feeling confident and decided that I would one day like to be an instructor myself. I expressed this to a coworker who said as she scanned my body, “thats fine but I think when people go to yoga they expect to have a teacher with high standards on how they look.” I wasnt and still am not completely sure what she meant by this, but I knew I didnt like it. It shot my confidence down. I started looking at myself in the mirror during my practice instead of focusing on my breath. It took me awhile to let those words go. The only thing that helped was to get to what kept me coming back to yoga in the first place. The fact that it was my practice, for my mind, for my body, and for my health no matter what I looked like. In the mirror I started to see my muscles, my pear shape that suddenly became flattering to me, and my butt which is one of my husbands favorite parts of my body. I happy to be me and I owe a lot of it yoga.

  34. Christina says:

    Whoever said this to you obviously was not raised hearing “If you can’t say something nice, keep your mouth shut,” I hope she reads this post – & anyone else who feels free to give unasked for opinions – especially negative ones! When this happens to me I say “When I want your opinion , I’ll ask for it, but it’s not important to me so don’t hold your breath”

  35. Laké says:

    Love your words!

  36. dana says:

    That student who commented such a mean unkind pointless remark needs to come to more yoga! For myself as a yoga teacher who struggled with body image for years, yoga was my saving grace. I am enough I have enough. Thank you for sharing your story. I have such gratitude for all yoga teachers, they really are sharing HEARTS when they teach……and open up to spreading love Health and happiness which has nothing to do with what the physical body looks like. LOVE TO YOU

  37. Are you kidding me? Your body is amazing! Nothing wrong there, you look like a strong and healthy role model. Keep it up….

  38. Vardenis says:

    I agree, you do look great. But isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder really?

    Not to rain on any ones parade, but when someone (be it in the comments or an article) says something like: "I am shocked and appalled that someone would have the sheer audacity…" and then goes on how we should't be judgmental is a real hypocrite. And you have written some truly inspiring words and thoughts in the article, but my logic everything has to have a balance. Even loving yourself. For example, a drinking, wife abusing, people hating, unemployed, run-away father ( I know its a little overboard, but anyway…) should never EVER say to himself "you are beautiful and perfect exactly this way and fuck anyone that can’t see the beauty in you", although he probably does say that every day.

  39. mariamariaperry says:

    YOU are so beautiful! thank you for sharing your story so openly and with such strength!

  40. Ang says:

    This is a perfect example of how the masses in the West just don’t understand Yoga at all.

    I am sorry that you had to experience this. It only tells me that we have much to do as teachers. May it fuel your fire. We need to get Yoga out of the gym and we need more teachers like you!

  41. Aaron says:

    Girl, you fine as hell. Fo real.

  42. Asaf says:

    So beautiful and so true,
    I love you exactly the way you are

  43. Tatiana says:

    You look great and I liked your article a lot. "Don't worry, be happy!" – wonderful words from famous song. The people's attitude towards oneself depends a lot on the way you feel – it's like a mutual trance, where we share our feelings. As for the figure of modern models: if you compare the women's figures fifty years ago and now, you'll see the dramatic changes. And the modern changes are seen through so called "normal and fashionable" status, because there are many people like that. A lot of these thin and tall people have systematic problems in: nervous, cardio-, breathing, hormone, etc. systems. So, nobody doesn't need to feel unhappy, because the status "normal" isn't normal any more. So, friends, please, be happy to live your life in your own way! (clinical psychologist)

  44. Julie says:

    I don't even know where to begin.
    1) You look absolutely amazing…I would love to have your muscular body any day over a 105lb rail of a body.
    2) I think people need to change their view of perfect… and bones IS NOT perfect.
    3) Jealousy reared it's ugly head when she said what she said to you.
    4) I have often not wanted to go to a class because the teacher looked tiny and muscular and I just assumed (yes I judged) that she would look at my body and think "helpless". I would much rather have a teacher with a real body to teach me….I would feel less intimidated.
    And 5)Keep your attitude…..don't let anyone change the way you feel. You are an encouragement to so many people for exactly who you are!

  45. yogini says:

    Ride on sista!

  46. Camilla says:

    Wow, she clearly had many issues about body image and her own self-esteem. I can only think that life decided that you should encounter her, so that you did stand up for yourself and your beautiful body. Too many women, who practise yoga or not, worry about their image whatever their shape or size and can be judged so critically by other women. It's about time we all learnt to appreciate and love each other, and ourselves of course!

  47. April says:

    As a teacher of Plus size beautiful women I thank you for this post

  48. Cheryl says:

    You look amazing, I would kill for that body! Thanks for sharing this lovely inspiration story too.

  49. jo says:

    That poor tortured soul. What thoughts must hurt her every day. Your compassion is the best response!

  50. One of the best yoga teachers at Kripalu is round and cuddly. She looks like Buddha. She was tremendously popular when I was going there. Incredibly rude people with superficial values will hopefully get there some day.