This is What a Real Yoga Body Looks Like.

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
Image: Holly Sharpe 


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.”

  1. Laurie Dean says:

    Admire your strength and courage for being so open with your writing. So sad – but a reflection of the harshness that student probably also turns toward herself. She was expressing her dissatisfaction with herself – mirroring it back to you.

  2. Chuck says:

    Your statement was amazing. I think your struggles with ED have resolved and the body you currently inhabit looks PERFECT to me. Please stay strong and confident in you journey through life and let the negative words/judgements/actions Just Wash Away. Blessings and Best Wishes fro San Francisco Rachel

  3. Casey says:

    LOL clearly they missed the point of the yoga. You are awesome keep it up.

  4. Lydia says:

    I just want to say for what it's worth- A. People are mostly crazy. and B. You. look. amazing. 🙂

  5. lrk says:

    I'm shocked and speechless at the comments that were made to you. You are strong, inspiring and beautiful. Self-acceptance is an attitude and lifestyle that our culture needs so much more of.Thank you for setting an amazing example.

  6. Tim says:

    Excellent Rachel! Your look, your body is perfect. It is who you are supposed to be and the miracle that is you. Unfortunate that someone so judgemental would have the arrogance to think they know what you *should* look like. You are right where you are supposed to be, you are the being you are supposed to be– the perfect, beautiful you.

  7. Jason says:

    There are always people out there with mouths two steps ahead of their brains. This Canadian guy thinks you look fantastic! Stay strong and ignore the negativity!

  8. Katie Oliver says:

    I salute the divinity in you, in all of us even the woman with the viewpoint, I salute it in her too, hold tight and hey….good morning USA !!

  9. Paige Gentry says:

    Rachel !!! You are a GODDESS !! I wish you were here in Venice CA .. I would take your classes …. Xoxo praise to you …

  10. Jean says:

    You are PERFECT! Beautiful inside and out and no one can take that from you! You are strong and she was well, to be nice (which she may not deserve but hey, no haters here!) weak…weak minded and very ill mannered. She actually pinched you?! Wow…I hope she can somehow see the grave errors of her way and heal.

  11. Jack says:

    So, throw out the word "perfect" for almost everything (well, maybe except souffles); there is beauty, beauty, beauty in so many different forms, and the SHM (standard human mind) often sees and experiences things in such a narrow spectrum……many blessings to you Rachel, and I'd "do" yoga with you any day, and feel blessed for the experience…..

  12. Gwendolyn says:

    I am a massage therapist and I can tell you that i have seen cellulite on the tiniest, fittest females. Yep. No one is immune from it.

  13. motheroak says:

    That's a lot what my yoga body looks like, we have unnatural expectations of what women should look like. I am strong and curvy and literally just about all muscle. I am not a little girl. i am me. adult magnificent curvy beautiful woman who is not cutting herself down to someone elses size.

  14. ShannonThomas says:

    First of all, you are truly beautiful! Second of all, thanks for sharing – needed to hear that today (-: Please keep sharing, the world needs your wisdom and ability to see beauty.

  15. Ananta says:

    Thanks for your bold article…and if it hasn’t aleady been said, you have an amazing body.

  16. @tinycurator says:

    You look hot as hell. SMOKIN' hot! Big love and admiration from New Zealand.

  17. Martin says:

    Dunno where to start! These kind of people are generally best left go fuck themselves. I’m pretty sure that women put a lot of unnecessary pressure on themselves and other women to look a certain way. Men don’t go out of their way to pass comment on another guy’s weight like that. But equally important is the falsehood of all men wanting women to look like a supermodel. I certainly don’t. Rachel, you look stunning. Any size issue this shallow cow had against you is basically her own failing. She failed to acknowledge the powerful structure you have and mistook it for excessive bulk. It seems obvious that you have are a woman with many strengths and physical strength is the most visual. I’ll assume your Yoga skills were lost on her as apparently someone hadn’t paid attention in class.

    I do feel however that there is an uncomfortably growing problem of society trying to accept fatness in people. I’m not talking of an extra few pounds here or there though. I mean serious bulk that causes mobility problems. If a person can’t rely on their own power to get around with ease due to their diet then something should be done. All the empowering ‘big girls are beautiful’ chat in the world won’t help them when their joints start packing in at an early age. Besides a general removal of a sedentary life and increased self control of food intake, Yoga is almost a perfect solution. Using your own body in controlled poses to relax and exert yourself at the same time – ideal!

    As I said earlier, you look amazing. People like yourself getting targetted by the petty minded are only being raised higher. I hasten to assume that the person who pinched you was probably less than the mythical perfection. She certainly was at least lacking in manners and tact!

  18. Kat says:

    I bet you’ve really grown so much in realizing your self worth and loving your body, that the universe had to present you with what you are most afraid of. Anyone who has had an eating disorder knows that having someone confront you in your safest space, after an amazing yoga class, pinching your waist and telling you you aren’t thin enough…that is what you are afraid everyone will think, including yourself. The day you can laugh at her, and tell her to get a life as you are a freaking goddess and that you find your own healthy body beautiful – when you can say that and be genuinely amused – that won’t keep happening to you. You are being given an amazing opportunity to work through your own issues. We ALL have them. Let’s be honest, you look amazing. Curvy and strong and healthy and beautiful. Own it. You go girl!

  19. Doris says:

    Thank you for this! I needed this!

  20. Chloe says:

    That's a reflection of the person saying it, not you. Keep on loving yourself. You are a beautiful!!! And my gosh, so strong!

  21. Gabrielle says:

    Thanks for sharing. From one strong womanly yoga teacher to another. Shine on! Live and speak your truth and in doing do, you are inspiring many. Much live

  22. Vince says:

    All platitudes aside, you are strikingly divine. I’m sorry you had to experience such negative energy like that but we really do learn and grow from this flexing of our heart and ego.

  23. louise avery says:

    Cant believe anyone would pinch you and comment on your weight very rude. Bless you for being so proud and honest and amazing…

  24. Nic says:

    YOU.ARE.AWESOME. thank you for your inspiration. you are simply amazing xo

  25. Vanessa says:

    I love you so much! Thank you for writing it. I shed a few tears and I appreciated every word. Bless your beautiful body and spirit!

  26. Zac says:

    I was watching some tricking videos last night and stumbled on a video of a guy doing a tornado kick and a back handspring. He happened to be overweight, and one of the comments he received was "Damn that was cool dude! Just think: if you keep that up, you'll have a body that looks so good, you won't be ashamed to take your shirt off in the locker room. Very impressive!" It made me realize, just like this article did, how harmed we are by those idealized body types. They make people think we should be ashamed when every body is capable of doing so many beautiful things. But it's the people who say these things that are the most harmed, because they can't enjoy their own talents in their bodies without going through a highly demanding regimen. Respect to those that have the "ideal" form without feeling like all people need to have it though, for their hard work and their knowledge that just because someone has a different shape doesn't mean they're lazy.

  27. SMSchain says:

    Rachel, you're perfect. End of story.

  28. Jo-Dee says:

    this is beautiful. As a "non conforming yoga looking teacher".. I can relate to this article so well, but if someone came up to class to me and said that… I think it would have gone down a bit like this,… warning, fowl language.

  29. Toddasana says:

    “you are beautiful and perfect exactly this way and fuck anyone that can’t see the beauty in you that I see.”

  30. I'm a 54 year old male yoga teacher/psychologist. My weight varies around the high 180s – low 190s (and I really work hard to keep it that low). I have a lot of muscle, as well as some fat. That is how I am embodied. I certainly will never show up on the cover of Yoga Journal, and I don't fit the image of a yoga teacher, and I have also received an occasional comment to that effect. However, I view that as function of how in the west hatha yoga has become used with ego attachment with body image, and not yoga as a vehicle for greater awareness. With that said, I find my rather atypical appearance as a benefit as it helps my students (typically folks in drug rehab or facing health or mental health challenges), more accepting of asana as a vehicle for change.

  31. Nadia says:

    I don't see any weight you need to lose. Only see strength, freedom and celebration.

  32. Joanne says:

    Life is for living not for worrying so much – you look fab as you are and it's time everyone spent less time focusing on this and more time being themselves and enjoying life. We all deserve to do that <3

  33. Stacey Harlow says:

    You look absolutely amazing Rachel. I would love to look as good as you do! Don’t allow others to define you. If we listened to every negative comment and/or advice that people have us we wouldn’t know who we are or what direction to go. Everyone, listen to yourselves and who YOU want to be and look. I’ll follow my own advice here from now on

  34. Maggie Leonard says:

    The only thing I can think is maybe your student was a wee bit jealous but unconsciously. I think you are super-hot and your body is awesomely beautiful.

  35. Ling says:

    You are beautiful. You are amazing.

    Do not let those who cannot appreciate your beauty beyond the the physical body dampen your fire and passion.

    Continue the great work and keep smiling 🙂

  36. victoria says:

    That's what your yoga body looks like. I have a yoga body but it doesn't look like yours nor is it fake. Personally I think you look healthy and very attractive and strangers telling you to lose weight should not be accepted by anyone other than a doctor diagnosing you with a disease caused by your weight. Thank you for sharing your experience but please don't single others out with the "this is what a real woman looks like" campaign.

  37. Nyla says:

    Beautifully written…just like you Rachael! Thank you for this incredible article! BRAVO 🙂

  38. sandra_kay_m says:

    I am also not one of the tiny people doing yoga in their over-priced brand name yoga clothes, however, I have been regularly practicing since 1996, mainly on my own (or via YouTube) for the last ten years after moving to a rural area. A few years ago I had the opportunity to attend a class in DC. It took every fiber in my essence to keep from punching the instructor in the face when after a very challenging class she said she was amazed at how flexible I was and that I kept up with her class for being a "dumpy farmer." Instead, I just said "namaste" and walked away.

  39. Candice says:

    Your light is infinite! Keep shining girl! You are beautiful!

    Thank you for sharing something vulnerable and look your message has struck hundreds of hearts and probably even made someones' day. 🙂

    Peace, Love, and Namaste 🙂

  40. @BreannaHo says:

    Thank you for sharing, Rachel. As a yoga teacher, I am baffled at the majority of skinny bodies that make up our teachers. Nothing against skinny people. It makes me question how much of yoga is about image and how much of it is about the yoga.

  41. Audrey says:

    You look great – ignore the haters – there are so many negative people in the world.

  42. raspufall says:

    Thank you for teaching yoga despite not fitting the typical mold of yoga teacher…..whatever that may be. Honestly, the yoga classes I enjoy most are those taught by people with an authentic genuineness, no matter what they look like. I'm not sure how you held your tongue as this person made those comments, or if you should have. I've decided that I can no longer condone people's poor behavior by silently allowing them to say hurtful things like that. That woman needs to know that her comments are hurtful, wrong, and uncalled for. However, that may not be your role….if only I lived near you. I'd be happy to educate her on how opinions are most often better left in your head!

  43. Abby says:

    Fantastic! Awesome! Beautiful!

  44. Jason says:

    You know I have never heard of a man walking up to another man or woman to tell them about their weight. I have only heard of women doing this. From that one picture there, you have an amazing body. I love thick women, healthy of course, it beats a skinny body any day, not that I hate on skinny girls, I'm just saying.

  45. Every Yoga Teacher reading this should share it and bring the topic up in class-we need to remind our students that yoga is more than an Asana:) I will be sharing.

  46. Jena says:

    I am also a "curvy" pilates teacher. I think you look healthy and awesome. I've also decided to like my body and who I am. thanks for the inspiration.

  47. gdomenica13 says:

    1. You're gorgeous. I see nothing one would have to "learn to love" there, honestly, even though I fully know and understand what you mean by that. 2. The yoga student who came up to you and ACTUALLY SAID THAT should quit yoga. Forever. Because the compassion bit, which is very important, isn't working. Okay, so maybe I should not say quit and say instead she needs a yoga intensive because HOLY CRAP. 3. Thank you for writing this. It came into my vision at a very good time.

  48. olga says:

    there are many real yoga bodies. just saying…

  49. viocartman says:

    Rachel, i was really touched by this article :D….it moved something in me because for a long time i let other people impose their negativity and their judgements on me. Since 2 months ago i think, i started a healing process both phisically and mentally (especially mentally :D) where i accept myself as i am with all that we consider good and bad and it is been amazing. I thank you for this wonderfull article which i hope a lot of people will read and i would like to keep in touch with you on Facebook, here is my account

    I wish you and all the beautiful people reading this article a great day, a great week and an amazing life :D, all the best

  50. winniekortemeier says:

    We all need to practice saying " I like my body just the way it is, and I would appreciate it if you kept your criticisms to yourself." If we practice this, then when someone comments on our bodies, we will be prepared to answer. It's high time these negative people were called on the carpet for their rude behaviors.

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