When you think yoga do you picture a slim young middle-class white woman?
Yoga teacher Dianne Bondy is out to reshape our ideas about yoga – especially the body shapes and sizes of those taking part.
Dianne Bondy: Mostly college-educated people, primarily women – about 80% or 90%, very thin, very flexible… that’s pretty much what we see in most advertising and mainstream yoga media.
When I went into my first yoga studio outside my home, I was signing in at the front desk and the teacher gave me a once-over and said “You know this is going to be hard, right?” That was kind of debilitating. It crushed me a bit. But I’m one of these people who persevere. I don’t let people stop me from doing what I want to do and I don’t let other people’s opinons define me. I said “I’m going to show her”. I went into the class and I kept up, and everybody was congratulating me for keeping up, which was also annoying because I’d been practising for so long.
I want to have the fullest experience of my life as I possibly can, because as far as we all know we only get to do this once, and I’m not going to let somebody else’s opinion of me stop me from doing something that I want to do.
I want to put my image out there as a person in a bigger body and a person of colour doing yoga so that people who look like me could see that we do yoga, that black folks do yoga, that fat folks do yoga.
I find in the yoga culture some of the most judgemental “non-judgemental” people I’ve ever met.
Fit bodies aren’t necessarily the ‘fitness porn’ we’ve seen up until this point – everybody’s ripped, everybody’s hairless, everybody’s wearing really tight clothes. That’s the image of fitness we’ve been given and the image of yoga, for the most part, that we’ve been given.
I don’t think that it’s an accident that yoga marketers seek out wealthy, educated, primarily white women to practise… That’s a lucrative demographic. They set what the beauty standard is – what the unattainable beauty standard is. That’s just the culture we live in... But we’re now at a point in our culture, in time, that people are starting to say ‘How did we get this ridiculous standard of beauty and why are we all trying so hard to get there?’
I don’t know how we got here, but I’m glad we’re pushing back. Every day these ridiculous images get plastered everywhere and we start to train young women that what they look like is far more important than who they are or what they have to offer the world – and that’s got to change.
The yoga practise is not about weight loss, but that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to learn about who we are. We’re here to raise our consciousness, we’re here to settle our minds.
We live in a very stressed culture. Everybody is overstressed, everybody is overstimulated. Yoga teaches us that we are more alike than we are different and there’s something common that connects all of us. Once we learn that, we’re more empathetic towards others – and I think that’s the purpose of yoga.