We’ve had the flu in our house this week. Which means that in between sleeping and feeding the baby and groaning, I’ve had lots of time to read while letting the housework pile up around my ears.
So I’ve been perusing the pages of Pinterest- a good way to lose an hour, if there ever was one- for new ideas to spice up my teaching. And again and again, I see the headlines:
“Five yoga poses for a flat tummy”
“Yoga to shrink your thighs”
“Yoga for weight loss!”
And I get it, our culture is obsessed with this stuff. It sells. It’s damn near impossible to avoid body negativity in this world. And I know for a fact that some of my students come to yoga as a way into smaller pair of jeans.
In the west, we focus so heavily on the outside. The good thing about the undeniable physical benefits of yoga, I think, is that they can serve as a sort of gateway drug into what yoga is really about- non-judgement, contentment, acceptance. If a student arrives in a yoga practice because she wants to shed a few pounds and leaves with an peaceful mind and a connection to her breath, I feel okay about that. As teachers, balancing what our students are looking for with our responsibility to honour the traditions from which yoga comes can be tricky, but it is critical. Patanjali, after all, barely mentions asana in the sutras. He wasn’t concerned about his thighs, not even a little. Taking a practice dating back millenia and reducing it to an exercise regime to flatten your tummy is cultural appropriation and isn’t okay.
You don’t have to be any particular race or religion to practice yoga (said the white lady), but as teachers we have the respect where this phenomenal gift has come from and give due attention to that when we pass on what we know.
I am happy that people get on their mats, however, wherever, for whatever reason. But as a yoga community we have the power to foster a spirit of metta, loving kindness, for the self and the world at large. We have the power to facilitate a shift in our culture away from self-deprecation toward something deeper and broader. We would be remiss to focus too hard on eliminating every jiggle and miss what lies inside.
For more on cultural appropriation check this out: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/what-exactly-is-cultural-appropriation-and-how-is-it-harmful
And for some kick-ass shots of women not interested in yoga for weight loss, check out http://www.buzzfeed.com/carolynkylstra/curvy-yoga
On an unrelated note, I’m happy to be offering two beginner classes each week now, Mondays at 5:30 and Wednesdays at 8:30 pm, both at the Yoga Kula Co-Op on Torbay Rd. Join me for a detailed, fun and non-judgemental introduction to the foundations of yoga!