why every body should go to a yoga for round bodies class

Sep 10, 2013 by

why every body should go to a yoga for round bodies class

A woman in a bikini doing a backbend, ribs showing and hipbones protruding: this image has been coming up in my FB feed lately, with the hashtag “Yoga Inspiration.” This isn’t the kind of yoga I find to be an inspiration. Instead, it makes me feel depressed. The too-thin woman in a yoga asana makes me feel uncomfortable and awkward in my body, which is much rounder and softer than hers.

In general lately, I’ve been feeling awkward and uncomfortable in my body. It’s changed over the past few months, in response to changes in my life. I feel thicker and denser, like I move slower. These changes are starting to affect my self-esteem and enjoyment of life.

As an antidote to my body image blues, I checked out a Yoga Rondeurs (which translates from French as “yoga roundness”) mini-retreat with Montreal-based teachers, Tara Lazanis and Suzanne Sirois. The Sunday morning workshop, starting at 9am and ending at 1pm, featured a gentle yoga practice, a presentation on body image and a yoga nidra practice, accompanied by harp from Hannah Brockow-Roberts.

Curvy Enough?

I was feeling some anxiety before going, as I wasn’t sure if my body would be round or curvy enough for the workshop. I realize it was a ridiculous anxiety, but it’s how I was feeling. Fortunately, at the workshop, there was no sense of “qualification.” Every body was truly welcome. Nobody judged if I was “round enough” to be in the class. It was a welcoming, body-positive space – exactly what I needed.

There were women of all shapes and sizes in the session. A couple wore wonderful animal print tunics over stretchy pants, proving that bigger women can indeed have a sense of style. The class was bilingual, with Lazanis teaching in English and Sirois in French, which gave it a balanced feeling. Everything was well taken care of, structured, nurtured.

After the practice, we took a little break then settled down for a presentation from Equilibre, an organization that educates people about body image and weight.The positive and enthusiastic woman from Equilibre shared the organization’s definition of body image: “not what you look like but what you think you look like.” The presentation acknowledged that body and weight are complex, and provided some guidelines for health: don’t diet, change lifestyle, move for pleasure (for example, yoga!), eat whatever you want and enjoy it.

The Equilibre presentation pointed out how the beauty industry manufactures ideas of thin/fat to keep people consuming. She didn’t get into how yoga culture replicates the beauty industry, keeps people consuming yoga in the same way that the dominant culture dictates. Lazanis explained Yoga Rondeurs changes how we look at health and diets in our society. Yoga helps women accept ourselves in the body we have now. It recognizes that you don’t need to be thin to be healthy. Yoga Rondeurs doesn’t promote weight loss through yoga – it’s not about losing weight, but about changing the way we view health in our society.

The Growing Movement of Yoga for Round Bodies

Yoga Rondeurs is part of a growing “curvy yoga” movement in the North American yoga scene. Tiina Veer, founder of Yoga for Round Bodies and Lazanis’ teacher, spoke about this trend in a recent IAYB interview: “We’re  still a very small contingent in the mainstream yoga community but I have see interest and conversation growing exponentially, especially in the past year or so with increased discourse around yoga and privilege. More teachers, studios, blogs and other yoga forums are beginning to explore the theme of privilege and yoga and it’s really opening our eyes about how yoga can be like an exclusive club. Many of us want to change that.”

For those of us who don’t have round body yoga classes in our communities, there are other ways to learn and practice. A new book by Ingrid Kollak, Yoga XXL, is a wonderful resource for those who practice yoga at home. The book promotes health – it’s not about losing weight. With practices for body awareness and self-reliance, Yoga XXL is an empowering and body-positive read.

Until the mainstream yoga scene acknowledges that images of emaciated women in bikinis and fancy backbends isn’t healthy for women, we’re going to need a body-positive alternative that is inclusive and realistic. The yoga for bigger bodies movement is essential in making the practice truly accessible to all.

12 Comments

  1. I fully support the idea that all body types need to be appreciated, but I have to say, as a naturally thin person, it gets really old to be constantly referred to as too-thin. No one likes to have thier body type put down, not even the skinnies.

    • hi anandi ~ thanks for the feedback. in retrospect, i realize that my words were strong here. you’re so right, no body types should be put down!

  2. Great inspiration. I struggle with this too. I’m tall with big boobs, big hips and a belly. It’s been a struggle but it’s hard looking at teachers and students who are so small and thin. I think this workshop is such a great idea!

  3. Valerie

    I have read the Twitter argument going on about this post. I did not want to chime in there because it didn’t seem the right forum. But I thought you would appreciate calmer feedback in a less confrontational way. I am an avid reader of this blog, I love it. I read every single thing that is posted here and check in multiple times a week. I think you do a fantastic job. I do not think you are a hypocrite and I think your words here are, for the most part, extremely empowering.

    That being said, I do understand the frustration that some individuals may feel in response, although not the way it was expressed.

    I am all for body-positive messages in the yoga community. I truly believe that yoga is for everyone. However, lately it seems like many of the should-be-empowering messages come with a reverse shaming of the “typical” yogi. I am young, thin, and bendy and I do yoga a lot. I do feel that many body positive messages inadvertently shun my body type and persona as being inherently fake or superficial. It feels sometimes like people are saying: “Oh, you are thin and athletic and can do XYZ pose? You must only do yoga to look good or to be cool, you can’t possibly be authentic in your intentions.” Couldn’t be more wrong. I came to yoga during a period of great anxiety after being assaulted – yoga is not just a workout for me or a place I go to look cute in yoga pants, it is a mental and personal health necessity. Remember, I am not thin just to make someone feel badly about their own body. My body is far from perfect. I am insecure about lots of things and just as deserving of yoga as anyone. I want to be taken seriously for me, not for what I look like, just like everyone else.

    • thanks for your thoughtful response, valerie. this whole discussion has illuminated my own biases and assumptions. you’re right – reverse shaming doesn’t empower anybody. i’ve learned a lot from this conversation, and i don’t want to perpetuate negative body messaging.

  4. This reminds me of the period in my life when I was learning to be assertive (still learning), I’m a people pleaser by nature, to hear me speak up was rare. I had to figure out when to be assertive, and how to go about it in a non aggressive way. It took some time for me to find balance and comfort with expressing myself out loud. Body acceptance/positivity is a young movement, and regardless of our body size we’ve all done our share of body hating (whether it was hating on ourselves, or others). To me, Roseanne’s reaction was how I wish others could react when they realize that maybe their language didn’t match their intentions. If we are looking for understanding and acceptance, it’s our job to offer it, just as much as we expect it from others. This includes the language that we use towards our cohorts, and even towards our opposers. As a firm believer in Gandhi we need to kill them with kindness. People will be more willing to hear our message if it comes from a place of compassion and understanding.

  5. i’m so happy that you had access to such a positive experience (ET shu jalouse que t’as eu la chance de participer dans une classe bilingue!!!).

    What I would contribute (as another ‘skinny’ yogi) is that yes, I feel a certain level of shame, and inauthenticity when it comes to yoga and body image. That said- I do feel that we, as a society, tend to hold a ‘thin body’ as the ideal- which we cannot ignore. It’s harmful to us all, thin and large.

    this Militant Baker posted a really great blog post on this topic a few weeks ago http://www.themilitantbaker.com/2013/08/can-we-stop-with-skinny-shaming-already.html

  6. I love the conversation here! Aside from the issue of bodies, and body shaming, it does my heart good to see the respect, and the willingness to consider others’ points of view.

    I happen to do classes in a studio where the bodies are all shapes and sizes, and I feel ridiculously proud about that. One of the undercurrents I’m picking up here has to do with general the obsessing women do about their bodies. The obsession is fed by the gazillions of images and messages we’re bludgeoned with every day that say “Here is how you are SUPPOSED to look.” I’m neither too thin nor too fat and my body is changing as I age. Intellectually, I know I’m healthy and that is what matters most, yet I still battle with the demon of WBI (warped body image, as my daughter and I like to call it.)

    To me there is an equally compelling issue with the messages we get about poses, which was raised tangentially by Valerie. Just like I want to resist the photos of emaciated models with their hip bones / ribs poking out, I also wonder why yoga magazines choose to consistently put most advanced and radical poses on their covers. When I see those photos, I worry about the people who won’t even consider yoga as an option because, “I could never do that” because yoga shouldn’t necessarily be about doing THAT.

    Anyway, Roseanne, keep up the good work. I love your authentic voice.

  7. I agree with Maren. It is wonderful to see the conversation here had with such respect and a willingness to be open to others views. Well done all.

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