By Molly Ritvo
We’re constantly bombarded with images, advertisements, and even self negative talk about what our bodies should look like. For women, this is particularly dangerous and can leave us filled with doubt, sadness, and even shame about our bodies. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Sports Illustrated.
One of the reasons why I first started practicing yoga was because it gave me a place to feel centered and connected to my body. I was also blessed to find a teacher who taught me the building blocks of alignment, how to come to my breath, and how to find stability, balance, and expansion in the asanas. After years of attending aerobic, cardio, and weight classes in front of mirrors and bright lights, I felt gratitude for finding yoga and a warm, quiet room filled with beautiful music and calming essential oils. It was a space without horrible gym lighting and irritating trainers and uncomfortable locker rooms with no privacy and way too loud pop music.
I discovered that it didn’t matter what kind of clothes I wore. It wasn’t about the surface and cosmetic side of movement. It was about something much, much deeper - something that healed the inside. I would leave yoga classes feeling calmer, more grounded, and even lighter. I still feel that unique ease today that I can only find at yoga.
However, something else has started to unfortunately cloud the yoga industry. Lululemon, Athleta, and other major clothing and retail companies have started to capitalize on yoga and have started to infiltrate these sacred yoga spaces. Kripalu and exotic yoga retreat centers in Mexico now seem like commercials for white people in yoga pants, paleo energy bars, and fresh kale juice.
And then Instagram entered the yoga-spehere. Suddenly, social media has turned into a competition and compilation of teachers contorting themselves into challenging, yet sexy asanas wearing bright colored mala beads with hashtags such as #yogaeverydamnday & even #yogafitbody. Suddenly ambassadors of clothing companies are selling yoga in a way that rubs me the wrong way. This yoga porn is bastardizing the true essence of what yoga is. A daring teacher recently wrote “As a yoga teacher and yoga studio owner, I feel the urge to speak out against yoga porn as it’s just so damaging to women's self esteem and perpetuates the body image problems that yoga is slated to cure.”
I couldn’t agree more. I wish that yoga teachers didn’t use their bodies to attract students and I wish that there were more images of what yoga really teaches us (like how to be a better friend, or how find stillness in challenging situations, and how important the breath is). Luckily, there are still studios where yoga is taught is in its true nature and where students can leave with that sense of peace we all seek. Luckily, we can seek out those places, studios, & find teachers who inspire us and offer healing as an antidote to the commercialization of yoga.
Thank you, Burlington Yoga for always being that space.
In hindu and yogic tradition, on the first new moon of autumn starts the nine day festival of Navaratri, celebration of the Divine Mother. The first three nights are devoted to the Goddess Durga who destroys all darkness. The second three nights are devoted to Lakshmi who nourishes us and creates happiness in our hearts--which is only possible once the darkness and fear have been removed. The last three nights are devoted to Saraswati who is the Goddess of Wisdom and pure love inherent within our hearts. All creation and creativity happens through the process of these three powers, destruction of darkness and fear, openness in the heart, and the arrival of deep wisdom and love. The next nine days is a beautiful time to honor your own path toward self awareness--what internal obstacles need to be removed for you to see, and let go of, darkness and fear? How can you enhance your practices of self-nourishment and love? Finally, in the last three days, allow yourself to see the growth you have made and the deeper wisdom that is inherently full within your heart, always.
Lakshmi T. Plasha