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April 20, 2015

In Defense of the Skinny/Rich/White Yogis.

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Once reserved for the “weird hippies”, yoga has become mainstream in the West.

The new image of yoga has since become a thin, caucasian, privileged woman dressed from head to toe in Lululemon on her way to a fancy yoga studio.

In case you missed it, there’s a movement that’s currently shaking up the yoga world that challenges the aforementioned skinny/rich/white yogi stereotype. Campaigns assert that yoga is for everybody and every body.

I dig it. A lot. Truly. One of my goals as a yoga instructor is to bring the power and healing of yoga to people who might not otherwise be inclined to step into a yoga studio. I strive to make my classes non-dogmatic and non-intimidating. It’s what I love about teaching in a gym setting—it’s accessible (it’s free for gym members) and I’m able to teach an extremely diverse group of people that range from complete beginners to strong athletes to seasoned yogis.

That being said, something still rubs me the wrong way with some of these campaigns that aim to bring yoga to those who aren’t the stereotypical skinny/rich/white female. Sometimes this stereotypical woman is vilified. She’s seen as what’s “wrong” with yoga today and the reason yoga has become commercialized. She’s taken the soul out of yoga and made it trendy. She makes others feel uncomfortable in the studio and shames people who don’t wear size 2 Lululemon pants.

Is that fair? I don’t think it’s fair.

I work at an ad agency. Marketing is my thing. And here’s a little secret about marketing: The goal is to make money. I know, mind-blowing.

It makes sense that yoga studios would crop up in wealthy areas. It makes sense that yoga apparel companies would target upper-middle class women. They have the most buying power and the highest propensity to spend. So I don’t think the studios and retail brands are evil for targeting them, I think they’re doing business—and I don’t think the women they’re targeting are evil, either.

It’s not right to judge another human. Period. Whether they’re overweight or underweight, wealthy or struggling financially, black or white, gay or straight. I agree that yoga is in fact for everybody and every body. That includes those skinny/rich/white girls wearing Lululemon. They aren’t the problem—other people’s perception of them is the problem.

I’m sure some people see me as part of “the problem”. I wear Lululemon sometimes. I’m not a size 2 but I’m fairly slender. I’m white. I’m female. I’m blonde (ugh, extra gross!). I am very fortunate and I have a stable job. But I’m not trying to suck the soul out of yoga. I’m not trying to discourage people who don’t look like me from doing yoga. In fact, I’m trying to do quite the opposite. Like the saying goes, we can’t, and shouldn’t, judge a book by its cover. Sometimes I think we forget that includes judging the fancy, hand-stamped leather cover, too.

Let’s bring yoga to everybody and every body. Let’s support programs that offer free and affordable yoga classes. Let’s “like” the yogis on Instagram who are breaking the mold of what a yogi is “supposed” to look like—but not at the expense of putting down one another, because that is never okay.

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Author: Cara McDonald

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: sookie/Flickr

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Walk the Talk & cut through yoga materialism:

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Cara McDonald