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.
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.