Diversity, Love and Self Acceptance – Meet Irene RiveraApril 16, 2015
The Yoga and Body Image Coalition is committed to building conscious community and highlighting the work that inspiring yogis are doing in their local communities and beyond. We’re pleased to introduce you to Yoga and Body Image Coalition community ally, Irene Rivera.
What has yoga’s impact been on your body image?
Yoga has had a positive and negative impact on my body image. When I was new to yoga, I, like many people, used yoga as exercise. I wanted to shed pounds and get a “yoga body” – long, lean, and svelte. I was doing a really great job at that – I practiced fanatically, completely changed the way I ate, in addition to yoga 5-6x a week, I also did weight training, and lost over 60lbs. I burned the candle at both ends and then I finally got fed up with the war against my body. Then something happened, as I was being compassionate toward my students (of different shapes & ability) I realized I needed to practice compassion toward myself. I gained weight, but that’s okay. My weight may fluctuate, but I am still me. Today my practice nourishes me and I’m no longer punishing my body. I practice more yin yoga, modify just about every pose, and my relationship with yoga has evolved beyond the physical practice.
What’s your current relationship to your body?
I struggle with positive body image almost daily. Being in the yoga community as an overweight, short woman of color, I am automatically in the minority. When I enter a class for the first time, I scan the room looking for other larger bodied women. But right after my knee jerk insecurities there’s a surge of positive self talk and confidence. I have the right to be anywhere I want to be. I have more to offer than my physical appearance. If I am authentic, I will attract the people I want to be around, everyone else is inconsequential.
Describe yoga culture’s current relationship to body image.
Mainstream yoga does not promote diversity or contribute to the creation of a positive and loving body image. But there’s a ground swell on social media fighting against the yoga stereotype. It is our responsibility as a community to promote positive body image. As a community we need to be more inclusive, versus perpetuating this exclusive club of the super limber and lean yogi pretzel. If we aren’t then our Namastes and ‘light and love’ is just lip service. Those that are excluded need yoga the most and we need to create a community and culture that is inviting to all.
Who are your yoga role models? Why?
Some of my current yoga role models are: Dianne Bondy, Anna Guest Jelly, Dana A. Smith, Amber Karnes, Big Gal Yoga…. their love of yoga and their positive energy radiates. They are yoga role models because they are promoting diversity, love, and self acceptance.
If you could say 1 thing to your younger Self, what would it be?
You are enough, don’t let other people shape you. Don’t diet. The only approval you need is your own. You are a beautiful soul as you are, don’t change a thing.
Irene Rivera completed her first yoga certification at Corepower Yoga Chicago in level 1 Vinyasa in 2012 followed by Hot Yoga, level 2 vinyasa, and CoreRestore training. She is also a certified yin yoga instructor trained under Bernie Clark.
She obtained her level 2 Reiki certifcation in June 2014 and is registered with Yoga Alliance as a 200hr RYT. In addition to her certifications she has additional training through workshops, classes or lectures for: Yoga for larger bodies, Pranayama, meditation, vibrational therapy, and aromatherapy.
She is currently working on her Aromatherapy certification and attending a 2yr Ayurveda Practitioner program.