Is Yoga for Everybody? Or Every Body?

all photos of Bonnie Golden by Grant Henry Media

“I want you to practice your yoga” has been my heartfelt motto as a yoga teacher for many years.

Recently there has been a reckoning of sorts in the yoga world regarding how the physical practice (asana) is represented. (I won’t address here how the “poses” have become synonymous with the vast practice of yoga. Let’s leave that for another discussion.)

Of late, asana images have shown practitioners of diverse body types, diverse skin colors of humans, diverse aged practitioners. Slooowly, more inclusive images are visually featured on social media.

Variations of the body shapes/ages/asana across the spectrum are being acknowledged and celebrated. Bravo!

I see a change, but not a sea change.

To wit: Prior to quarantine while shopping at a famous store featuring yoga clothing, I presented my credentials as a teacher to receive a discount on my purchases. The retail clerk told me she too was a yoga teacher, and then literally gave me the once over. You’ve all experienced it, haven’t you? You know, how the eyes roll up and down your personhood?

“Oh”, she said, “you must teach restorative yoga?”.

“Um, yes,” I said, “it is a part of what I teach”.

(Of course I teach restorative yoga! And… I guide all varieties of physical human movements, breathwork, meditative practices within the context of yoga philosophy, and in service to my students.)

Back to my shopping experience. Here’s what I know: This clerk did not see me as a unique spirit in a human body.

Nope, from her question and from her behavior, she only seemed to see (and judge) my body type, and my age/lifestage. I didn’t fit her definition of anyone who could possibly be guiding what she (at least ostensibly) seemed to define as yoga.  Yoga as it has been imprinted in our brains in the west by media.

photo of Bonnie Golden by Grant Henry Media.

So what’s the moral of the story and why am I sharing it?

I invite you to be open to learning all dimensions of the yoga journey and untangle the practices of yoga from what we’ve all (even the store clerk) been fed about what yoga “looks like”.

Furthermore, please don’t be too hard on yourself when you jump to conclusions or rush to judgement about someone, in a photo or in life. You were mostly unconsciously trained to do so from all kinds of sources. However, apply the yogic tools of discernment (viveka)and please NOTICE when your mind falls into those grooves.

Take a breath and practice seeing the shining light deep within that all of us share. Look beyond age, weight, skin color, body type, different abilities, height, gender…

Yoga helps develop those tools, and more.

I want you to practice your yoga.

The pictures I’m sharing are by @granthenrymedia. I am honored to be the first Tucson yoga teacher to be photographed by Grant. Among his many talents, he is a yoga photographer. Grant photographed me with respect, a sense of fun, and with total acceptance. Grant is proof that things are changing. The clerk in the store is proof that we still have a long way to go.

Love, Bonnie

Check out my latest offerings here.

Here are some ways to practice chair pose.

7 Comments

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  • by Devi Daly
    Posted March 27, 2021 7:37 am 0Likes

    I’m so disturbed to hear your experience with the store clerk. A good 90% of my instagram feed is still slender, young, flexible white women. I never give these images any likes, but they still keep getting fed to me. I guess since I’m a yoga teacher, instagram assumes this is what I want to see. It’s both sad and irritating.

    • by Bonnie Golden
      Posted March 27, 2021 8:10 am 0Likes

      Thank you for reading, Devi! Yes, the prevalence of those images is very tenacious. “If only” images were more balanced. Sad and irritated-I agree. I will add frustrating too.

  • by Kathy miller
    Posted March 5, 2021 9:08 am 0Likes

    Thanks for this post. Bonnie. I agree that there is judgment in the yoga world, as everywhere else. I actually feel it at times in the virtual yoga class I’ve been taking where sometimes it seems that the teacher thinks we older students all need her to be the model of highly evolved mind body spirit. I really just need someone to guide me as I practice without the editorializing. Anyhow, thanks for raising the issue.

    • by Bonnie Golden
      Posted March 5, 2021 11:23 am 0Likes

      I appreciate you reading my thoughts, Kathy, and for your comments. I hope you can find a teacher that resonates more for your practice. <3

  • by Susan D Ordway
    Posted March 4, 2021 6:40 pm 0Likes

    Judgment is pervasive, but my first impression on seeing your photo up there was “There is a glorious spirit.” I look forward to the day I can take one of your classes. Also, love those yoga pants!

    • by Bonnie Golden
      Posted March 4, 2021 8:28 pm 0Likes

      Susan, Thank you for reading the blog and the beautiful comment. Agreed, people rush to judgement in all realms. You can take my classes on line <3-I'd love to see you!

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