love your body but first do these weight loss yoga videos: tara stiles’ mixed messaging

love your body but first do these weight loss yoga videos: tara stiles’ mixed messaging

During my daily social media wanderings a couple of days ago, I came across a Facebook post by “yoga rebel,” Tara Stiles. She had written:

For my friends who struggle with body image, weight issues, eating and anxiety disorders.

Don’t think about gaining or losing weight or how you think or feel about how you look.

Concentrate on nurturing your self with wholesome foods, expansive thoughts, and loving self-care practices.

Take a long, hot bath.

Let yourself dream of what you want to experience and how you want to feel in your life. Allow your actions to support that feeling. Drop actions that don’t support that feeling…

And some other stuff, but that was the gist of it.

On the one hand, it’s refreshing to see Stiles – who generally posts hotel room selfies, pics of knitting projects, and announcements about her new clothing line with Reebok – address something like body image and weight issues. On the other hand, this is a person who wrote a book called Slim Calm Sexy Yoga. A quick search on YouTube reveals:

tara-stiles-weight-loss

Which isn’t to say that Tara Stiles has posted 30,000 “weight loss” yoga routines on YouTube, as some of those results are playlists that other people made or keywords that they used. But the search results did turn up things like:

Anyway, so when I saw Stiles’ post I couldn’t help myself and I made a comment that went something like: “This is a nice sentiment but I hope you understand that publishing a book called Slim Calm Sexy Yoga actually perpetuates negative body image. It’s easy to spout body positivity rhetoric, but it’s more difficult to change actions and reflect on the impact of your work.” It got a few likes. A few people commented, saying I was being negative.

Then the comment was deleted. Probably because somebody else thought I was being negative.

I love seeing the conversation about body image expand, and it’s great to see high profile yoga teachers acknowledge it. But it’s disappointing to see the lack of connection between previous work and present messaging. It’s disappointing to see a lack of responsibility or recognition that there are many social and cultural factors that play into negative body issues. And it’s most disappointing to see a lack of engagement (deleting a critical comment is actually silencing).

The downside of the mainstreaming of the body image conversation is that words of empowerment can become just words.

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  1. Hooray to you for sparking this lively and intelligent discussion about body image in yoga, Roseanne! I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, as well as related matters of age and ability in yoga — specifically as they relate to older adults and people with limited mobility.

    Why not promote yogis of all abilities, ages, shapes and sizes?

  2. Thank you for this post! As someone fairly new to yoga &… yoga “celebrities” or whatever, I’ve always been baffled as to why Tara Stiles is considered a “yoga rebel” (I don’t find her videos soothing or helpful, either — they feel too rushed) because… yeah, it didn’t feel like she was emanating body acceptance or body love or anything to me (unless… your body looks like hers). I’m put off by the idea of “sexy” yoga or yoga to lose weight, ugh.

  3. Great post. Couldn’t agree more Rosanne.

    Slim Sexy Calm… Just that title says everything that
    is wrong with mainstream media, and it’s portrayal
    of yoga.

    • That Slim Calm Sexy is a book packager’s mistake, not Tara Stiles’ … there is a companion (or part of a “series” in the same vein/genre) called Slim Calm Sexy Diet (that has a [different] yoga practice within), and then of course .. we have to think that even THAT’s a takeoff on the title, Crazy Sexy Cancer …

      With the vata constitution and the surname (NO relation to American actress Julia Stiles); and probably a keep-mum clause on the book packager’s contract with her, of COURSE it adds up to gymtimidation!

      That being said, even with my (new) free time and my wasted-away physique (from illness, not just diet); I would not set foot in her studio in the same locality where I live. I am not a size ZERO …

      What a world!

  4. There is a lot of mixed messaging in the yoga industry. I recently had a conversation with someone who said, “of course there is not competition in yoga, but we all know there is competition.” HUH? I think a lot of yoga teachers are just saying what they think they should but they don’t really believe it and then in a moment of clarity, they really say what they mean. It is sad to me though because this confusion goes into the yoga world

  5. Interesting perspective. I agree we need more conversation about this issue & it is sad to hear your comment was deleted. We should inspire open communication not silencing!

  6. what should we be setting as an intention at the beginning of practice?

    What foods do you avoid or try to avoid? And if you go for crappy food – how many times a week do you go for that?

  7. Unfortunately yoga has become “exercise” akin to the Zumba fad or step aerobics. Classes named Yoga Body Bootcamp and Yoga Sculpt are at most studios.

  8. I think social media (from what I’ve seen in my own peer group [gen Y], the “fitspo” trend, and now the Yoga community) plays a big part in undermining women’s ability to just live. Weight loss, muscle gain and flexibility triumphs are posted online. From the screen I look into it creates this “if only if I could” illusion of a better quality of life (but not health or happiness) because a picture is just a moment, often staged (and a video can be marketing edited to sell a dream of a life in the name of a brand).

    I guess just like we try to be thoughtful with our words and actions, it’s time for the community to be thoughtful with it’s “image” and the words that are used alongside it.

    As far as changing the “mainstream”, every dollar we take out of our pocket is a vote cast. Let’s rock the vote.

    • Amen to that. Vote with your feet and your pocketbook as well. Home practice is traditionally what yoga teachers always wanted, anyway. So, today’s yoga teachers should walk that talk in the name of the “authenticity” some may espouse.

      In addition, consider that there is a VAST difference between inspiration and aspiration . To yoga teachers: Selfies of you in handstand scorpion will NEVER inspire me to practice yoga, either at home, or exchanging worldly emoluments with to practice with YOU–whether in person or online or other mass media. MY aspiration will cost me nothing and benefit YOU nothing, aspiration may not be accomplished in this lifetime …

      This is true no matter WHAT dance company you ever worked with before you started teaching yoga(I give special dispensation to former dancers … although I have nowhere NEAR some of their natural physical gifts ..)

  9. “Slim Calm Sexy” is the series title. See also Slim Calm Sexy Diet: http://www.amazon.com/Slim-Calm-Sexy-Diet-Strategies/dp/B00A16LQXI

    No idea if Tara suggested it, but Rodale (the publisher) ran with it.

  10. My opinion is probably not going to be popular here (I wonder if my post will get deleted)…
    I don’t think there is anything wrong with loving your body AND trying to slim down. Tara is advocating a healthy and natural weight loss through mindful eating and changing your habits so that you don’t routinely put junk in your mouth.
    Where is the crime? What mixed messages?
    Loving your body incorporates taking care of it. I love my children no matter what they look like or what they do. It doesn’t stop me in educating them and making sure they develop physically, emotionally, spiritually. It involves rewards and punishments, hugs, smiles, and strictness. Loving your body is the same. You love it with all the curves and creases, wrinkles, skin tags and indigestion. But in loving it, you do what’s best for it. If you won’t take care of it – who will?

    I myself used to be obese, couldn’t loose weight for medical reasons, hating and judging my body, without even realizing what I’m doing. I too was looking for a cover-up, an opinion that would justify my inability to loose weight, someone to tell me that I won’t have to do it anyway.

    I’m a success story. I hope I will never go back. But if G-d gives me this test again, I hope I have the strength to face it with love. I wish you the same.

    • hi there ~ thanks for your perspective. i don’t delete any comments on IAYB (unlike some yoga teachers), especially when they disagree with me.

      i agree, there’s nothing wrong with loving your body and trying to lose weight. however, i question if this is possible, because efforts to lose weight (especially through dieting – and not simply changing one’s eating habits, but following any of the countless fad diets on the market) are usually motivated by some kind of dissatisfaction with one’s body.

      i’m not interested in judging individuals and their motivations. many of my friends have changed their eating habits, started exercising and lost weight while becoming more healthy. i celebrate and appreciate them. congratulations to you, too, for taking your health into your own hands.

      but i do think it’s hypocritical to abuse the keywords “weight loss yoga” (which are internet gold) to get traffic and youtube views, and then tell people to “not think about losing weight.” that’s the mixed messaging i’m calling out here.

      • Hi Rosane,
        I appreciate your response and mindful view.
        I agree, it is a catch 22, but only if you allow it to be.
        Here is what I mean. If I am overweight and I don’t like it, how can I possibly look at my body, force myself to “love it” and then still want to change it? That sounds hypocritical.

        Here is what I found through my experience:
        You can diet all you want, it will change, but it will not start looking and performing the way you want it UNLESS you love it.
        Love it first and only THEN it will respond and love you back.
        Your body has a mind of it’s own. I don’t have an illusion that I “took control” of my body and health, but I know that everything and anything responds to love.
        I plateaued at “last 10 pounds” goal for over 2 years, until I started looking at myself possessively and learning to love me the way I am. That was the break through. It suddenly gave in and started looking and feeling exactly the way I wanted (or maybe it’s a mind trick), but the result is – I love it and it loves me back.
        I still have the days when judge it and find some pimple I don’t like, and it reacts instantly – it goes “ugly” on me. That’s how I know I’m not giving it enough care and attention.

        I had the Catch 22 thinking for a while. It doesn’t seem to make sense when someone tells to love something and change it at the same time. In reality there is no contradiction. It works both ways: if you want it to be slimmer – you slim down and start loving it (or remain miserable) or you start loving what you have and it starts giving in, so you either end up being happy and slim or being happy and not-so-slim. But either way, blaming anyone for naming their book “slim and sexy yoga” won’t bring justice to the world, nor peace to your heart.

        Speaking of the yoga weight loss, I do fairly intense yoga sessions that make me sweat within first 10 minutes. I can’t imagine anyone NOT getting slimmer and stronger doing what I do. So, I haven’t read the book, but I can tell you the name might be very legit.

        I hope my views have not offended anyone, but helped someone in the same struggle.

        Blessings and health to you.

  11. I agree with Yoga Body — and I wonder if it’s Tara who is deleting comments and tagging YouTube posts or if it is someone from her team. I think everyone agrees that regardless, it’s a business, and sometimes people don’t use the best business tactics or ethics even, if you want to say that, to keep driving the big bus forward. I bet if taken with understanding and grace they’d think twice if they read this, moving forward.

    Also, when was that book written and when were those newer comments about body image made? Maybe she has changed her tune somewhat. If you look at my history, I used to be ALL about weight loss. I’d do anything to lose those last 10 pounds. I still have a “weight loss” tag on my blog (although I couldn’t tell you the last time I used it). Her POV is probably evolving. I just hope it’s evolving from a place of truth and not marketing — and I believe it is. I don’t think she’s coming from a bad place, and I think we could all be accused of sending mixed messages whether it’s timing or slipping back into old patterns or what have you. I read a lot of what she writes and honestly I never felt like it was just all about her clothing line or too much about knitting. (Okay, yeah, she takes a lot of selfies, but so do a lot of people!) When I think Tara Stiles, I think ease and freedom, honestly, and that’s it. She got me back into yoga. I will forever be grateful for that.

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