By Debbie Lynn
I picked up one of my favorite yoga magazines today and began to thumb through it.
As usual the advertisements for pharmaceuticals offended me, the poses offered this month are done with taste, and the models are, (not surprisingly) mostly young with perfectly coiffed hair and athletic bodies. Of course there was all kinds of “foodie and tea love” found lacing the pages, but the Editor’s Letter was a surprise.
It said (in essence) how “in this issue” she wanted the practice of yoga to unite the community. She states how she took a look around at her classmates before her class started and noticed they are: (in her words) “similar.” So goes on to say, “They are “white, female and relatively slim.” Then she states, “…while yoga has the potential to unite us, it also has a reputation for being pretty exclusive.” She prefaces this with admitting she lives in a “notoriously homogenous town” AND she wants to expand the conversation to include a broader audience that isn’t so “white and privileged.”
Okay, I got the underlying message but it danced all over the map before it landed on a point (of no return): Yoga for all. Yes, agreed, yoga is for every ‘body’ regardless of race, gender, or size.
This brought me to ponder my own class for a minute. The classes I have been a part of for the last 12 years in my big and small towns (and all over the world) were and are nothing like that. And I giggled. Most of my classes look like a rainbow. Very few are privileged, far from white and do not subscribe to wearing matching togs—they are hippies. They are professionals. Their sizes, shapes, and ages cover a wide range—and yes, men attend as well.
So, (for me) this article was another opportunity for reflection. I had to really check into why this ruffled my feathers, but I found it. It seems a very narrow assumption was drawn that tends to ruin the perception of our beautiful yoga practice, and I get a bit defensive about the surface images.
I love the message she is after: yoga for all, because I have witnessed the benefits with heart, mind, body and soul for so many (self included). And I am also truly glad it has reached the masses, but it will fade (like every other “trend”) when people get tired of it. The end.
So the higher road to take with this article is: United we stand. But I am struggling with the irresponsibility of the written word assuming that all classes are inclusive of this certain genre because that, quite frankly, is quite a turn off.
How about recognizing how many studios have all kinds of people attending everyday for the love of it and for betterment. They are: the young, the old, the wealthy, the poor, the good, the bad and the ugly. They are us, (me/ you) and everyone, and they are just humans. Please don’t separate us, limbs or not, and race, creed and color should never matter.
Perhaps if we take a closer look at our classmates we would see kindness, sadness, weaknesses and strengths. We might see our eyes in the eyes of another, hear their heart beat and smell their “privilege.” It is the privilege of getting to class when they can afford it, and the privilege of practicing side-by-side, faults and all.
If we truly want yoga to be received as it is, “for everyone” perhaps we might want to give it more love and less labels? Stereotyping is the complete opposite of what yoga stands for. It is open, non-judgmental and the path to a healthy mind, body and spirit.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I just have to add here (and I could not be more serious)… “Namaste.”
Editor: dana Gornall