The “Yoga Body” Is a Myth, and This Book Proves It
When you hear the words “yoga body,” what comes to mind?
There’s no denying yoga’s prevalence now. Yoga studios seem to be popping up everywhere, and many offices even offer yoga classes at work. But more often than not, when people are shown doing yoga, they are undeniably fit and sculpted, balanced magically in some sort of crazy inversion or feat of strength.
Despite its popularity, yoga remains unapproachable to many people. There is an intimidation factor that can come into place when a yoga-interested individual only sees a certain type of body over and over again. It transforms a meditative and restorative practice into a competitive and judgmental experience.
Author Lauren Lipton is out to combat that with her new book Yoga Bodies. Featuring 80 different yoga practitioners of all ages, shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and skill levels, Yoga Bodies is a celebration of real people with real stories about how yoga changed their lives for the better.
Photographer Jaimie Baird artfully captures the diverse form yoga can take, and the accompanying stories of triumph, evolution, and growth are nothing short of empowering and inclusive. Lipton’s introduction tells it best:
“The wish that everybody might have access to this deeply peaceful state of mind led me to create this book. Yoga Bodies celebrates the many ways yoga can bring joy and meaning to our lives and demonstrates that anyone can do it. You don’t have to be athletic and flexible, or any particular age, shape, or size (or, as you’ll discover in these pages, even human). You don’t need to embrace Eastern spirituality or chant in Sanskrit. You need not wear yoga pants, eat kale, or spend years perfecting your poses… You definitely don’t have to have a “yoga body,” at least not in the ungenerous way the media often defines it.”
In honor of the launch of this beautiful and inspiring book, we wanted to share the stories of three different yogis from the book.
“I’m kind of the anti-yogi and maybe went into the [teacher] training somewhat jaded. By the second week, I was, like, crying. I was doing a partner exercise with a girl a lot smaller than me. I kept apologizing for putting my body weight on her: ‘Oh, I’m sorry. Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’ She finally said, ‘You know you don’t have to apologize, right?’ I said, ‘I guess I’m apologizing for my own existence.’ Then I thought, ‘Oh, my god, I really think that.’ I cried all the way home. It was the most cleansing experience. I have issues with being fat. I have issues with my blackness. I apologize because I cannot accept my own existence. So many people feel the same way.”
“For people who possess the gift of sight: Just remember that it is often your attachment to what you consider beautiful that defines your experience. The blind yogi must work to develop an evenness of mind that transcends the polarities of right/wrong, beautiful/ugly, adequate/deficient. Sighted people see my disability and then graft onto it their own opinions of blindness… It is we who must dive deeper into ourselves with the faith that we might one day revel in our own world of beauty, free of external evaluations, whether positive or negative.”
“I have always been very hard on myself. I grew up with an internal voice that constantly questioned my own worth. The day-to-day information I received from my friends and other people was so much the complete opposite of what that voice told me that eventually I started to think, ‘Either everyone is just trying to make me feel better, or there is something wrong with the way I see myself.’ When did I realize this? I don’t know— three days ago? Really, it’s still a work in progress.”
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We hope you feel inspired by the stories we’ve shared. If you’ve done yoga before, we hope you find new strength in your practice, and if you’re new to yoga, we hope you feel more free to pick up a mat and try a class. Namaste!
You can find also find Yoga Bodies here for more stories and wisdom.
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