Why yoga is for everyone, regardless of race, age or gender.

Representation in yoga: “I’m a yoga teacher and I can’t do half the poses that some plus-size yogis are able to do”

Posted by for Wellbeing

Yoga might seem like an overwhelmingly slim, white, middle-class venture, but take it from someone who’s been practising and teaching for years – every body is a yoga body.

Yoga is for everybody. This simple statement says more about the great practice of yoga than anything else. It’s a wonderfully inclusive practice – and that’s partly because there’s so much more to it than what has become known as the “face of yoga” – the asanas (yoga postures).

The fact that yoga has been practised for thousands of years offers some insight into why it’s risen in popularity exponentially over the past few years. Quite simply, it works. After years of practising and teaching, I’ve discovered for myself that yoga has so many transformational benefits, including healing, empowering, calming and strengthening. It offers something for everyone, and very often, you gain something that you weren’t even aware you were looking for. For me, it gave me the courage to be more authentic and pursue more of what I wanted from life – eventually allowing me to change careers.    

Yoga doesn’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It really can and should be adapted to accommodate all body types. Sure, there’s a basic outline of an alignment for each posture, but yoga is also about listening to your own body and tweaking flows to fit without judgement. Manage to do that and you’re halfway to self-acceptance and self-love. 

I hope this goes some way to dispelling a lot of the objections given for not starting a yoga journey. Often, people think they have to be flexible, to look a certain way, to own the latest yoga gear. The truth is that yoga will accept you just as you are and there is nothing you have to do or be, other than to show up on your yoga mat. You don’t even need to step into a studio if that’s what is fuelling your anxieties.

Abundant-bodied yogis are just as capable of moving as freely as a smaller-bodied person. I have witnessed this time and time again. That is why representation is so important; we need to normalise all bodies practicing yoga or any other physical activity. Plenty of body-positive yogis like Jessamyn Stanley are out there, if you need proof. She’s just one influencer who’s able to perform postures that I can only dream of achieving. 

Yoga can bring you home to who you really are. For me, it transformed my life. I’ve also found that it’s become a great way to deal with the challenges of everyday life. It’s for that reason again that it has to be kept as an open church. While yoga is inclusive at its roots, the practice as we know it has become less inclusive in recent years. Trendy studios, expensive leggings and an overly slim, white, young crowd of yogis has made it seem less available to many. It’s the body-positive group of yogis and teachers that we have to thank for the fact that the tide – mercifully – seems to be moving back to what yoga has always been: something for everyone.

I’m so passionate about encouraging people to believe that yoga is for them and that it can help to navigate life in a more mindful and meaningful way. You don’t have to be upside down in headstand to see how daily practice can help to provide you with a different perspective. This is about prioritising self-care and investing in your wellbeing – something few of us do. A lot of the time, we’re made to feel that self-care is a selfish act when, in fact, it’s something that we all need to have more of. 

This is one of the reasons why I created Curvesomeyoga – so that anyone can experience yoga in a safe, judgement-free space where anyone can come and do as little or as much as they want. In fact, I tell my students that if all they want to do is to lie on their mat for the duration of the class in savanasa, that’s totally fine.

So many people are put off yoga before even venturing onto the yoga mat. The image that the mainstream media and yoga industry perpetuates of what it means to be a ‘yogi’ (slim, white, wealthy), leaves whole communities excluded from exploring the magic of yoga – something that’s continually evolving. You don’t have to schlep to Kensington for a £20 Hatha class; hop online for a ‘contribute what you can’ session, try naked yoga (yep, you read that right) or try hot yoga on Class Pass. 

Whatever type you try, I can guarantee you that starting a yoga practice will change your life in some way.

5 reasons to try yoga today

Here are my top five personal reasons why I believe yoga is for absolutely everyone.

1. Yoga relieves stress

Yoga is a massive stress reliever. Learning how to pay attention to your body and the breath changes our mindset and emotional and physical state – leading to a sense of calm, as well as many other health benefits.

The practice of yoga has allowed me to reduce the level of stress in my own life, as well as identify signs of stress – providing me with the tools to prevent it from happening.

2. It strengthens the body and mind

Yoga truly helps us develop the strength and flexibility of both the mind and body. By practising yoga, I was able to become better at dealing with various challenges, while being able to lift my body into certain yoga poses like crow pose and handstand.

3. Yoga cultivates the mind-body connection

Time on the mat is time to tune into one’s own inner voice. It brings you home to yourself.

By consciously connecting your mind and body through the breath and through poses, you become more mindful and focused, and able to make decisions with a lot more clarity.

4. Every practice is adaptable

I teach so many body types of all ages, sizes, genders and ethnicities. To help my students to embrace the true essence of yoga, I have had to evolve my teaching to incorporate chair yoga and aqua yoga, for example – modifying the postures to accommodate the different bodies that attend classes.

5. Yoga is transformational

If you start practising now, beware! You may discover something so transformative that you’ll never return to the way you used to be before yoga came into your life. Yoga literally took me from the city to the mat. There is so much more to this wonderful practice.  It’s about cultivating self-acceptance and self-love when you do venture onto the mat.

There is nothing you need to do before you start yoga. You just have to turn up to your mat and give it a go. Keep trying different styles of yoga until you find one that resonates with you.

There’s a yoga mat somewhere waiting for you with your name on it – so go and give it a go. You have nothing to lose but so much to gain.   

Prepare your body for yoga with one of our 15-minute mobility sessions

Images: Getty

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