PSA: Our fall Mantra Boxes® are now available for pre-order - There are limited quantities so snag yours now while you still can! We have a bunch of Namaslay workshops planned all over the country so be sure to see if we're coming to a city near you. We're also planning our retreats for 2016-17 and have just announced our Kenya Safari Yoga Retreat which is going to be an absolute blast. And lastly, we'll be in Baltimore for our Best of Both Worlds workshop this weekend and hope to see you there!
Every Sunday, I send out a newsletter. It's mostly for people who are way too busy during the week to pop by the blog on a daily basis. In it, I share what they might have missed that week on the blog, a few sale finds, notices about upcoming yoga workshops and yoga retreats, and a little note from me that usually talks about my current inspirations or what I'm up to that weekend.
Recently, I posted about our upcoming Namaslay Miami Yoga Retreat, and I wanted to mention that in the newsletter. About twenty minutes after sending out our newsletter, we received the following email.
I'd like to address the following statements:
"As a yoga instructor, I have to say when I landed on your page I didn't expect to see photos of bikini clad babes cavorting on the beach..."
For those who may not know, 'cavorting' has two meanings. One, to jump or dance around excitedly.
The photo she is referring to is a photo we took at our last Miami yoga retreat. We were "excitedly jumping" because we were on vacation and happy as clams. The other meaning of cavorting is "apply oneself enthusiastically to sexual or disreputable pursuits" and I'm going to go ahead and give her the benefit of the doubt and say that is not what she meant.
"...Not to mention someone (I suppose you) in a tiny swimsuit."
Yes, that is me. A human being with love in her heart, a brain in her head, and body that I have spent thirty-two years working to love and appreciate not only for its resiliency, but also because it is the shell in which I live every single day. And because I spend every single day in this body, in this shell, I will do my best to give it love, appreciation, and positivity. And I will not apologize for the size of the swimsuit I was wearing.
"Many of my students are initially reluctant to even try yoga, as they firmly believe it is the practice of thin, white women with perfect bodies. They are weary of Yoga Porn. I feel that these sort of photos perpetuate the concept, and intimidate potential female students who have less than perfect bodies."
That's too bad. Interestingly, the majority of the people I've encountered who don't practice yoga have never listed "thin, white women with perfect bodies" as the reason they don't practice. A lack of flexibility has always been at the top of the list. Or sometimes "I'm scared I won't know what I'm doing." Or sometimes, when I'm speaking with a man, "I don't want to be the only guy in the room." No one has ever said anything about "thin, white women with perfect bodies." But if they had, I still would've put up my pictures without hesitation and here is why - yoga, in my opinion, is for everyone. I will not apologize for how I look. But since you brought up how I look, I'd like to say the following:
1. I do not consider myself a thin woman. I am short, and I am somewhat curvy. I have proudly gained over 15 pounds of muscle in the last year. I work hard at the gym because I enjoy it and it helps me to meet my fitness goal which is to be strong.
Regardless of my own physical appearance, have you considered the idea that not everyone's fitness goals are to be thin? I have a very thin friend who is so insecure about how tiny she is (she has trouble gaining weight despite how much she eats) that she often refuses to wear shorts in the summer because strangers on the street will make comments like, "OMG you're so thin!" They mean it as a compliment but she doesn't take it as such. She yearns to be a curvy, muscular woman. Everyone has insecurities and what might make one person feel like the queen of the land, makes another person feel awful. So why even go there, you know? The body, you see, is a shell. It houses the most important part of our being: our soul. Don't get distracted by the shells regardless of if they're tall, short, thin, or curvy.
2. While my skin color may be somewhat light, I do not identify with being "white," as I hail from Ecuadorean and Lebanese descent. My biological father is brown skinned. My mother is somewhat lighter, but if you look closely you can see she is olive toned. But again, these are shells. I can't help what my shell looks like and I will not cover up my shell for the comfort of others, especially when I know that my message is one of love and appreciation for all - not just those who have specific looking shells.
3. I believe in my heart of hearts that we all have perfect bodies - perfect shells. Mine is perfect. Yours is perfect. The underweight, the overweight - we are already enough. The media and consumerism often tells us that we are not enough, and we need to buy x, y, or z product so that we can finally be enough. But I call BS on that. We're all incredible already. Telling someone whose shell is smaller (or taller), or thinner (or bigger), or lighter skinned (or dark skinned), to cover up so that someone with a different shell, who perhaps hasn't accepted or fallen in love with their shell, is wrong.
"...my understanding of yoga is that it goes far deeper than looking good in a bikini. I have to believe that was not your intention, but it was extremely off-putting. It is not my intention to be harsh, but it really changed my mind about attending the retreat."
You're right. My understanding of yoga is that it has absolutely nothing to do with looking good in a bikini...which is why this retreat is not called "Bikini Babe Weekend Retreat" and if you have followed YBC for any length of time, you would know that I have been very vocal about 30 day challenges that are all about looking a certain way. If you were around a few months ago, you would know that I caught a lot of heat for calling out Lululemon after two of their employees told me a specific pair of pants was created to give the wearer a "thigh gap" (their employees were misinformed).
I really value constructive criticism - it's a way for me to grow. The other day someone mentioned on the blog that they were disappointed in seeing three sponsored posts in a row. I considered what they had to say, and we talked it out, and I realized I should've scheduled the posts with more space between them. I am coachable, teachable, and know that I don't have all the answers. So I considered what you said, and decided that I don't have anything to be ashamed of. I used a photo of me on the beach as a promotional photo for a Miami-based yoga retreat. I will not apologize for that.
I'm sorry to hear you were offended by a simple photo of me in a power pose (see photo to the left). What you may not know about me is that I am so proud of my body and my mind and what they've been able to fight back against.
I'm sorry to hear you were offended by a photo of me in a yoga pose - feeling strong, happy, and healthy.
And I'm sorry to hear you were offended by a simple photo of three of us jumping for joy on the beach in our bathing suits.
Based on your reaction and assumptions, it sounds like perhaps this retreat is not a good fit for you, and so I'm really fine with the fact that you found it off-putting. It's ok - we are all drawn to different things and I think that's one of the things that makes this life so beautiful.
I think one of the good things that comes from a situation like this is that it makes you sit and really think about what your message is. After that email came through, I thought, "Ok. Who am I? What do I stand for? Did I really do anything wrong?" I decided I didn't. And because I want to be sure there is zero confusion about who I am and what I stand for, I'd like to clarify:
I am drawn to authenticity. I am drawn to vulnerability, and the power of positivity. I am drawn to people who dig deep within, who love big, and who are constantly striving to improve. I am drawn to people who, like myself, know that they don't have all the answers, but who are continuous learners, who lead with kindness and warmth, and who are accepting of all people, regardless of what their shells look like.
I am someone who recognizes that we all have demons and insecurities, and moments of self-doubt. And my promise to myself is to challenge myself to face my demons every day. To test my limits and try to set my insecurities aside so I can do work that is meaningful to me.
My goal is to tell the Negative Committee that meets inside my head to sit down and shut up. My goal is to work on building physical and emotional strength every single day. My goal is to love myself so fiercely that when others see me or spend time with me, they feel that love radiate into their worlds. My goal is to lead yoga classes and yoga retreats in which everyone feels welcome to show up however they want.
Because I recognize that it's hard to simply show up. It's hard to put one foot in front of the other and march on despite the self-doubts and insecurities and demons and day to day struggles that come not only from within but from the world around us.
So if one girl wants to come to class wearing make up, and another wants to come bare faced, I don't care. If one woman wants to come to class wearing booty shorts and a sports bra, and another wants to come in sweats and a long sleeved shirt, I don't care. If someone is overweight or underweight, or the so-called "perfect" weight and they want to come to class, I don't care. What I care about is the fact that they showed up. I care about the fact that they made a decision to go to yoga, or to the beach, or to the grocery store wearing whatever they felt their best in, and they just SHOWED UP, unapologetically. And I would hope that no matter how they showed up to my class or retreat, that I'd be able to extend warmth so they'd feel welcomed and supported, unconditionally.
I will not ever tell anyone how they should show up in the world, and I encourage others to do the same. Lift others up. Be kind. Lead with love, compassion, and warmth. And don't take any shit. #NAMASLAY
Let's talk: I'd love to hear your thoughts below. Has someone ever told you to cover up? How did you respond? What are your thoughts on body shaming? On the idea of the body being just a shell? Let's get some conversation going! And don't forget - you can always pop over to the Yoga Forum for more discussion.
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