July 19, 2012 by Roseanne
So lately I’ve been feeling all hopeful and positive about the state of yoga in North America: yoga studios are creating anti-oppression committees, a new e-book, Permission to Curve, celebrates yoga for all bodies, and the GLBL YOGA campaign crashed and burned. Things are looking up!
And then I came across an article on Elephant Journal, “Yoga for Weight Loss. Why not?” which was written by Sadie Nardini. In the article, she addressed the recent discussion here on IAYB about the questionable ethics of using “weight loss” in the the marketing and promotion of her online yoga courses (for the full story, see this post and the follow-up post).
Nardini’s counter argument to the criticism was to acknowledge that obesity is an epidemic in the US and people need all the help they can get to develop healthy relationships with their bodies. Yoga is a great tool for doing this, and if “yoga for weight loss” opens the door for many people who would normally never consider the practice, all the better. As Nardini so eloquently states in the title of her blog post: Why not?
I had planned a response to the response, but Carol Horton beat me to it with an articulate rebuttal on EJ. She touched on the social context for North America’s obsession with weight loss, which had been overlooked by Nardini. As Carol notes in her post, “weight loss” is a 60.9 billion dollar industry in the US. She also dug up a few distressing stats: one out of every four college aged women has an eating disorder; an estimated 40-50 percent of American women are trying to lose weight at any given time; one-third of American girls have a distorted idea about their weight.
I reread Nardini’s post this morning and realized that the question here is not Why not? but Why?
Why do we have to keep luring new yogis to the mat with the promise of losing weight? Why do we need to use a marketing strategy that preys on a culturally conditioned sense of lack? This is what’s missing from the conversation. We don’t need flippant retorts and defenses.
Nardini is at a place in her career where she doesn’t need to keep riding the tired “weight loss yoga” train. Let’s see her have the courage and creativity to imagine marketing material that reflects the supposed depth and breadth of her teachings. And what I would like to see on a grander scale are the fit and slender high-profile teachers using their privilege and position to promote body acceptance, at any size.
Then maybe we can stop protesting this shit.