What's wrong with this picture? Cassie reflects upon the body positivity module of her Yoga For All training.
I'm admittedly a bit behind on this training - fortunately you're given a year to complete it! After the completion of each module, we're asked to reflect upon the information we were given. I thought I'd reflect via this blog in the hopes of sharing some of what I'm learning with you.
I've had a fairly privileged life in terms of my relationship with my body/yoga. I'm white, I'm thin, I'm flexible and I'm petite: I have a similar body type to many of the women dominating #yoga on Instagram or plastered upon yoga/apparel advertisements. As is the case with most forms of social privilege, my privilege wasn't something made obvious to or something I ever had to be aware of. I can look at yoga/apparel advertisements, browse Instagram, attend classes in swanky studios and have my validity reinforced the entire time: Western yoga was made for me.
For those without these privileges, however, yoga can seem far less accessible. People with bigger bodies, people of colour, people who are differently abled, etc. all look at the same types of advertisements and media messages and are told something else: yoga isn't for you. This alone can be a huge disincentive to even start a yoga practice - let alone sustain one. The fact is that Western yoga as it stands is largely inaccessible to huge numbers of people: it is calibrated towards certain privileged body types with certain privileged socio-economic statuses. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that this reality entirely contradicts many of the philosophies and principles of yoga.
This is further exacerbated by the way we are taught to teach. My training was fairly body positive, but I know for many others this isn't the case. You see all sorts of shaming titles popping up for yoga these days (eg. "Yoga for Weight Loss"), or in class descriptions that advertise the "weight losing" properties of a yoga class as if that's the main goal to be achieved. The cues we give (often obliviously) are largely cued towards certain (thin, flexible) body types. Very few programmes offer training on how to teach yoga to differently abled groups, or confront the issues surrounding race and body shaming within the Western yoga community.
This needs to end. Yoga has the potential to change people's lives - it needs to be accessible to everybody - regardless of race, body size, socio-economic status, etc. After completing this module, I was extra glad that I work for a yoga accessibility charity. I look forward to seeing how the rest of this training can improve my teaching as a yoga instructor, as well as Yoga Quota's ethos as a studio and out-reach charity.