What comes to mind when you think about yoga? I used to imagine a woman in expensive attire, performing an inversion on a beach. But is this what yoga really looks like?
Despite how it's often portrayed in today's culture, yoga is for all people. It's not just for model-in-the-sunset people. It's for people with real bodies, and real, messy lives. Yoga is not exclusive to those of a certain age, socioeconomic status, ability, choice of apparel, gender, body size, skin color, or any other label one might use to define themselves or others. Although places like social media and even some yoga magazines might highlight one type of yogi, this depiction is not reality. And it's a far cry from the heart of yoga.
It is important, for us as individuals and for the yoga community at large, to show up to our mats as the people we are. Without pretense, we bring our stories, our character, and our fears. They are not to be absent from our practice, but a part of it.
In its best form, yoga is enriched by variations, otherwise known as modifications. Modifications serve as invitations for all bodies and abilities to practice. This includes people whose bodies do not move or take the shape of that yogi on Instagram.
Not only are uniquenesses valuable, but they are deserving of celebration. If you look carefully, you can see the beauty of diversity being woven through the yoga community like a tapestry. You may have to look beyond the pages of mainstream yoga magazines, but there are yogi-authors writing books today who are not white, the thin-ideal, or heteronormative. There are yogis serving soldiers, curvy women, those with trauma, and those who are marginalized. And yoga needs these people. It is for these people. When our yoga communities focus on inclusion, they radiate a culture of safety and belonging. They nurture empowerment and unity.
Whoever you are, please show up, if you wish. To your home practice or your community yoga practice. If you're not there, we're missing you. And we need you as you are — wearing whatever helps you to move comfortably and in the body you have today. We need the stories you have to tell, the feelings you possess, and the reality of your presence. Because yoga is not for some bodies, it is for all bodies. And that includes you.