I’ve been struggling with thinking my practice had to happen on a mat, in a studio, or wearing specific types of clothing.
At the end of the day, it’s the way yoga is presented online or in practice spaces that influence our perception of what a yoga practice really is.
So let’s normalize yoga practice that isn’t centered around how we look, where we practice, or on a limited definition of what yoga actually is (more than just poses!).
Who’s with me?
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Just take the way most yoga studios are set up as a great example of how these subtle influences play out.
The vast majority of yoga studios aren’t even remotely accessible, from stairs to narrow entry ways that limit who can come and go. Bathrooms and change rooms are either gendered or don’t have private stalls. And studio culture can feel “cliquey” and make you feel like you don’t belong. There’s a long way to go on the accessibility front, which is key for including and welcoming as many people as possible into yoga. But studio spaces so often deter the people they claim to serve from ever entering the space.
And yoga studio classes themselves are often geared to the #InstagramYoga crowd—i.e., wealthy, thin, white, flexible folks. I would much rather serve the 99% of people who would never feel comfortable stepping into a studio. Trust me, there are people who want yoga and need to be met where they are.
Unfortunately, other facets of yoga practice—such as meditation/mindfulness, acts of care (seva), community building, and the living principles (yama/niyamas)—have become overshadowed, and yoga has become an industry overly focused on appearance and social status.
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I think it’s important for us, as teachers or students of yoga, to really be conscious about how we’re taking this practice to make a difference in the world, rather than changing how we look and who we are to fit into a confining story of what a ‘real yogi’ looks like. This is more damaging than you might think.
As usual, I’m on the other side of the pendulum. These days, I’m really focusing my work as much as possible on bringing yoga to people in the most accessible way I can while also honouring the roots of the practice.
But, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes even I forget and get sucked into the mainstream narrative.
Sometimes I struggle with thinking that I’m not enough and that my practice has to emulate what I see others do and I have to work harder to perfect the ‘full expression’ of a pose. That it’s all or nothing, and if I can’t do a daily 60-minute yoga class I’m not working hard enough.
I’m stepping in to remind myself (and you) that all that is BS.
You are enough, I am enough, and whatever we decide our yoga or movement practices look like, that’s great. If they can support us through tough times or just be constant companions through the changing seasons of our lives, wonderful.
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And that’s why I’m trying to be more gentle with myself right now, as I go through some hard things. And hopefully you can too, in whatever way that looks like in your life.
Your friend in this journey together,