Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a “traditional” yoga body. I’m short and curvy, with big boobs that sometimes get in the way and a big booty that sometimes weighs me down. But I love my body, curves and all. I may not look like I stepped off a magazine cover, but I am strong and healthy and love to work out.
So it drives me nuts when I walk into a new fitness space (usually a spin studio, my cardio of choice) and am given sidelong glances by staff members who seem to be wondering what I’m doing there. When they assume I’m a beginner even though I’ve been spinning for over a decade, am now on my 8th visit to their studio in the past two months, and frankly, my form is better than most of the people’s in the room (even some of the teachers).
And yoga studios are THE WORST. (Ok, not all of them. Some have been perfectly lovely.) But I've gotten the "mean girls" treatment at yoga studios more times than I can count. You know what I mean - you walk in, you're brand new, no one pays you any attention or tells you where to go or what to do. Everyone already seems to know each other and are chatting like old friends, and no one shows any interest in inviting you into the fold, let alone telling you where the bathroom is.
One of my most vivid memories in my early years practicing yoga is actually something that happened to me many times. About halfway through the class, the teensy 20-something teacher would start calling and demoing poses and transitions with little to no explanation. Poses that didn't work in my body - at least, not with the minimal amount of instruction I was being given. Usually, I was just left to struggle in silence - the teacher would glance over and then walk the other way. But sometimes, the teacher would walk over and offer the very helpful advice of "oh just put your hands over here." And when I explain that I can't do that b/c, say, my boobs are in the way, or my body doesn't twist like that, I'm met with a blank smile and, again, the teacher would just walk away. Awesome.
So, as a student, I just started figuring out how to do stuff myself.
Then, as a teacher, I started teaching the tricks I'd figured out to my own students. And I started really paying attention to how all the different body types in my classes worked. And developing tips and teaching tools to help with the various challenges I saw all of my different students facing.
With my studios, my core mission is to create spaces where people who, like me, don’t fit our culture's ridiculous idea of what “healthy” looks like, will feel welcome and seen and appreciated. Where our teachers actually know how to teach bodies that don't look or move like their own. Where body diversity is a reality, not just a stock photo on the website.
Where the notion of a "yoga body" gets thrown out the window.
Because it is my humble opinion that all it takes to be "good" at yoga is to show up and breathe. You don't have to look a certain way, you don't have to be able to do a certain pose or even touch your toes. To reap the benefits of this powerful practice, all you have to do is find a teacher who will actually teach you, a studio that you'll look forward to returning to, and then...show up.