Disclaimer: This post does not reflect the views of DOYOUYOGA
There has been an influx of articles and posts surrounding yoga and body image issues for quite some time. Here we are Westernizing yoga, an ancient tradition, then ripping the imagery apart that we associate with it.
The yogis are “too skinny” or “Barbie-like,” there are no pictures of “curvy” or larger people, etc.
There are so many points to make and bring up on what feels like an unnecessarily over-contemplated issue, I don’t know where to begin. Let’s stick with a hot Western topic and start with sex.
Yoga used to be a man’s world.
Before yoga was brought to us as it is today, it was a man’s world. The men wore loincloths and led rigid lives. They studied, they ate vegetarian food (or begged for food), and they practiced asana regularly.
Do we have an issue with the images of the skinny men in loincloths of our gurus, teachers, and predecessors? With their ribs protruding and thigh gaps?
This is the epitome of dedication. Yoga IS dedication.
Now that women have entered the scene, the pictures of skinny yoginis evoke drama over the exclusion of pictures of larger, curvier women. This did not happen when men ruled the yoga world.
Why are women so ‘threatened?'
The way of the world is that if you dedicate yourself to something, you will reap the reward. Our society expects the reward without the effort.
Asana, or practicing yoga poses, is a part of the whole of yoga. Yoga isn’t just asana, or just meditation. It has, in fact, eight limbs. A yogi(ni) practices all eight limbs. That includes a dedicated asana practice.
A beautiful picture of a fit and toned woman in an effortless yoga pose is not meant to cause discomfort. It is meant to be an inspiration.
It’s for the same reason a gym promotes pictures of muscular men, or a fitness club uses pictures of fit models. These are the people that have dedicated the time and energy toward a goal. It is the same with the pictures of yogis.
Of course, anyone can start, and the models had to start somewhere too, but the pictures of the experienced and dedicated inspire you to start.
Why are most images of yoga associated with toned women?
It is for good reason that most of the pictures associated with yoga are of toned, skinny women. Women are naturally more flexible than men, so it can take less time for them to work into more open poses.
The toned women practice asana often. They can show the pose for what it is—aligned, and peaceful.
It can take years of dedicated practice to build up to some of the poses we commonly see. The pictured yoginis show dedication to their asana practice.
Dedication—we all want it, so few have it.
Are we looking at the yogini and experiencing a sort of jealousy for her dedication to her practice and body? Thinking, “I don’t have time for that,” or “I will never be able to do that, or look like that”?
The fact is, if you drown yourself in those negative thoughts, then your negativity will win.
If you practice asana daily, your body will become more toned and lean too. It’s a hard truth, but there it is. Not only will you reap the physical benefits, but you will also let go of all the crap swimming in your brain of what body you “should” have or want.
You will learn to love and appreciate your body just as it is for all the amazing things that it can do.
Asana practice is part of yoga. It cleanses the body, our vessel. It tones and strengthens the body and rids itself of dis-ease.
There is a reason that the practice of yoga poses caught on so rapidly in the West. (Newsflash: it wasn’t for union with the Divine).
We have become so entangled in the ego’s web that we are now letting it get the best of us over something that was meant to facilitate the release of the ego itself.
A shift in thinking is in order here.
Maybe it is a good thing that this topic is being addressed. We might be realizing that yoga isn’t just a fitness routine. Some of us might be in over our heads, but that’s okay. Everyone starts somewhere.
But more importantly…be inspired. Be appreciative. Love the fact that there are people out there dedicated to practicing and spreading the joy of yoga.
Appreciate their journey, but most of all, appreciate and understand your own. Be proud you made it this far (some people still think yoga has to do with yogurt).
Maybe you will find yourself being more dedicated and determined, maybe you won’t. And if not in this life, there is always the next.