Are We Missing The Masses?
As someone who is always on the lookout for new students to walk into my studio, I am constantly talking to people about how much yoga can benefit their lives. I have talked to community groups, spoken to doctors at medical centers and am generally just trying to spread the word. But it seems that at least once every day I hear this statement “I can’t do yoga; my body doesn’t bend like that”! Now, I have to admit that before I started doing yoga I had the same idea about it, that you had to be super bendy and strong.
I had been misinformed about doing yoga; my only yoga experience had come from yoga magazines and books. I would see these people, beautiful people, doing these outrageous poses, and it scared me to try it. Fortunately I discovered a TV show called Yoga Zone on the health network and realized that I could do yoga, that anybody can do yoga. That was ten years ago and since that time yoga is everywhere, in self-help magazines, TV shows, etc. There are studios all over the country and hospitals are implementing yoga pilot programs, but still I hear from someone almost daily, “I can’t do that”!
It makes me wonder if we, as a yoga community, are missing the boat when it comes to reaching the masses of people. As I said, I look at yoga magazines and I see these beautiful people doing these outrageous poses — but now that I know what yoga is about, I can put it into perspective. It is fun to look at them and wonder if I will ever get to a point of doing those poses, but I also know that it is not necessary for me to do them to fully experience yoga. Most people who have not experienced yoga at all do not know this, and therefore it intimidates them.
The photos in those magazines are beautifully lit, usually colorful and have human bodies that are graceful and poised doing full-form asana. But what about the middle-aged, overweight woman with high blood pressure? Or the man who works behind a desk all day and has gotten a bit of a spare tire as a result? Where are these people?
Yoga teaches us to let go of judgment, comparison, and ego — yet we pick up a magazine that appears to embody all of those things. It poses the question: are we trying to “show off” in the yoga community or are we trying to “educate”? I believe that if we took that middle-aged overweight woman with high blood pressure and put her in the right light, the right clothes and in a perfectly formed modified version of a pose, we would relate to more people. And I am not talking about putting that photo on page 93 with a little blip that will not be seen unless you fully read the magazine; I’m talking about putting it smack dab on the cover for everyone to see. I think more magazines would be sold and more people would be looking at it saying, “I can do this”!
The motto at my studio is “Yoga is for everybody and every body”. Yet I feel that I, as a teacher, need the help of the media to get this point across. I would like to see the waitress at the coffee shop, the police officer who patrols my neighborhood, the nurse at the medical center, the teacher at the school — real people who haven’t ever done yoga. People who may be looking to age gracefully, relieve stress, or to handle a health condition. These are the people that yoga magazines need to focus on.
I’m not saying that the people who do these wonderfully fun, extreme poses should be left out. On the contrary, I just think they need to share the space with the rest of us mere mortals.
I want to touch these everyday people and let them know that no matter what their physical body shape is, yoga is also for them. It doesn’t matter if they have a psychological issue, yoga is for them. If they have had their spirits jabbed at too much, yoga is for them. No matter who or what you are, yoga is for you. Yoga is for everybody…and every body.
[tags] self compassion, yoga, everyone, poses, average, body, ego, comparison, yoga community, aspirations, pretty pictures [/tags]