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  • Writer's pictureTracey L. Kelley

Yoga Is for Every Body

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

This is the time of year when many people choose to rededicate their efforts to more mindful health and wellness. Whether it's a full list of resolutions, detoxing from the sugarstorm of the holiday season, or simply wanting the literal turning of a calendar page to represent a change in perspective, it's a great time to think about your body~

~and remember you're beautiful and amazing, inside and out.

Someone asked me recently why I stress that yoga is for every body, regardless of age, weight, flexibility, or fitness level. It's because I see the power of yoga revealed in every person who's rolled out a mat. I know, without a doubt, that transformation will happen, as long as an individual makes space for it. I'm certain everyone, regardless of--you know, what I said before--will be able to do some form of yoga.

Will everyone look and move like the incredible Kino MacGregor here? Frankly, no. Her level of ability, body shape, genetics, and the fact that she practices ooodles and ooodles of hours a week means she has an advantage over many other people. Not all of us will reach her peak. This is perfectly fine. Unfortunately, this isn't always the message in the yoga industry.

Yoga, which is often defined as unity, can be a lonely place for someone who doesn't look like Kino. And even more disheartening, there are actually yoga practitioners and teachers who think if you -don't- look like Kino, well, yoga isn't for you. This belief system is reflected in multitudes of media, at certain yoga events, and at high-end yoga apparel stores that cater to an exclusive clientele of a particular tag size.

This is why the people at the Yoga Body Image Coalition (YBIC)--some ambassadors are shown in the top picture--broadcast a message of acceptance. From its site: "Our coalition is committed to developing, promoting and supporting yoga that is accessible, body-positive and reflects the full range of human diversity. We advocate yoga as an essential tool in personal transformation, from the inside out, including a critical social justice component. We inform, educate and work with organizations that are ready to shift the current media paradigm to one that is more inclusive, equitable and just, and challenge industry leaders and media creators to expand their vision of what a yogi looks like."

It's a noble effort, and one that needs to happen. I work with people all the time who initially think they can't do yoga for one body-centric reason or another. Or feel they're too old to do it well. Or no one in class looks like them, so it must not be for them.

After a few weeks of practice, they realize why the internal benefits matter. They appreciate the support of other members in their yoga tribe and feel encouraged to keep going. They understand that yoga both complements their wellness efforts and is an extension of them. And they start to believe that no matter what culture, gender identity, health issue, current mobility, waist size, or age--yoga is most certainly for every body. There's no need to let limiting categories reflected by someone else's mirror stifle continual evolution. As a non-Kino-looking practitioner and teacher, I know my life would be stagnant, my health issues more unmanageable, and my mind a hot, cluttered mess if I had used one of those isolating categories--say, body image--to prevent me from starting practice years ago and, as a result, learning how to teach. I experience transformation every time I step on the mat--why would I give it up just because I can't buy {insert exclusive name brand here} yoga pants in my size for $125? So, to return to the beginning of a new year, and the focus on physical wellness. Yes, many of us could move better, have more energy, and sleep more soundly if we lost a few pounds. Yes, excess sugar isn't good for our bodies for a variety of reasons, and needs to be minimized. Yes, it's necessary to eat in a way that fuels our bodies efficiently. Yes, it's important to exercise however we can to use the wondrous physical machines we have. But the physical is just one category of wellness. As we often say in yoga, the point is to unite the body...and mind...and spirit. We should do everything we can to improve our health and wellbeing inside and out. Your beautiful and amazing self still, believe it or not, has untapped potential.

photos courtesy of YBIC and Kino MacGregor

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