Is the Yoga Industry Ruining Positive Body Image?

The yoga industry has experienced a fall from grace, no doubt. It’s an industry I love but it’s suffering. The modernization of yoga and the mass media that followed, has turned it into an ego driven, body terrorist, 27 billion dollar fashion show. But yet the increase in popularity of yoga could have such a positive influence in the world. A yoga class used to be a place where all body types were accepted and so little focus was put on aesetics it was comparable to a football practice. I remember students showing up in old worn out gym shorts and baggy t-shirts. That isn’t the case anymore. The yoga studio can sometimes seem like a strange version of a runway.

So where does that leave the regular yoga practioner who practices all eight limbs of yoga? Being in the yoga industry-especially the online yoga industry- one subjects themselves to thousands of images daily of beautiful long limbed, thin men and women doing postures well beyond what the average person can practice. Each one of these images chip away slowly at the foundation we’ve built within ourselves to be unaffected by outside influences. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of long limbed, thin, beautiful women that do practice yoga, but why is that ALL we see anymore? And why would it ever be ok to photoshop already beautiful women and men so they can grace the cover of a popular yoga magazine? Isn’t it an oxymoron to photoshop pictures in anything related to yoga? Yoga is about finding balancing between self acceptance and challenging yourself to grow. And what do the typical yoga magazine images teach us? Do they teach us to love and accept ourselves, even though the average person cannot ever look like the image we are being bullied into believing is beautiful? Nope, not me, I don’t feel love and acceptance when I look at those images. I don’t want to get into what I do feel. A short time ago my solution was to simply not look. Instead of tv’s and magazines gracing the shelves at my place there are Buddhas, yoga mats and lovely quotes. But I have to work and my work requires me to look at yoga photos- lots of them.

We yogis are taught to have our focus taken from within rather than out, but how much can one tolerate the image of perfection without allowing it to penetrate our subsconcious?

Reading blog comments like “never trust a yoga instructor with cellulite” or “ Yoga is for everybody???? Well a few extra pounds is fine but overweight people can’t perform the asanas”. I’m not kidding you, these are real comments. And, they are not from trolls. These comments come from people who consider themselves yogis and yet they have zero understanding of what yoga actually is.

Where in the Sutras does it tell us how to set boundaries with mass media? The book was written 2000 years ago, long before the internet, TV and yoga magazines Countless people who need yoga desperately, refuse to walk into a yoga studio, too afraid they won’t look like they belong. Fear grips them so tightly they can’t even seek out a guru to help them along a path to enlightenment. When I think of those people who are left out, I get a little upset. I feel like I should do something- but what?

I used to educate people about self love. Teach men and women to love their bodies, to throw out what society has deemed beautiful, make your own standards of health and beauty, because the mass media is so far from it, it’s an absolute joke. But it’s a tough job, some people get it, some don’t. Some would progress and some would regress. I would blame myself if they went on yet another diet, failed and continued their body hatred. So again I want to do something- but what?

Maybe my purpose is this yoga industry is to set a good example, bringing compassion and understanding into the studio and internet. Maybe I haven’t come far enough in my own body love journey to withstand all the images I see everyday and keep a reality check on what real bodies actually look like. I’m so blessed to be able to put aside my teaching certificate and focus on just being a student. Going deep within ourselves to find solutions is the answer.

Personally, I won’t let the industry ruin what I’ve work so hard to build and I invite you all to join me. Ironically, it was doing yoga that allowed me to form the love affair I now have for my body, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. I’ll continue to nurture that relationship and the only way to do that is by coming to my mat everyday. For now though I’d love to see all different body types represented in the photos that stumbled into my view. 

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