NOTE from Melanie Klein: When Anna Guest – Jelley and I embarked on writing and curating Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories about Beauty, Bravery, and Loving Your Body in what became a three-year project, we did so in order to highlight the complex and interwoven issues that intersect with yoga and body image as separate topics as well how they intersect with yoga and body image jointly. We hoped that by bringing forward a diverse array of voices and experiences, we could connect with a wider audience in order to inspire, heal and promote dialogue on the issues contained therein. With the emergence of book clubs examining the stories in YBI and sharing their own experiences on these topics, we feel our intentions in collaborating are being realized.
“I’m sure your story is just like mine.” – Part 2 in the Yoga and Body Image Book Discussion SeriesMarch 26, 2015
“I’m sure your story is just like mine.” Shout-out to the book group member who brought this up. You know, that line that’s included in some yoga writing to communicate a spirit of camaraderie and a sense of shared experience with the reader.
“I’m sure your story is just like mine.”
It’s not just like yours, nor does it need to be in order to be an authentic yoga experience.
In Part 2 of the Yoga and Body Image Book Discussion series, we delved into the group of essays in the “On the Margins” section of the book
We began by talking about moments when we’ve felt on the margins of yoga. Someone said, “Yoga interested me, but didn’t invite me.” Lots of head nods and a flurry of conversation followed that powerful statement. Many of us pointed to Teo Drake’s essay, “Yoga from the Margins,” as reflective of the ways in which many people are pushed out of the mainstream yoga narrative:
“I struggle with the lack of awareness in mainstream Western yoga culture about what it takes for so many of us to show up, about the sheer courage it takes to have that negotiation in a public space, and about what it takes to make spaces fully accessible to the huge numbers of people who will never feel comfortable coming in to your typical yoga studio.” (p. 96)
As someone who often feels on the margins of most yoga spaces, it was refreshing to hear all of us name the “othering” that happens in yoga. Sometimes feel like they’re not athletic or spiritual enough. Sometimes, there’s just too much “woo-woo.” Some of us pointed out the class tensions in yoga, and the religious skepticism of family members and friends. We also talked about it means for people of color and indigenous folks to be racialized bodies in predominantly white studios. And someone just straight up called out privilege and positionality as something that the yoga community needs to address.
We talked about the fallacy of promoting an attitude of “everyone being welcome,” without the doing the intentional work to back it up in practice. And then – I’m not sure how we did all this in an hour of discussion – we talked about solutions. How do we shift to a culture of embracing rather than shunning critique in yoga communities? How do we broaden our definition of yoga practice and make it flexible enough to address the self-defined needs of underrepresented communities? (We only began the conversation and would love to hear any ideas you have in the comments.)
The conversation continues on April 18 with the next discussion in the series. We hope to see you there!
In the meantime, here’s a song that always speaks to me (and maybe other yogis on the margins): “Q.U.E.E.N.” by Janelle Monae. “Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” (And find my yoga practice and my yoga people.)
- “Every exhale is an opportunity to forgive.” – Part 1 in the Yoga and Body Image Book Discussion Series by Anitra Cottledge.
- Yoga and Body Image: Raising Awareness Through Book Clubs by Erin McCloskey
- “I’ve never said this before.” – A Yoga and Body Image Coalition Workshop Weekend by Elen Bahr
- Black Yogi. White Studio. by Anitra Cottledge.
BIO: Anitra Cottledge is a higher education professional, teacher, writer, developing yogi and compassionate questioner who tweets infrequently.