The EveryBODY Movement – Meet Ericka BellAugust 4, 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’s community ally, Ericka Bell.
What is yoga’s impact on your body image?
I began yoga after having my first child. I had gone from a size 8 to size 18, had a C-section, and just felt completely lost within my new role and my new body. Since I come from a dance background, I initially looked to yoga to create some physical activity that I thought I’d enjoy…but I got so much more.
My first class was a beginner level class with heavily practiced yogis. I had to shelf my ego and just give it a chance – and I found that the more I practiced, the more I loved it. Oddly, it wasn’t the change in my body that kept bringing me back…it was more about the change in how I viewed myself.
As my practice became stronger, I grew more confident and more appreciative of my body. That was the gift of yoga for me: being able to love and accept myself. Whenever I practice I’m reminded that I’m enough, and I don’t need to be anything more than myself.
Does yoga promote diverse, positive, and loving body image?
No, I don’t believe that yoga is promoted in a diverse way within the West; however, I do believe things are changing, and these changes need to continue. On occasion, you’ll see a male or person of color representing yoga, and while that’s a great thing, that’s not enough!
I strongly believe that all people can benefit from a yoga practice, so we need to show a larger demographic in print aids, commercials (heck, within yoga studios!) to help promote and support this idea.
I’m in the process of creating my everyBody YOGA movement to help increase and support the idea of diversity in yoga. I plan on offering these EBY workshops in the spring of 2015 at Core Energy Yoga in Overland Park, Kansas. The workshops will focus on three pillars:
- Help students shift their perspective of why they don’t think the “fit” into the current yoga-scape.
- Give students permission to modify postures to suit their needs on any given day, and to do so with confidence…no apologies for removing struggle and supporting self.
- Teach students to step into their own Power with the practice of gaze, breathe, and core awareness.
It’s my belief that if a person can tap into what’s already present within, they’ll become unstoppable in what they want to accomplish for themselves, and they’ll share that enthusiasm with others. It’s my hope that the everyBody YOGA movement will add to the responsibility of expanding the idea of diversity in yoga, and studios will become flooded with “everyday people” doing their yoga thang!
Who are your yoga role models, if any?
My yoga role models are my students! Every day, they show up on their mats, or on their chairs to explore what’s possible. They don’t apologize for being older, they don’t apologize for not being perfect, they don’t apologize for wearing yoga clothes from Target…they just show up ready to move, ready breathe, and ready to connect.
They inspire me to continue to grow, and to learn so that I may show up to share my best self with them. Without my students, I’m not so sure I’d have the courage, or inspiration to start my everyBody YOGA movement, and that’s the truth.
How does your work address body image issues?
As a size 10, biracial teacher, I think I naturally challenge the idea of what yoga is supposed to look like….and students are naturally comfortable with my classes.
I get to teach a variety of students because of the styles of yoga that I share….I feel fortunate to be able to share yoga with the “everyday people” in my community.
I like to teach from a perspective of what’s possible. I give my students permission to modify, or take moments of rest. I share alignment cues that create awareness for them within their bodies, and I watch them light up with new understanding, and confidence.
And then, we have fun! We discuss ideas, we support one another, and we celebrate what’s possible today. I believe that when a person discovers they’re capable in this present moment, they naturally become positive about who they are without apology. The more they practice, the more this confidence for themselves grows on, and off the mat. It’s a gift, and a pleasure for me to bare witness to this process.
What does self-empowerment mean to you?
Showing up as yourself with no apologies. Understanding that you have gifts to share with others, so you share them no matter how big, or small. Being willing to stand up and speak out for what you believe in, so that you may have a positive impact on the world…even if it makes a positive impact for one person. Believing you’re worthy of all your hopes, desires, and dreams.
Ericka Bell is a yoga teacher from Kansas City. She has been teaching yoga for 7 years, and has had the privilege of sharing yoga with a diverse group of people. She offers Chair Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, and Coorporate classes to her students. She’s always inspired by her student’s curiosity to explore new possibilities in their practice. And she always encourages them to be curious, to grateful for what is, and to celebrate themselves.