Yoga has a wealth of wellbeing benefits – and the best part is every single one of us can get involved, regardless of our shape, size, age, colour, or gender
Have you ever seen the photo of Madonna with her leg behind her head in Eka Pada Sirsasana? This was where my yoga journey began in the late 1990s, after a colleague saw the picture and suggested we give yoga a try. I said yes, and we were fortunate enough to have a colleague who was completing her yoga teacher training, and so we became her guinea pigs… oops, sorry, I mean students. It was wonderful to experience the different styles of yoga until I found ones that resonated with me, as I established a regular practice.
Although I had been practising yoga for a long time, I found my true passion for it was ignited when it allowed me to heal from the trauma of Bell’s Palsy. I woke up one day to discover that the right side of my face had become paralysed; the condition was dormant for five years, but it was a combination of yoga and acupuncture that allowed me to get stronger, both mentally and physically. Seeing how my body started to recover organically, I wanted to share how this amazing science was allowing me to realise my body’s true potential.
I believe now that this is where my journey of self-acceptance and self-love started – allowing me to love my body for all the wonderful things it does for me even when I don’t appreciate it. I would often find peace on my yoga mat, discovering that everything I needed was already inside me – creating that mind-body connection and listening to my body.
As well as showing me how to enjoy life and change all the societal norms that had become indoctrinated, I began to go with the flow and live my life from the inside out. I left the corporate life behind to embrace yoga full-time.
On reflection, I had a diverse introduction to yoga because my initial teachers were teachers of colour. It was only years later that I was to discover that this would change, the more popular and commercialised that yoga became. The poster girl image of yoga is slim, young, white, and in an advanced pose, even though yoga actually started in India thousands of years ago. We’ve Westernised yoga, and with it, forgotten its roots.
I believe that every body is a yoga body – regardless of size, age, colour, or gender. I can’t say that I have seen much of this encouragement in the media or yoga classes. Instead, I see people being put off before they’ve even ventured on to the mat, because they think it’s not for them.
Yoga is for everybody.
This simple, but true, statement sums up the great practice of yoga; it makes no judgments about size, ability, gender, or race. Yes, it’s a wonderfully inclusive phrase, but goes deeper than that – it actually brings about transition, and brings you back home to who you truly are.
There is some definite change in the industry, and it’s great to see that this perception of yoga is now being challenged by so many inspiring yogis. Take a look at the images coming through on Instagram of wonderful women such as Dianne Bondy, Dana Falsetti, and Jessamyn Stanley.
Why would you practise something if you don’t see someone that looks like you doing it? This is the core issue we’re finding; students are being put off and, in turn, missing so many wonderful benefits of yoga. From healing and calming, to empowering and strengthening, even when you don’t know what you’re looking for, yoga is there to help you with stress, mental health issues, and anxiety. Now, more than ever, this is a support system that we need.
From healing and calming, to empowering and strengthening, even when you don’t know what you’re looking for, yoga is there to help you
The fact that yoga has been practised for thousands of years allows you to understand why its popularity has grown exponentially. In the simplest terms, yoga works.
Yoga isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It really can be adapted to all body types. There is a basic outline and alignment for each posture, but it’s also about listening to your own body, and adjusting for it without judgment, bringing about self-acceptance and self-love. Yoga allows you to be flexible both in the mind and body, accepting the body that you have on the mat at that moment in time.
“Yoga takes you by the scruff of the neck and takes you on a journey, whether you like it or not,” yoga teacher Vanda Scaravelli once said.
I set up Curvesomeyoga to live by the mantra that yoga is for everybody. If you’re keen to give it a try but aren’t sure where to start, to the right are my five starter positions, and search for the Curvesomeyoga Beginners’ Body Positive video on YouTube.
We also have the Curvesomeyoga Complete Beginners Body Positive Yoga classes, which run online every week. Find out more at thenobleartofyoga.co.uk. Don’t forget to follow @Curvesomeyoga on Instagram too, where I am always sharing body positive messages about yoga and wellbeing.
For more from Donna follow her online @donnanobleyoga