I felt inspired about the so called Yoga Body and image. Because it seems like over the past decade where Yoga has become a very popular thing, people have developed many fixed ideas about what a Yoga Body, a Yoga Teacher or someone who does Yoga is supposed to look like.
It is beautiful that Yoga has become more accessible to the mainstream public and more and more people are starting to experience what this practice could mean for them and their lives. Yet at the same time it annoys me sometimes that Yoga nowadays is associated with perfect skinny bodies, quinoa salads, green smoothies and blissful AUM chanting people. It has turned into another hype, with all sorts of preconceptions and an image, which I as a long term Yoga practitioner and teacher, do not agree with at all.
The aim of this article is to demystify some of the false conceptions associated with Yoga, and hopefully inspire you to practice this beautiful art for the sake of yourself and the planet as a whole.
Let’s look at a couple of myths associated with Yoga nowadays:
MYTH NUMBER 1: YOU HAVE TO BE SKINNY TO PRACTICE YOGA
Well, that would mean I could pack up my business and practice right away. I am everything but skinny. I have a strong and curvy body, with big bones and round forms. No, a person does absolutely not have to be skinny to practice Yoga, or to be happy in general. You can do Yoga with any kind of body shape, even if you are overweight! Some of my best teachers definitely carry too much weight, but they’re excellent Yogi’s. Don’t be fooled by the skinny girl Yoga legging image!
MYTH NUMBER 2: YOU HAVE TO BE FLEXIBLE TO PRACTICE YOGA
Yet another one of those boring misconceptions. Of course you don’t have to be flexible to do Yoga. You will slowly build more flexibility. There’s not a single Yogi who started out with advanced poses and excellent flexibility. It takes time, and you will learn to use your body in different ways when you practice regularly. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and never let someone’s flexibility or practice level stop you from starting Yoga. A teacher shouldn’t be showing off their flexibility to begin with, but inspire you with beautiful poses and explain the reason behind why we practice them, so that you will want to learn and improve.
MYTH NUMBER 3: IN ORDER TO DO YOGA, YOU HAVE TO BE VEGETARIAN, STOP DRINKING ALCOHOL AND DRINK GREEN SMOOTHIES ALL DAY
Sometimes it seems that Yoga people have gone a little too far down the health hype road. For me personally, Yoga has always inspired me to live healthily, but by no means do I feel that it is balanced to completely cut out certain things or to become extreme about diet and life views. I was lucky enough to be raised as a vegetarian by my mother, so therefore eating meat is not something I do anyway. Looking at the principle of “Ahimsa” (one of the Yogic principles) I believe in non-violence towards other living beings, and eating meat and chicken for me goes against what I believe in. However, my constitution does ask me to eat eggs and the occasional fish. I experimented with a vegan diet for nearly 7 years, and also didn’t drink alcohol. I realized over time that my body needs some protein sometimes and there’s nothing wrong with conscious consumption. I recommend my students to maintain a vegetarian diet as much as possible, and to refrain from excessive consumption of anything, including alcohol. I don’t believe that drinking a glass of wine or vodka on a night out will ruin your Yoga practice or spiritual awareness. I do believe that drinking regularly, smoking or taking other mind altering substances on a regular basis, has negative effects on a person. I also see it as a form of self-abuse, or escapism. But probably everyone needs to come to that conclusion for themselves and really wish to live cleaner, otherwise it will not work anyway. When I started Yoga I was a bartender in Amsterdam, and without elaborating on it too much, my life was pretty crazy, full of late nights, no sleep, parties, alcohol and much more. Yoga helped me to make 180 degree turnaround, and start living completely different. I wanted to change my ways, clean out my body, give up cigarettes and alcohol and become a better human being. That is what Yoga can do for you. Wherever you are in your journey, it is OK, and don’t let the quinoa salad eating people ever tell you anything different 🙂 We are not here to compare, but we are here to lift each other up, and love each other in our processes.
I hope this article has inspired you to start exploring what Yoga is about, and what it could mean to you.
And just for fun, I will share what my body and skin used to look like before I started taking care of myself through Yoga, food and fitness.