I have had a very unhealthy relationship with my body in the past.
I have felt incredibly uncomfortable and intimidated walking into gyms and going to yoga class, simply because I didn’t feel comfortable in my own body.
There have been periods of my life were I avoided going to the gym simply because I was ashamed of the way I looked. When I started to teach yoga I ended up teaching in a lot of gyms so I had to really forced myself to go in. It was in these early days that I made a resolution to do all I could to make my students feel comfortable and at ease in the class (and I feel this has made me a much better teacher).
Very recently I was teaching a class at a community centre. The class was full of women of all different ages, shapes and sizes. After the class one of the students commented on how lovely it was to see a young yoga teacher not parading around like “yoga girl” (her words not mine). Intrigued by her experience of the class I asked what she meant. She went on to explain that she felt very uncomfortable and intimidated by a lot of the other teachers who don’t seem to understand that some of the students have difficulty with their physical bodies and it was lovely to see a teacher constantly make the effort to reassure the class and modify postures to suit some students needs. (I have always felt that yoga is for everybody, no matter what your body looks like.) She liked the sense of relaxation and humour that I had brought into the class in regard to the physical body and how it moves, and I think this was a reference to my explanation about my outfit.
I now teach my yoga class wearing pyjama shorts (cotton) and singlets, you see I refuse to purchase “active wear” particularly from certain brands that only seemed to make leggings and crop tops for small women. I was very open and honest about my teaching attire that evening with the class as I was explaining that the light breathable fabric are perfect for practising (I always choose natural fibres).
I have a size 12F bust so I cannot possibly do classes in a wireless crop-top. Very rarely do you see large busted women or the average sized women doing yoga in the media. I feel this is really out of touch with the demographics of women that are practising yoga. I would hate to think that this misrepresentation of real women doing real yoga would be discouraging women from practising. I have the most amazing teacher, a fuller-figured mature aged woman, who has helped me see the benefits of long-term practice. I feel my teacher and others like her should be celebrated.
I also explained that most major departments stores and even health food shops have an incredible range of cotton pyjamas and they are sold at a very acceptable price point. I also feel that there is something incredibly liberating when you are comfortable enough to practice yoga in your pyjamas. It’s almost as if something psychological has happened when you detach from a particular stereotype and just focus on the practice. If I have liberated my students to go and practice yoga in a pair of pyjamas and really love their bodies for what they are then I am all for the pyjama yoga. I feel that the unrealistic body image that some well-known brands have associated yoga with is very harmful. Again I feel everybody can do yoga to whatever degree their body can move and that you should practice you in what ever clothing is comfortable.