What is a ‘Yoga Body’? What kind of image comes to your mind when you associate yoga body? If you are thinking of a ‘lean, toned and sexy’ body, you may be stereotyping.
Well, I believe in reality, there is no such thing as a perfect ‘Yoga Body’. Every body is a yoga body. Social media may very well be the culprit planting these ‘perfect’ images in our heads to form these stereotypes. Every time someone hashtag #yogabody, other hashtags such as #fitness #hot #perfectbody pop up collectively. These associations and impressions may have caused some misconceptions that people are having such as ‘I only can do yoga if I’m flexible and skinny’. Many people think generally, yoga is all about flexibility and twisting or contorting your body to make beautiful poses, and the ‘harder’ the pose, the more instagram likes it will have. However, the word “yoga” in Hindi actually means “to yoke”, and it emphasizes on union and connection. Little do people know that apart from physical poses called asanas, yoga actually includes 7 other aspects of breathing, meditation, and other nonphysical practices.
Recently, I was browsing at the National Library and I came across an interesting yoga book by Lauren Lipton – Yoga Bodies: Real People, Real Stories & the Power of Transformation. It caught my attention mainly because it did not have the usual ‘hot and lean’ model on the cover. Instead, the front cover was a photo collage of people of different ages, ethnicities, shapes and sizes doing asanas. In this book, Lipton profiles more than 80 people who have discovered the transformational power of yoga – each page beautifully captured them performing an asana each with much confidence. Don’t be mistaken. By beautiful, I don’t mean performing an asana with perfect alignment. Some of them might have done the pose with wrong alignment, or is not flexible enough to touch the toes and some even handicapped, but it truly shows what yoga is all about – yoga is for everyone and it is an individual learning journey. It also writes about how each of them found yoga and how it helps them to cope with their daily lives.
I believe yoga is many things and offers something for everyone — whether you’re a fitness junkie who wants to use yoga to improve your flexibility for other sports, a stay-at-home parent looking for a respite from the demands of domestic life, an office dweller who has no time to work out or someone who just wants to try for fun, yoga invites each of us to define it as we wish. I like how in her book, she did not only emphasize on the physical changes yoga brought to them, but also on a deeper level, how yoga helped them cope with insecurity, anxiety, depression, addiction, disability, gender identity, racism, aging, and more.
There shouldn’t be feelings like self-consciousness and envy when you’re on your yoga mat. There should be no competitions between you and your mat neighbours. You should not feel demoralized when everyone around you in the studio can perform a headstand and you cannot. You should not start questioning yourself after this whether it was because you were not flexible enough to walk your legs in a little more during the prep pose, or that you simply just did not have the upper body strength to lift your legs up away from the mat. Instead, we all should focus on our individual journey and not let others determine what we are and by what we see.
Yoga is for everybody. You don’t have to be thin and you don’t have to be fat. You don’t have to be of a specific colour, race or religion, nor a vegetarian to do yoga. Let’s start by bursting the yoga bubble and let yoga be accessible to everyone.
Tell yourself and your friends that they already have THE yoga body.