10 Photos That Smash Every ‘Yoga Body’ Stereotype
The hashtags being used on Instagram vary—plus-size yoga, curvy yoga, fat yoga—but the accompanying images of women striking a pose send the same clear message: There is no one typical yoga body.
One of the most prominent advocates of the movement to prove that the physical, mental, and spiritual discipline is for people of all shapes and sizes is Jessamyn Stanley, a Durham, North Carolina–based writer, body-positive advocate, and yoga teacher. Stanley, who began practicing yoga in 2011, has amassed more than 82,000 devoted Instagram followers.
Her fans are primarily women who eagerly click “like” on her photos, such as the one above where she demonstrates the challenging “Feathered Peacock Pose.” Stanley’s execution of the move demonstrates her strength and flexibility—which people may not anticipate because of her size.
Indeed, last year a much-criticized “It Happened to Me” article posted on XO Jane detailed the discomfort the author, Jen Caron, felt on seeing a larger woman of color in her yoga class:
“I thought about how that must feel: to be a heavyset black woman entering for the first time a system that by all accounts seems unable to accommodate her body. I was completely unable to focus on my practice, instead feeling hyper-aware of my high-waisted bike shorts, my tastefully tacky sports bra, my well-versedness in these poses that I have been in hundreds of times. My skinny white girl body. Surely this woman was noticing all of these things and judging me for them, stereotyping me, resenting me—or so I imagined.”
The most popular comment on the article asked for a follow-up article titled “IHTM: I was Just Trying to Do My F---ing Yoga and This Weird-Ass White Girl Kept Staring at Me With Tears in Her Eyes.”
According to Stanley, plus-size yogis have to accept that they’re going to get looks, but they should practice anyway.
“I get emails from people all the time and they say, ‘I’m worried that people are going to be staring at me,’ and I’m always like, ‘They ARE going to be staring at you,’ ” Stanley recently told New York. “That’s just the reality of it. We live in a society where we are trained to think that being overweight is wrong, so people are going to stare at you. They’re going to have ideas about you. The only thing that you can control is your reaction to that.”
So, Why Should You Care? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than half of Americans get enough exercise. That lack of physical activity can lead to obesity and weight-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. But a lack of self-confidence can keep people, particularly women, from exercising. A U.K. study released last year by the grassroots exercise organization Sport England found that 75 percent of British women say they want to exercise more, but a fear of being judged because of their body size is one of the key reasons they don’t go to the gym or to exercise classes.
Meanwhile, Stanley—and other women who are posting pictures on Instagram of themselves doing yoga poses—can help folks quit assuming that someone who is heavier isn’t also physically fit. Besides, fitting into a bikini isn’t the point of yoga. “The whole point of this practice is to burn away the parts of our lives that are built up over the years that don’t matter and to burn that away to who you truly are,” Stanley told New York.
Check out some of the inspiring images that she and other plus-size yoga aficionados are sharing. If we’re staring, perhaps it should be so we can learn from their skills.