Why the Yoga For All Bodies Movement Matters
Hannahsroomyoga is a yoga studio in Hamilton, Ontario. Our spring session welcomes Cara-Lea Suttie to a spring, outdoor collaboration. Our yoga studios in Hamilton need to do better in offering accessible yoga to all body types. Here are some of Cara-Lea s thoughts on how we can improve and invite All Bodies into our Yoga space.
When it comes to yoga spaces, I am almost always the biggest person in the room. I can be in the space as a teacher, a practitioner or as a colleague, but no matter what role I am in, I am usually physically bigger than everyone else in the space. To be clear, I have no problem with this– it does not bother me in the slightest. I made peace with my body years ago. That being said, I am never allowed to forget that my body is bigger than everyone else s.
Why not…. in the most brutally honest terms, because while I made peace with my body, my size makes other people around me uncomfortable, and they don t know how to handle it.
You might wonder how I know that my size is making people uncomfortable-well here is how.
- The Look-
The look has a couple of variations, but generally the persons eyes get a little wide, and then they scan me up and down my entire body. Then there is usually a vaguely skeptical or condescendingly amused flicker, and then that is usually followed by a slightly disgusted look. Then they catch themselves and go back to a pleasant but bland expression. This look can come from anyone. I get it from students, from facility staff, from fellow teachers. It can also come from anyone of any size, gender, race or ability.
2. If I attend a class as a practitioner, most teachers do not know how to offer cues that work for my body. Most yoga teacher trainings only teach you how to cue poses for fit, thin and able bodies. So most teachers know only very basic adaptations for poses based on different body shapes and sizes, and they have no training in how to offer cues that will guide people in diverse bodies into poses.
3. I have to work (at least) twice as hard as teachers in thin bodies to be hired to work within mainstream populations.
4. I have been repeatedly encouraged to gear my teaching specifically to people in big bodies. On the surface, this does not seem problematic, however if you dig down, it becomes problematic quickly. First, it assumes that people in big bodies should need classes specifically for them, rather than assuming that all teachers should be learning how to teach a wide range of body sizes and shapes. Finally it limits who I am as a person and as a teacher down to one aspect of my life.
Here is the kicker, when we talk about yoga being accessible for people in all bodies it does not just come down to size. That happens to be the most obvious aspect I can speak on from a place of lived experience. This conversation also encompasses gender identity, sexuality, skin color, ability, health and socioeconomics. It can be daunting to look at the big picture when we are talking about inclusion and equity especially when we are all coming to this work from different places and lived experiences. The wonderful thing is, when we come to the work of inclusion and equity from within the framework of yoga, we hopefully come with an open heart and mind.
Yoga for all bodies coming this spring to Hannahsroomyoga.