Yoga Body: The Conspiracy

I thought I’d said all I wanted on body image and yoga in my last post but controversy in the yoga world regarding a certain video has left me feeling I didn’t say nearly enough. Or say it clearly enough. So let me try again.

The taut and toned ‘yoga body’ on display in the media marketplace is a lie. It is NOT obtained from a regular yoga routine (as many would have you believe) – no , its obtained at the price of constant work, a Herculean effort to burn calories, and a saintly denial of carbs.

The implication that rippling abs can be yours with a couple of yoga classes a week is obviously motivated by profit. It is the creation of yoga studios who want you to buy more classes, and of corporations who want you to buy all the necessary yoga accoutrements your ‘yoga body’ needs (pants, mats, water bottles, mat holders, towels, mat cleansing mists, and even your underwear).

But the point of this post is the shocking depth to which this lie has permeated the yoga world. It seems no one, not even half-starved yoga superstars, will admit that the emperor has no clothes.

Case in point, Kathryn Budig’s article in Huffington Post pleading with us to stop judging her and other yoginis who strip down to sell products. Budig’s post defends a video advertisement in which we spy upon the early morning yoga routine of a near naked limber yogini Briohny Kate-Smyth who is performing in Budig’s words “awe inducing asana in her lingerie”.

Set in a luxurious bedroom, with a handsome young lover asleep on an acre wide bed (on what are doubtless 800 thread count sheets) the yogini moves with complete and awe-inspiring control over her body against a backdrop of wall to wall windows (revealing the skyscrapers of capitalistic success). The camera lovingly caresses each part of her cellulite free body, her concave belly, her taut buttocks, her ripped biceps.

The video’s tag line reads “Equinox’s Briohny Kate-Smyth shows there’s no limit to what the artfully honed yoga body can do.” Her discipline and control (and sexy underwear), the ad implies, have given her the power to have it all.

Budig is the naked ‘yoga body’ in the famous Toe Sox ad for which she received much pillory and now the feet of her former student  Smyth are similarly on the fire.  Budwig defends Briohny and herself against criticisms that these ads sexually objectify women by stating “ Our intention was to inspire and show the beauty of a body that practices regular yoga.”

Umm what?

Most of the following commentary on Budig’s article and Briohny’s Equinox ad, veers between two poles – this is just the same ole sexual objectification of women versus those who claim it is glorification of the beauty of the female form.

But what no one seems to mention, is the glaringly obvious fact (at least to me) that this is NOT what a body that regularly practices yoga looks like – and I’ve been practicing yoga for 15 years for Pete’s sake!

C’mon folks, let’s get real. The body featured in the Equinox ad is not result of regular yoga practice, it’s the body of a finely honed athlete, a dancer, someone who pushes their body to the limits. This is a body in training – but in training for what? To mistake yoga for a performance or a competitive sport goes a long way explaining why yoga “wrecks your body” as the recent article causing such a furor in the yoga world points out.

To think that one emerges carved and rail thin as a result of a regular yoga routine begs the question – what kind of routine are we talking about? A punishing daily routine of Power Yoga in 101 degree temperature is what.

The ‘yoga body’ is a fiction, and its a fiction judging by the favorable commentary on Budig’s post and the video, that many are buying. Numerous comments in the thread were positively yearning ” ….“I only practice yoga twice a week and know that I’ll never achieve that, but it’s still a goal to work toward….. I only hope to achieve your level after years of practice… I’m inspired even though I just got started with yoga….The control she has of her body is astounding! This is inspiring me to take up yoga!”yogabody3

Comments like these are why I believe we have a responsibility, however tiring it has become, to continue stating the obvious. Yoga blogger Roseanne Harvey points out that protesting such advertising only feeds into the marketing strategy of nude yoga campaigns.

She writes “I’m starting to think that the best policy is to let my silence speak louder than my words… because this is what the brand wants (this is the intention behind the video: not to show a “powerful” or “empowered” or “beautiful” practice; it’s viral marketing, and its ROI – return on investment – is determined by how many people are talking about it, how many click-throughs they get).”

Blogger Carol Horton, in her comment on Harvey’s post, agrees that silence might make these ads less viral but she also suggests that “ there are in fact some people out there who are learning something from these arguments.”

Yes precisely. Silence is a plausible strategy if the target of such campaigns were mature yogini’s such as Harvey – but they’re not. The target is those young women at risk of eating disorders and depression, who on seeing this ad might feel they don’t measure up. Who might feel that if they just pushed themselves further, ate a little less…and so the cycle of eating disorders and depression continues.

Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of women out there already practicing yoga, who by comparing themselves with this image, might just think there’s something wrong with them….maybe if they just worked a little harder, ate a little less….

But I don’t think the debate should be about whether such advertising objectifies women, of course it does -the debate is about what we can do about the underlying attitudes that allow it to flourish.

The real questions no one is asking are these – why do so few yoga teachers admit that they work hard to maintain their fat-free physiques?Why does the yoga world, from the cover of Yoga Journal to the glossy advertising of main stream studios, continue to display the “yoga body “ as a norm? Where are the images of average woman with rounded thighs and obvious bellies, women who practice yoga with regularity and passion?

Perhaps they are absent, if we are honest with ourselves, because we don’t want to give up the fiction? Ads like Equinox transfix because we have bought into the underlying premise that the yoga body is worth having, that it is a currency by which we purchase success .

Women have mistakenly conflated power and control in the world, with power and control over our bodies. And without a doubt, it is an assumption that the corporate world works to exploit and ever aggrandize.

Lets face it, the yoga body is not a healthy ideal. It is a body overworked and underfed. It is not the result of regular yoga classes but the result of a narcissistic obsession with working out. And it is driven less by empowerment than by feeling ‘fat and inferior’ as Briohny herself states in Budig’s post.

This is the Beauty Myth, that feminist author Naomi Wolf has written so eloquently about. A myth that by keeping us chained to self loathing, robs us of energy, time and money, and prevents us from achieving real power in the world.

(Note: Please check out my follow-up post Yoga Body: The Backlash)

107 Comments Add yours

  1. roseanne says:

    wonderful, insightful post!

    if bloggers such as yourself are able to comment on the cycle of nude yoga “controversies” in a mature, open-minded, educational way, go for it. we *need* smart, articulate voices to speak out. while i’ve chosen restraint (to the best of my abilities – sometimes it’s hard not to speak up), i want to see others keep up the good fight.

    i’ve learned in my own experience, however, that sometimes we just fuel the fire with conversation and provide free publicity for brands. it takes nuanced, non-emotional critique to educate people.

    i think you’ve nailed it with: “But I don’t think the debate should be about whether such advertising objectifies women, of course it does -the debate is about what we can do about the underlying attitudes that allow it to flourish.” yes, yes, yes. from what i’ve seen in the latest equinox ad discussion, the debate is former. let’s hope that blogs such as yours will elevate the debate.

  2. Danielle Prohom Olson says:

    Thank you Roseanne for your generous comments, thank you for your great provocative writing – and thank you most of all for overcoming the wish to be silent. Your words keep me thinking….so keep on speaking out….and I’ll keep reading!

    1. roseanne says:

      oh, i’ll keep on speaking out! 😉 i’m just choosing my battles a little more carefully these days. i appreciate your encouragement and your support!

  3. Carol Horton says:

    Excellent post and thanks for the mention. My one quibble is that there are in fact a few (very few!) women who are in fact naturally thin, bendy, athletic, and beautiful. Fitting that profile is not necessarily proof of unhealthy, body-obsessive narcissism. (Although it may well be the case.) The larger point, however – that however they’re arrived at, these perfected “yoga bodies” are culturally damaging as they become held up as “inspirational” ideals – is right on. What if we aspired to have our yoga practice move us more and more towards wisdom, compassion, and discernment rather than being able to do kick-ass arm balances while looking like a super-buff beauty queen in sexy lingere?

  4. Danielle Prohom Olson says:

    Thanks Carol – your comments are bang on – as usual!

  5. Nick says:

    This article is fantastic, and I agree wholeheartedly with many of the points it makes about images of “yoga bodies” in print. However, it seems to dismiss or deride the experiences of those who practice Bikram-style yoga. While “A punishing daily routine of Power Yoga in 101 degree temperature” is one way to consider that form of yoga, as a hot yoga teacher I see my students approach it differently — as a challenging, confrontational means of finding peace in the midst of a psychologically and physically intense environment. Not all of them end up with “yoga bodies,” of course, but some do; however, almost all students who regularly challenge themselves with the “punishing routine” end up with yoga minds, joyously willing to explore the edges of their own exertion on and off the mat.

    1. Danielle Prohom Olson says:

      Your points about hot yoga are well taken – but my comment was not intended to deride. My own conflicted love/hate relationship with hot yoga (although not of the Bikram variety) are in fact the subject of an upcoming post exploring the “challenging, confrontational means of finding peace in the midst of a psychologically and physically intense environment”.

    2. Danielle Prohom Olson says:

      Hey Nick, my new hot yoga post is up – let me know what you think….

  6. sarah says:


  7. Spot on! I think this is such an important point — that there’s so much more going on behind-the-scenes to achieve these bodies. I agree with Carol’s point that a few people’s bodies may be this way naturally, and that’s another good thing to call out — “hey, I was born with this body. Yoga didn’t make it this way.”

    1. Lavazza says:

      I agree. It is hard to say if Ashtangis look young and fit due to to their practice or if they were attracted to Ashtanga since they have the genetics to do it “well” (from a practical external viewpoint).

  8. How many young people – some with a lot of money to pay for lessons – will come in and say they want to “learn that” …from the ads or the videos like that.

    It takes a rank beginner to be over-awed by that display … and then leave off taking yoga in such a huff when they come upon a brick wall trying to learn said pike handstand transition.

    That is one way to kill yoga—and not explode it and expand it. I, myself, have moved on out of it only about one-third of the way. Others may throw it over completely …

    I am sure the t’ai chi and conscious dance communities, etc., will come to LOVE what travesties like that video have done to their class ranks making them burgeon for the first time in well over a decade …

    At least for what that’s worth, the ecstatic dance, the dance/martial arts fusion, the Patricia Moreno dvd, the T’ai Chi class… are all cardio, the main element missing from those chic and trendy yoga classes (even the power yoga ones – my body, anyway, tells the difference).

  9. Toma says:

    Everything very well said!
    So sad seeing “model’s body” appearing in yoga, so contradicting the whole purpose of the practice, and absolutely corrected stated by you, those bodies cannot be created just with yoga classes. I’m glad it hasn’t reached my country yet (somewhere in Europe) where people here associate yoga to stretching and consider it a calming/anti-stress activity where the only thing you need is a mat and comfortable cloths. They are not only promoting an unreal yoga body but also unnecessary clothing and accessories. Very, very sad seeing yoga becoming another commercial business and sadder being represented by non-‘real’ yoga practitioners and teachers, because if they where, they would promote basic free things that we all need; acceptance, unity, love and detachment… but in reality they promote pushing the body, stressing the mind, comparison and consumerism. It reminded me a lot my teacher training abroad, where most of the girls where from America (don’t take me wrong its just was very obvious comparing to other foreign girls), it was crazy how much cloths and “specialized” accessories they’ve purchased (which would be much cheaper if “yoga” or extracts from yoga sutras weren’t printed on them or weren’t hinting to others “I’m a yogi”).
    I think the best thing to do in this case is to avoid supporting the specific advertised items, either by not wearing/using them and also by selling them. I am not saying not to use blocks, straps, cloths but use those that are necessary and promote “yoga practice” than the unreal (photoshopped) “yoga body”.

  10. Kristin says:

    Every body is a “yoga body.” Yoga isn’t about getting skinny, and if your studio emphasizes yoga for weight loss, maybe it’s time to find a new place to practice.

    That said, I DO have the classic yoga body. And it’s not from being a slave to weight loss or depriving myself of carbs. If anything, practicing Bikram daily has made me more aware of what I put in my body and forced me to eat MORE to keep up with my caloric needs.

    1. bindutoojas says:

      I can only agree with every word written in this comment! I took up a day bikram-ashtanga Challenge, cause I was 56 overweight by 15 kg and I felt that, doin yoga early in my life, that something in my life needed a refresh or some change, after starting classes, I lost appetitefor meat, felt much better eating veggies and fruits, fish sometimes and gave up the evening beer, WITHOUT forcing myself to anything, everything just came on “magic wings” and “cravings” went! Within the time doing yoga classes every morning and evening for about 3 months’ I had lost 15 kilo and kept doing the exercises, after 7 month i took up a yoga teacher seminar of 30 days in india and still feeling great – every change just came naturally without any force or !

  11. Charlotte says:

    Thanks for a great article. I agree wholeheartedly, and am sad that we as a culture have come to misunderstand the intention of yoga so completely. Holding up these images as “awe-inspiring” examples of “serious” yoga practice—even without the added distraction of the exploitation of what we have decided as a culture is the perfect female form—only leads people away from what yoga is really about.

    I agree with Carol that the ability to do the poses that both Briohny and Kathryn B. can do so easily is not just because of hard work. Genetics plays a huge part. Some people are born with spines that will do extreme backbends, hip joints that will rotate enough to do lotus, and inherently loose joints overall. Many, many people are not born with these attributes—attributes that, by the way, can cause practitioners to focus on poses that are both unnecessary and at times unhealthy even for the most bendy person.

    After 25 years of teaching, I’m convinced that naturally flexible people are the most likely to injure themselves, because yoga culture encourages us to push the limits of our range of motion. Bendy people need stability far more than more flexibility.

    I wrote a blog a while back on “advanced” yoga. Here’s the link:

    1. Lavazza says:

      Great link!

    2. ashlee says:

      The link is broken 😦

  12. Cam says:

    “why do so few yoga teachers admit that they work hard to maintain their fat free physiques?”

    Just to play Devil’s advocate… To be a yogi requires very, very, VERY hard work. Yoga is all about discipline. Maintaining a fat-free body is essential to ahimsa. Not only do we not want to kill other animals and consume their fatty meat, but we almost must be himsic toward our own bodies, which means eating only whole plant foods with minimal milk… foods that keep our bodies lean and healthy. A thin, strong body is ideal for taking padmasana and sitting for long periods of meditation.

    if we are true yogis, our concern should be with ahimsa before any thought of asana. Those that work asana, asana, asana and nothing else cannot call themselves yogis, even though they may have the body. The TRUE yogi practices all 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga and maintains a disciplined and healthy body to further his or her practice. On the other hand, we must practice non-violence toward ourselves; any sort of self-degradation in terms of unhappiness with our bodies will not lead us to any sort of yoga (union).

    “Yoga perishes by these six: overeating, overexertion, talking too much, performing needless austerities, socializing, and restlessness.” Hatha Yoga Pradipika

    Let’s not forget what Yoga is truly about. The Yoga Body is incredibly important for advanced pranayama and meditation and can be a result of dedicated, heartfelt practice. Or it can be a result of “overexertion… [and] performing needless austerities (like Hot Power Yoga 7 days/week!)”

    Namaste to all

    1. Ivy says:

      Heck yes 🙂
      Thank you for your thoughtful and balanced perspective. Truly the perspective of a yogi. We are all expressions of consciousness, and no matter the shape of our bodies or of our practice, we are all one. So why are there any arguements about anything, right? All rivers lead to the ocean. We are all having our own experiences for our souls’ greatest learning.

    2. ashlee says:

      You took the words right out of my mouth! I, too, believe that the “yoga body” can in fact be a result of reality, dedication to all facets of yoga (asana and otherwise) and NOT starvation/overexertion, though those cases do exist.

    3. Olivia says:

      “himsic” would mean “harmful” if it wasn’t so butchered. Ahimsa means absence of harm because of the “A” which negates whatever follows it. Ahimsa.

  13. Sheila Phillips says:

    Thank you for such real honesty. I believe it is not about perfection it is about practice…and I feel much better about myself when I read your comments and realize yeah that is real life. I love my body today!!

    1. Danielle Prohom Olson says:

      Hi Sheila, Thanks for taking time to comment! Keep on rocking! See you soon!

  14. Jody says:

    So appreciate what you and others are saying here. Refreshing.

  15. Diana says:

    I really wish when women find the need to address body image, they would not resort to demonizing others. I think the option of showing us women who apparently have a yoga fit body (whatever that is suppose to mean) through photography would go much further than making assumptions about these models lifestyle and eating habits. Simply put you are stereotyping these women (and all “rail thin” women). You could start by removing your side quote of “I’m no skinny Minnie yoga teacher but oh, how I want to be!”

  16. Mike Schimann says:

    Great article!

  17. Grace says:

    Great post. The defensive arguments that the ads are about the beauty of the body in asana and not the female body itself always bothers me, because where is the variety that represents all female bodies in asana? If there were similiar ads with rounder figures in the mix, I’d be more likely to appreciate the more glamorous ones too, but there isn’t that diversity. Just because the ads are depicting an ancient spiritual practice doesn’t mean they are separated from the corporate interests that fund them and I think it is very naive to think that they are.

    I think you have made an interesting connection between these two “hot topics” of the coporatized yoga body and the NYT article on yoga injuries. When I read the negative reactions to that article it kind of makes me wonder what kind of denial some people are in or are their practices just so free of all the bull shit that they forget there are people who might be practicing beyond safe levels trying to achieve this ideal?

  18. Nianna says:

    Thank you for the post. Well done.
    There is something said for a bit of class and your darling have got it!

  19. Excellent post. Just found your blog and am really loving your writing.

    I too have written about this issue for the book project Carol Horton and Roseanne Harvey have put together. I included my irritation with Budig’s comment about “what a yoga body can do.” As if…..

    As for all those ads supposedly ‘glorifying’ the body (and not really about stoking the fires of consumerist desires and self-insufficiency), why not show more diversity?

    My original post touching on some other aspects raised by this situation:

    Thanks again and keep up the lively, needed work!

  20. Marta says:

    Wow your article is by far too long! Of course it was my choice to read it and I couldn’t finish it (sorry about that). I would like to know why marketing is so bad, if marketing can spread such a great thing like yoga, then marketing is not that bad!! You also like a viral effect on your article. And, no sport will give you a beautiful body if you don’t try hard, have good DNA and eat well. And beauty is so subjective, in my opinion Briohny is quite masculine, too strong…Beauty is in the eyes that look, not in the object/person. Yoga is not about envy and criticism, just live and let the others live their lives the way they want

  21. Nikki says:

    I have to say, I find your article well written, but I find some of your remarks rather out of touch. “The real questions no one is asking are these – why do so few yoga teachers admit that they work hard to maintain their fat-free physiques?Why does the yoga world, from the cover of Yoga Journal to the glossy advertising of main stream studios, continue to display the “yoga body “ as a norm? Where are the images of average woman with rounded thighs and obvious bellies, women who practice yoga with regularity and passion?”

    As an avid practitioner of yoga (and by avid, as a true Yogi, I mean daily), as well as a teacher, I have heard many yoga teachers admit that it is hard work to be, in fact, a yogi. It links directly back to the eight limbs of yoga and truly abiding by them. I would fall over laughing if someone told me I could have Kathryn Budig’s body by doing yoga. I’ve never seen that posted anywhere, nor have I ever heard that said. I realize common sense is hard to come by, but assuming that these beautiful bodies were magically created by one limb of yoga is completely nonsensical. Genetics does play a role, as well as diet, environment, etc. But I will say, watching first hand, that true yogis have beautiful bodies (no matter what shape or size). Maybe it’s the sole realization that they are in love with what they have been given, or that they strive for something more from themselves, which is why they practice daily.

    I would be interested in who you would like to say is an “average yogi.” My average yogi’s, who practice consistently, have beautiful bodies. Maybe I am biased because I love them all, but truth be told, they take care of their bodies. They eat well. They get the right amount of rest. In no way are they overworked and under fed. And yes they can, depending on the pose, get themselves into beautiful poses, but they also know their limits. In my world, having gotten to work with these women directly, these women, as well as my clients, are “average yogis.” All a product of hard work and dedication to a practice.

  22. hayley says:

    i have such mixed feelings about this article. i can see where people are coming from when they say these types of advertisements are misleading and damaging to a woman’s self esteem and psyche. and i totally totally agree there should be more unique body shapes in ads, especially for a self-love practice like yoga. i grew up with a very distorted body image, and i do blame that mostly on the media’s glorification of skinniness over health. thinness for power in the world was my motto, but i also see this as a very immature and naive perception, a notion that is disappearing slowly as i grow up, develop my brain, AND practice yoga. though, like you, i still have moments where i need to slap some sense into myself and not take my body so seriously.

    when i look at kathryn or briohny, i absolutely do not see over worked and under fed bodies. AT ALL. perhaps if they were rail thin like most supermodels i might feel differently, but these women look healthy, like they take care of themselves. and that is something to emulate. being healthy and fit (not skinny, and not obese) is a natural result of eating whole natural foods and lovingly taking care of your body and mind. yes, stinky cheese and wine are good for the soul. but not every day, and from yoga i have learned that moderation is key. i disagree that pushing your body to the edge is something to be compared to a competitive sport. and your edge is going to be different than someone else’s. personally, in my daily exercise regime (including my yoga practice), i like to push my body because it clears my mind and burns the negativity right out of my body and brain. but some days i don’t have that urge to push myself. yoga is all about listening to and respecting your body and mind, and finding what you need each day.

    so yes, i do agree we need to show more body shapes in yoga ads, but to look at another’s yoga practice and judge it because its not like our own is immature, in my opinion. i know that was not your intention with this beautiful thought out piece, but i just wanted to voice that this topic is very complex and encourages me to think from all angles. so thank you for that!

  23. Fee says:

    My ‘yoga body’ is 5′ 8″ tall, 150lb, and not exactly rail thin & flexible. This body belongs to a 49 yr old with wear and tear. Some might say its ‘well used’. Having pushed out babies, lived a little, been around the block a few times – call it ‘experience’ I know I will never look like those thin, toned, contorted ladies. BUT I DON’T CARE TO! I am proud of my yoga body – used as it is. It is mine, and it does what I require it to do. Budigs body does what she requires it to do, and very gracefully I might add. She looks wonderful. But lets stop there. Lets work on being content within ourselves and use people like Budig to inspire us to become all that we can be given the canvas that we are working with. Our canvas is as unique as each snowflake, so why would one expect it to morph into someone else’s canvas? I don’t know what Im trying to say really – except use ads for inspiration, not covetous thoughts and unrealistic goals. (But then – only you can decide for yourself what is realistic and what is unattainable)…

  24. Just found your blog – love this post! This – “Women have mistakenly conflated power and control in the world, with power and control over our bodies.” wow.

  25. rico1961 says:

    Great article and lots of useful imformation.Thanks for sharing

  26. Karen Miscall says:

    I have to side with those who find the over-arching generalizations offensive regarding women whose bodies do look like Kathryn Budig’s –who by the way is not “rail thin”, but healthy and fit. Though I think your argument has some valid points, you kill it for me with the snarky comments about other women’s bodies… yes, ALL yoga is hard work –and the least difficult of all of it is the asana –for some people!! That part –once you get it, is easy –and should be. If you’re breathing and inhabiting the postures in a way that is appropriate for your physical body, you shouldn’t be over-exerting yourself. We are supposed to maintain sukha and sthira in the postures.

    That’s not to say that at the beginning one doesn’t have to exert some effort to overcome some of the more tamasic aspects of self, but eventually, even a 2 hour vigorous practice can be done fluidly and with ease. Again –For some people. Others may find that it never happens –for whatever reasons. And the resulting body one has as a result of whatever asana practice one does is a yoga body –Whatever that looks like based on your genetics, inherent strength, etc. The thin, muscled bodies that the author so objects to could also just be the way those women look. I’m one of them –and i could eat from now until the cows came home and i’d look the same.

    I think this is a really juvenile stab at women in general. You kill your entire argument against the commercialization and mass-marketing of yoga with your side-line comments. There is nothing wrong with hard work –in asana or any other physical endeavor. Do you also resent Olympic athletes? Should we not be inspired by them? Sure –we don’t want our daughters to think of themselves as insufficient because they don’t look like the cover of ANY magazine –but what does that have to do with actually practicing yoga? Nothing. I’d have to say –shut up, do your practice and stop comparing yourself to others. Yeah –it’s in our faces –but what isn’t in this over-commercialized culture? Get over it. This is not a feminist argument –but more a petty diatribe. You diminish the work of women like Naomi Wolf (and anyone who thinks Broad’s NYT article holds any water is full of it as well –he had to go back to the 70′ to find any cases of real injury due to yoga practice. Largely –yoga has benefitted more people than it has hurt, but that’s a whole other point) and other feminists who make cogent observations about male gaze etc. Too bad –i like much of what you have to say in other articles. But I guess it’s a real issue for women, or this wouldn’t have generated the comments it has. You make some good points, but they are lost when you stoop to insulting other women. Take on someone who’s really not a feminist–like Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann. Kathryn Budig is NOT representative of someone we should be afraid of. It comes off like like sour grapes unfortunately.

    1. Danielle Prohom Olson says:

      Sorry Karen, better read my post once again. Obviously you are free to agree or disagree ( and I love discussion and debate), but your claim that I am making snarky or insulting remarks about Budig’s or any other individual woman’s body- is just out of line.

  27. doris says:

    I agree with Karen. I was offended by your post. Regular yoga practice several times a week and a healthy diet will bring you very close to “your” perfect body type. What always amazes me is when people get mad at women who look like this. Your statement” “Lets face it, the yoga body is not a healthy ideal. It is a body overworked and underfed. It is not the result of regular yoga classes but the result of a narcissistic obsession with working out. And it is driven less by empowerment than by feeling ‘fat and inferior’ as Briohny herself states in Budig’s post.” sounds hateful. I practice yoga a few times a week and have a generally healthy diet. I eat french fries and burgers sometimes. I do not feel deprived because I don’t regularly eat a pint of ice cream and bag of potato chips. Yoga will not magically transform all the damage poor eating choices will do. I am far from underfed and am generally perplexed when people think I’m “missing out” because I don’t go to T.G.I Fridays and gorge. I’m not at the advanced level of practice Briohny is at but I’ve only been practicing for 3 years. What I have acquired in those 3 years is a very strong lean body at the age of 41 that is more sculpted than what I had in my 20s when I obsessively went to the gym for 3 hours everyday and stressed about what I was eating. It also made me happier in my body even before I started seeing all the physical changes. It amazes me when I hear from people like you who have been practicing for much longer than I have and seemed to have missed the whole point of yoga. It’s a celebration of the body and mind connection. It empowers people to make changes in all areas in their lives. Watching the Equinox video was beautiful and inspiring. Don’t be a hater.

    1. Danielle Prohom Olson says:

      My statement that “it is driven less by empowerment” than by feeling ‘fat and inferior’ was quoted from Briohny herself in Budig’s post.

  28. Just so you know. Equi-noxious does not believe their own press/video/buzz/whathaveyou.

    This is all just their way to ensure that they continue to laugh their way to the bank.

    Buy-in at your peril. It’s just fashion, folks.

    And Briohny is being used as a high-priced pawn. She’s a “Pawn-Star” … lol

    Their Marketer-in-Chief (a butch-looking couch potato) avowedly scoffs at exercise and probably diet, too.

    1. This article really hit home for me. The author is completely right, and I am coming out of the yoga closet and saying it to you all. I have been practicing yoga for 10 years, and teaching for 7. I am now 46, and I will tell you, it is a struggle…yes, a struggle, to stay in the kind of shape I would like to think I should be in for all the asana I do!

      The truth is, I work VERY HARD to stay in some kind of shape, and the yoga, though it does help, is not the entire prescription. Yes, I try to stay away from fats, sugars and carbs…my personal feeling to this is that I ate my share of all that up until the age of 35, so my life quota has been met! I don’t drink much any more, either. All this is certainly the effort of my ego mind, that is telling me I can reverse the aging process, one chaturanga at a time, and hold the fries, please. So, the secret is out…we yogis are…ugg…human.

      But here’s the thing. I didn’t seek out the changes in my diet and lifestyle until AFTER I started a steady yoga practice. I cannot even tell you when I actually became a vegetarian…it just happened, over time. I have discovered that these changes ARE a direct result of my yoga practice. The more yoga I do, the less I seem to “crave”…bad foods, bad habits, bad relationships…

      So, although the actual asana practice and the way it is marketed may be over commercialized (and, what isn’t in this country, I ask you…), the truth will reveal itself on your mat…with steady firm, committed practice, done over a very long period of time. I am still considered a beginner, as far as I am concerned. The pounds you shed may come from a variety of new habits, but I believe that the yoga practice itself, just doing it, plants the seeds for the transformations you seek.

      I teach in a hot yoga studio. I have taken “heat” from my “not hot yoga” teacher friends, who, like the author of this article, feel that hot yoga is not “real yoga”. Here’s my response, from watching transformations happen around me in both hot and not hot studios, in Bikram studios to Iyengar studios…

      It all gets decided on the mat. I all gets faced on the mat. Every dirty little secret we tell ourselves, and ourselves alone, happens on the mat…for our ears only. Any way we can bring an unconscious, poor habit laden person like myself to a yoga mat, is a good thing.

      The truth reveals itself, over time, on the yoga mat. And, thankfully, spandex stretches as our bodies change shape over time! I know, without my yoga practice, going through these physical changes in my body could have been way more destructive, that is for sure. No matter what, I am so grateful for the gift of yoga in my life.

      Thank you for reading this with an open heart and mind.

      Namaste to all.

  29. renata says:

    Congratulations, I thought I´d never read this!
    I just think it would be more precise to talk about the American yoga world instead of just the yoga world. Although the popular American yoga styles (with its yogabodies attached) are being very well exported abroad helping spread distortion.

  30. It seems like you really know a lot pertaining to
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    divine yoga”. Thanks a lot -Candice

  31. These posts are all too common – Why are women so angry at other women who are beautiful and fit?
    Yoga will change your body (for the better) – lengthen, tone, create suppleness and even out skin tone and texture, improve mood, balance and coordination. It may even inspire you to run a 5k or do some resistance band or weight training. Next thing you know you join the corporate volleyball team and take walks at lunch. 6 months later you look and feel great in your undies, too!
    Don’t be a hater.

    1. amphibi1yogini says:

      Hey, doc … say hello to the dark side of the force … can you say tort lawsuit with yoga teachers married to celebrities?

      Certainly, as a doctor, you know better than to recommend something with a lot of accident potential that isn’t even cardio …

  32. Robert says:

    As a guy, I don’t mind saying that many-if not all- of the female practioners of “yoga” currently pictured in magazines are beautiful. But lets be very clear. Giving everyone involved the benefit of the doubt for just this moment, thus assuming the intended message of such photgraphs was ever consistent with the intent of real YOGA, the message received by the lultitudes has obviously morphed quite a bit, and not in a beneficial or meaningful way. What passes for “yoga” in America today is merely the extraction of just one component from what is a rather complete science and art of transformation. A collective ailment has developed as a result and the issue noted above is just one symptom. The cafeteria approach to real YOGA, and the isolation of Asana as the one facet of yoga practiced by Americans, is the result of a fundamental perversion of Yoga by “new age ” marketeers and others that realized the money making potential. As soon as the potential for making money was recognized, the actual meaning and purpose of YOGA was lost on Americans, that is, to the extent it was ever known and realized in the first place. YOGA, was never intended to be solely a means of physical conditioning. In fact, the primary aim of YOGA, beyond all the nonsense, misunderstanding, and pure obfuscation by those with the financial agendas of BIG BUSINESS, is about RELEASING consciousness from its tendency to identify with the body, OR -to say it another way- releasing the body from the chronic “holding” by the mind. In essence , real Yogic practice is not only a means of Union with what we might call God, it is a practice that ultimately allows us to release fully when we shed our bodies in passing, a subject not all that popular with most Americans. Many thanks to you ladies for the opportunity to chime in.

  33. freehugyoga says:

    Reblogged this on Free Hug Yoga and commented:
    Intriguing and interesting article (and blog) of Danielle. It leads definitely to the reflection WHY DO WE PRACTICE yoga? And if our practice is all about body, is it still yoga practice?

  34. Wow, this totally resonated with me! I’ve often wondered how many times more times a week I would have to add to my practice to attain such a slim figure. Thanks for the great content !

  35. Dawn says:

    I agree with some points of this article, but disagree with others. I have pretty close to a “yoga body” even though I’ve never done yoga a day in my life. I do lift weights in an effort to *gain* weight. It’s worth mentioning that some people do not need to restrict calories or deprive themselves of carbs to be extraordinarily slim. That has more to do with metabolism than anything else. I also freely admit that I don’t work hard at all. I only lift 2-3 days a week. This is just the way I’m built and always have been.

    Please don’t assume women who are as slim as the those in the photos are restricting calories. Some of us are not. And quite frankly, I would like to carry a little more of my weight as fat. But my choices in life are limited to plain old skinny or skinny with muscle definition. So I choose the latter.

  36. Sara says:

    I understand the thought behind this article, but there’s a few points I’d like to point out:

    “…and a saintly denial of carbs.”

    So you know exactly what kind of food these women’s eating-habits consists of?

    “…not even half-starved yoga superstars…”

    Half-starved? They do not look half-starved to me. I can only assume you exaggerate to make your point. Also I don’t know if you refered to her in specific, but Briohny Smyth suffered from eating disorders throughout her teen years, and recovered with the help of yoga.

    “But what no one seems to mention, is the glaringly obvious fact (at least to me) that this is NOT what a body that regularly practice’s yoga looks like – and I’ve been practicing yoga for 15 years for Pete’s sake!”

    What is exactly a “regular yoga practice”? There is a lot of difference between ashtanga practice everyday and one iyengar yoga practice once every week. Both is regular, and both of them is yoga. Also, all bodies that practice yoga is “yoga bodies”, and everyone looks different, so there is really no specific body-type that is a “yoga-body”.

    “To think that one emerges carved and rail thin as a result of a regular yoga routine begs the question – what kind of routine are we talking about? A punishing daily routine of Power Yoga in 101 degree temperature is what.”

    Ok, this is a really crazy idea, but what if people actually enjoyed power or bikram yoga and to them, it weren’t punishing at all? And they really enjoyed doing it everyday? Also, rail thin? I admit Tara Stiles is very thin but none of the ladies in this article who posed without clothes on is what I would call rail thin.

    “[…]This is inspiring me to take up yoga!””

    I think that’s positive. She/he might start her yoga-practice because of superficial goals, but there’s a big possibility that she/he will discover the seven other limbs of yoga, other than the asanas. That’s how it was for me.

    “The target is those young women at risk of eating disorders and depression, who on seeing this ad might feel they don’t measure up. Who might feel that if they just pushed themselves further, ate a little less…and so the cycle of eating disorders and depression continues.”

    I can only speak for myself here, but Briohny Smyth’s Equinox-video helped me getting recovered from my eating disorder. Seeing Briohny Smyth doing yoga, being strong, yes, even empowered, just DOING SOMETHING as opposed to female models who constantly are portrayed as passive lifeless objects in media, was to me very liberating. When I saw a runwaymodel I saw an object, a product. When I saw Briohny Smyth I saw an individual who did something she loved (in one of her transitions she smiled out of pure joy, and that was really beautiful to me, as cheesy as it sounds).

    “Lets face it, the yoga body is not a healthy ideal. It is a body overworked and underfed. It is not the result of regular yoga classes but the result of a narcissistic obsession with working out. And it is driven less by empowerment than by feeling ‘fat and inferior’ as Briohny herself states in Budig’s post.”

    Again, all bodies that does yoga are yoga bodies! How can you know that they are overworked and underfed unless you’re a doctor and have made an examination of their bodies? Briohny Smyth stated hersef in Budig’s post that it was her eating disorder and the industry she worked in at that time that made her feel “fat and inferior”, before she even discovered yoga.
    And also, narcissistic obsession? Why do you pass judgement on their practice?

    However, I also agree with this article. It’s ridiculous that it’s only a certain type of yoga-practitioners who appears in ads (the ones who look appealing according to today’s beauty ideal). It’s ridiculous that they don’t have any clothes on and are sexualized, as women almost always are in media. I also oppose the whole commercialization-hype of yoga.

    But I don’t think calling their bodies “half-starved” and “underfed” is the right way to go about the issue, nor is it saying that their practice is “narcissistic”.

    1. britt says:

      namaste fellow yoginis!

      but i agree, that the yogabodies do not look overworked and half-starved to me!

      i enjoyed to see that beautiful yogini master her body and do her asanas in her underwear, not lingeri!

      it had no undertone of sex and i see the video as a noble and decent presentation of the human bodys possibilities with a yogic discipline.

      keep up the yogispirit and compete only with yourself!

  37. Lauren says:

    Thank you for this article! I am a yoga teacher with a regular practice and who also bike rides and runs and I have never achieved the “yoga body.” I am muscular and I have curves, rounded thighs and strong arms. The “yoga body” aesthetic is something to be admired for its strength and grace, but it is wrong to let it be what a yoga body should be. It is not the standard in yoga. It makes yoga inaccessible to those who would try it except for they don’t fit into that aesthetic. And like your article says, it misrepresents yoga as a miracle workout that gives you a “yoga body” in a few classes. A yoga body is any body or anybody who does yoga and benefits from the practice.

  38. duh. Jane Fonda went through this poorly-thought-out marketing strategy that cost hundreds of dollars in lawsuits from her primary Teachers for injuries caused during their contract of working out her way, when she was doing Hi-Impact Step Aerobics. She had to turn it down a notch, calling it low-impact – remember?? I was a fervent advocate of jackie Sorensen’s Jazzercise at that time, and refused to give my Japanese students “the Burn”. Hot Yoga? Just asking for disaster. I also have personal experience with the distortions required in Classical Ballet, and Gymnastics. Let’s just say, move over, I need to get on that same soapbox and talk about some other debilitating activities, eh?! Be NATURALLY good to your BodyTemple, and it will return the favor forEVER.

    1. Yes, really!

      Don’t you think it’s high time THIS yoga-doing generation had their own answer to the aerobics era’s Susan Powter … ?

      Yoga in the United States used to OWN modification, back in the day …so sayeth Susan Powter, herself … in her book, “Stop the Insanity”

      Whatever DID happen?

      Or … as I have read elsewhere, yoga may just be in its second adolescent, “Disco” phase …

  39. Dan says:

    There are so many issues in this discussion: truth in advertising; objectification of women; body image – culture, genetics and the combined implications to mental health; what is yoga – fitness trend, part of a healthy lifestyle (physical and/or mental), spiritual practice or religion?

  40. Bernadette Pragnya Pieber says:

    I am a yoga teacher (from Austria, Europe), and here we have the same problem: Most Women come to classes not to get healthy in the first place, but to get skinny. I had a very traditionell teacher training (Sivananda Yoga), where I really understood that yoga is about LIBERATION (f.e. from desperately needing a body that looks a certain way). It is about understanding that I AM BRAHMA, ATMA, SAT CHID ANANDA, however the circumstances of my life may be. That you get healthier and your tissues shape up a little if you practise regularly are just side effects, not even SO IMPORTANT ones. Yoga is a way of life that does not begin and end whith the daily bodywork on the mat, it’s ideally a fulltime inspired attidude towards existence, that shines through every thought, word and deed. Apart of that, many respectable Yogis don’t even practise asanas, but spend their days with meditation or selfless deeds. Some practise only mantra and kirtan. In my teaching I try my best to convince my students, that it is worth to practise with a look to a horizon far, far beyond the yoga butt.

    (Apart of that-I found this blog by chance, I like it, it’s really inspiring :-))

  41. Cat Kabira says:

    As a yoga teacher who’s touched “superstardom” in some circles…and who’s suffered from eating disorders and depression my whole life…I whole-heartedly agree. As a craniosacral therapist and one committed to my teaching, my practice has had to drastically change. I love how you’ve articulated this because you are so right – we, as women, are not in our power. We starve ourselves of our power…Thank you.

  42. Mat Witts says:

    It is a novel twist to take the discussion away from the tired old academic arguments about capitalism, feminism and yoga and illuminate the problem of exaggerated claims in advertising copy and the actual provenance of model looks. I personally agonize over my own body every day; When will it ever match the likes of Ms. Budig? I only wish someone would have taken a moment to explain that yoga has the power to revert the configuration of my sexual organs to their embryonic stage, (all humans begin life in the womb as females). I am also in preparation – learning all the necessary skills and customs so as to cope with the inevitable unfamiliarity of a burgeoning array of mammary glands. I clearly have a lot to think about, but before all of that happens and I go and blame everyone else and yoga for it – what I do see is women increasingly being bold enough to make their own choices about their bodies, their lives, relationships work, children and religion – and on their own terms, and that has got to be a good thing, whether we agree with what those choices are – or not?

  43. yoga says:

    I am glad I came across your site. I really enjoy gaining knowledge everyday and your site did just that. Thank you for the post.

  44. Thank you for this article! Finally, someone who’s honest enough to say this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll see a celebrity with a perfect body that will say that they ONLY do yoga. Now of course, some people are genetically blessed,but I’m talking about ones that didn’t always look like that, gained weight, had a baby, etc. They’ll emerge a month later on the cover of a women’s magazine with a perfect body, the cover will say something like ‘So and so tells you EXACTLY how she got her new body!’,& I’ll open it only to see a handful of yoga moves. Now while I know we’re all different & different things work for different people, I’d never look the way I do only doing yoga. While I surely don’t look perfect like the women in the article, I’m 5’7″,wear a size 4, & am pretty toned. I didn’t get that way from doing yoga a few times a week, it’s more like the high intensity circuit training combined with walking everywhere & doing resistance training and lifting heavy weights, no bread, no pasta, etc. I’m not naturally a thin person, & while yoga is a great thing to incorporate into any exercise routine & stretches out your muscles,feels good & has alot of benefits, if I switched to only doing yoga, I have a feeling I would probably not maintain the size that I am.

  45. britt says:

    Thank you everybody for this amazing insight!
    I am a yogateacher from denmark, who ‘only’ does yoga to have what you call a yogabody. Blessed with good genes, healthy diet and a positive attitude i have scultured my body stronger, leaner and more flexible with several hours of yoga almost every day since the mid 80ties. More than 28 years in the world of yoga and alone 5 years in india i have heard many times no matter what GET STRONGER! Because of my own journey and after teaching for more than 20 years, i believe EVERYTHING is possible!
    We are all different, but still we can all be our own best = strongest, most flexible and beautiful self.
    Our natural state is not stressed but relaxed and our natural posture is erect as in the first years of our lives when we sat up. Or flexible as we all had no problem sucking our toes.
    Instead of prejudices and competition, let us be inspired of fellowyogis who obviously have gone a long way – and if dissatisfied, then let it be the motivation to keep on working…

  46. ellerenaissance says:

    You said all I have been thinking. Thanks.

  47. ellerenaissance says:

    Reblogged this on Don't Let School Get in the Way of Your Education and commented:
    Hot damn she hit the nail on the head, especially in the last two paragraphs:

    “Women have mistakenly conflated power and control in the world, with power and control over our bodies… This is the Beauty Myth, that feminist author Naomi Wolf has written so eloquently about. A myth that by keeping us chained to self loathing, robs us of energy, time and money, and prevents us from achieving real power in the world.”


    [Another reason why going to the Korean spa helps me center in knowing that women come in all shapes and we can appreciate how non-competitive we can become when we acknowledge that fact.]

  48. Greetings from Spain!

    Thanks for your post, I will share it! It’s relieving reading the views of someone who don’t buy all this yoga marketing. To me ‘Yoga Journal’, with its ads, good-looking people and complicated asanas -most of them created only some decades ago- is just the opposite of what yoga is and certainly doesn’t inspire.

    Hatha yoga (and all physical yoga is hatha -or “effort”- yoga… Even the terms have been distorted) was the first vehicle to introduce people to a more profound spiritual work, but we see how, with the excuse of developing “self-discipline”, people go to Ashtanga or Bikram classes and, instead, they develop their egos and indulge in narcissism. It’s funny how people tend to look for that which will increase their neurosis, instead of for something that will cure it…

    Could we say that yoga has not changed America, but America has changed yoga?

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  50. J says:

    This article is bullshit. Calling thin yogis overworked and underfed is childish. As an ex runner I’ve met women who look nothing like they run marathons by successfully do on a regular basis. I only practice yoga 3 times a week and still weigh in south of 100lbs. It’s called genetics. Grow up. I’m sorry if a thinner woman made you feel inferior in some way but this isn’t the way to address it.

  51. John says:

    I think this article is an absolute abomination and is written in a ridiculously harsh tone for actually having no factual information. As a practitioner of Ashtanga yoga, to hear somebody say that a lean, toned body cannot be achieved from practicing yoga DAILY is absolutely absurd and boggles my mind beyond belief. I truly hope that you had some knowledge of ALL FORMS of yoga before you decided to be so ridiculous with this article. Practicing Ashtanga yoga 6 times a week…even if you stick with the Primary Series for the rest of your life, will undoubtedly have a dramatic effect on your body, even though changing your body is not the ultimate goal of yoga. Please, please, please educate yourself on this subject matter…youtube being a great resource…and watch Pattahbi Jois teach the primary series. There is NO POSSIBLE WAY that an out of shape person could achieve this level of movement with their bodies…which disputes the fact that you think these women, Kathryn and Briohny in particular, could not have the bodies they have by just practicing yoga. The asana demands a lot from the body physically and mentally, and has a dramatic change on the shape of the physical body. These women are extremely accomplished yoginis who practice DAILY (meaning every day…) and to diminish their spiritual practice with this disgusting article is awful. I’ve been practicing for only 3 years has dramatically changed my life and my body. I’m not a fighting person but when I saw this I had to stick up for something that I think is so beautiful and helps SO MANY people.

  52. reemadatta says:

    Thank you for writing this. I wish the mainstream yoga media was more in line with your views here. It is unfortunate that so many yoga enthusiasts are spending most of their energy obsessing with their bodies and not putting nearly as much energy into training their minds to open to love and wisdom. One look at the news and it is clear we need more love and compassion in this world as opposed to ripped bodies.

  53. Favor Box says:

    What’s up mates, nice piece of writing and good urging commented here, I am genuinely enjoying by these.

  54. ecoalchemist says:

    Thanks for your post. I agree with and appreciate much of what you say, though at the same time as someone who enjoys pushing her body to some degree I feel somewhat demonized by your comments. Rather than a narcissistic agonized desire to be thinner, what motivates me to push my body is experiencing the pleasure and power of strength and flexibility. As a child, I would never have considered myself very athletic, and I am most certainly curvy. However, in my 20’s I began to push myself to do things that I found terrifying and completely out of my skill range, such as rock climbing and aerial silks trainings. I tried different kinds of yoga and trained my dancing muscles. My confidence and inner authority increased DRAMATICALLY through pushing myself to try these new things, and I continue to play and work with my edge physically. My edge is very different from many of the women who model for yoga, who may have grown up more athletically. Yet I still walk it and am proud of myself for doing so. For me this is strongly related to things you addressed in your psoas post, which led me to your site. As I go deeper into my edge and expand it further, I connect to my psoas and find myself needing to release and stretch it more and more.

    Thank you again.

  55. Adam says:

    I disagree with this post. Getting a lean figure is little more than calories in vs calories out, and macronutrient ratios (i.e., low carbs, high protein) yields marginal benefits at best when compared to controlling the amount of calories consumed.

    Power yoga burns a lot of calories, and is basically a body-weight-based weight training exercise if you look at it from a purely analytical perspective. Yes, you will burn more calories in a heated room since your body needs to work harder to cool itself. But fundamentally any challenging power yoga class will burn a lot of calories, regardless of the temperature.

    Being lean comes down to burning more than you consume. It is literally a mathematical equation. 3500 calorie deficit is one pound of fat removed (provided you are consuming enough calories in general so your body isn’t in starvation mode). Cellulite included!

  56. Individuals without a license issued by West Virginia Secretary of State, beau dietl & Security
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  57. Jolie says:

    As someone who only practices yoga (and nowhere near daily) and does have the “yoga body,” I do find conversations like this distressful. While I was always somewhat small, I did not become “skinny” until a regular asana practice, and I am one of those people who more advanced postures comes naturally too. However, I am acutely aware of the general belief that I probably have an eating disorder, and I am not a “real yogi,” but just some girl who is obsessed with her body image. I get so tired of having to defend myself, so I just let people think what they want. But, I also find myself holding back in classes for fear of others thinking I am showing off or otherwise making them feel less of themselves. I was drawn to the yoga community for its acceptance, but opinions like this make people feel unaccepted. Just because others view you as “the perfect yoga body” doesn’t mean you are insulated to insults.

  58. crisaide says:

    I agree with almost everything that you wrote, referring to the ad selling the illusion that you can do things like that without having started it when your 6 years old, however, there are people out there, who don’t overwork and under eat to maintain a slim healthy body. Normally When people talk about average women bodies, they refer to them as round, short and overweight. Most people I know are not like that. Maybe they are not like the girl in equinox video (an acrobat doing yoga asanas, it’s still beautiful). I think it is unfair to always refer to slim athletic people as unhealthy and underfed. Truth is that these days most people in fact are overfed and underworked. Nobody walks anywhere anymore, everything is ready to consume, etc. If you compare pictures from 60 years ago, there are almost no overweight people in them. Our lives became too comfortable.
    Bottom line for me is you don’t have to look like that, or be able to do all that in the New York loft scenario, it doesn’t matter what physical level your body is, important is that with your own personal practice you feel perfect!

  59. OCjoy says:

    I think that we as practitioners need to remind one another that it is not about what others look like or the poses they can hold deeply that matters. It is how we focus in the calm and continue to hold a pose and work toward being our best self. When I take classes I work hard to focus inward and not look around and compare. We are all different and what another can do is not relevant to me. My goal is overall health and well-being. In regard to hot yoga I do it because it helps me get warmed up past my lumbar issues- the heat allows my muscles to a deeper stretch and lessens my back pain. I feel sorry for those who are not moving toward their best self instead of an ideal that is predicated on food deprivation and silly comparisons.

  60. Kaz says:

    Hi, interesting article but I think a little untrue from where I stand, a 45 year old female who has been practising variouss styles of yoga for 13 years and now training as a teacher. I practice ashtanga and vinyasa. My teachers, authorised ashtanga teachers ALL remind us that to practice requires hard work,discipline, committment and ahimsa towards our bodies ie. They do NOT promote the “skinny minny” body you aspire to be (?) but encourage a fit, healthy womanly body. They believe it is important to encourage their students to work hard, eat a healthy vegetarian diet but to remain compassionate towards their bodies. Anorexia has no place in this model. Yes, anorexics are drawn to ashtanga but hopefully this is not something that their teachers encourage! I think the longer one practices, the less the physical form becomes important in any case,a healthy fit body become a bonus,secondary to the mental effects of the practice.

  61. Arran Adams says:

    Obviously not done lot of Yoga! Its a 4000 year old holistic practice and yes there are shallow ,commercial , corporate ,private sector companies involved in marketing and promoting wellbeing through Yoga however they are everywhere my friend . I do 2 yoga classes a week eat carbs and sweets and have a six pack . It’s in your genetics as well as your approach to exercise . Yoga relieves stress improves the endocrine system the Nero muscular system and the skeletal system . Maybe you should do a bit of research before picking at thousands of years of practice ..

  62. craig says:

    Very well said, a brilliant blog entry highlighting an ever growing misunderstanding of yoga.

    I often wonder if asana was not a part of the yoga practice how many people would be left. Not many I imagine.

  63. Monica says:

    I agree that nobody markets to the “average” body and it’s funny that you wrote about this now because I just made a little promo video with a few “average” people practicing yoga. I am a musician and am promoting my new yoga mantra album “Veil of Time” so I figured what better way that to showcase that everyone can do yoga no matter if you’re skinny or not? Granted, they are still advanced practitioners, but you’ll get the point. Here’s a link to check it out:

  64. alyzanne says:

    Reblogged this on { p u e l l u l a } and commented:
    Great article! Great insights!

  65. taozirae says:

    “It seems no one, not even half-starved yoga superstars, will admit that the emperor has no clothes.” Brilliant. Thank you so so so so much for writing this piece.

  66. rene says:

    why must u hate on fit women who care about their bodied and work their asses off to look that way? they dont have mental health or eating disorders- they have health and fitness goals and work hard. why is it sooo shameful to work hard at having a tone body?!?! apparently the covers ARENT having a negative effect on society as obesity is WAY more out of control than bulemia. The fit yoga body IS a result of self discapline and a yogic lifestyle meaning being mindful of what u put into your body. Of all things to ridicule- why are we negatively judging these awesome yoga bods that look nothing like scrawney heroine or bulimia bodies?!?? gosh, i applaud these women who are setting a great example of what a body is capaple of doing when its given the right nutrition, training, and self care. so disgusting that people must always hate on the women that are actually taking care of themselves. yes, these yoginis likely dont eat little debbies or cake everyday at the office- in what world is that a bad thing?!?!?!

    1. britt says:

      I couldnt hava said it better!
      Trying to post this for the 3.time…:
      NAMASTE fellow yoginis!
      this last comment almost provoked me…which is NOT very yogic, i know…;o) to take some photos and a video of my 47 year old yoga body, which has NEVER experienced not even one single day of starving or strenuous training, but simply 28 years of meditative yoga practice –
      and if you want to see more, look at
      aum shanti

  67. Jessie says:

    My yoga experience has led me in the exact direction you say isn’t possible. I started 5 years ago, 3-4 classes a week and little by little I lost 15 kilos and progressed hugely from not being able to any asana gracefully to being able to flow through my practice with huge amounts of control, and yes I have a tight toned body that can do all sorts of weird poses, and yes it’s all 100% because of yoga.

    To say that my experience isn’t realistic or common just because it didn’t happen to you is a lie, I’m now a teacher that over the last 2 years I see country incredible results and progress in other students, these include the change of their physical bodies appearance, the way in which it moves and the mental shift that turns the practice into a lifestyle of awareness.

    As for “sexy” yoga advertising, if you apply years of dedication to your practice and are proud and comfortable with you body why can we choose not to show it, this isn’t just advertising and media, search the hashtag #yoga in instagram and there are hundreds of thousands of pictures of women and MEN in little clothing expressing what they are proud of, what they love, how comfortable they are with themselves in the moment to share a snippet of there personal journey. It’s beautiful, the human body what an amazing tool that can learn and adapt and transform, why can’t this be shown? Who are you to say there is a limit to what you can achieve through yoga.

  68. Elisa says:

    In response to “Yoga Body”: The conspiracy I write the following –

    Is Yoga to blame for the current means in which we encourage others to discover it or are we merely capitalizing on the modern day world as it stands in an attempt to educate others of it’s benefits?

    I read both articles – “Yoga Body – the conspiracy” and “I’m no skinny minnie…” and was left wondering whether this was a legitimate article with professional opinion. I am a recently qualified Yoga instructor and have been teaching for only a few months now; I was educated and trained by some amazing teachers who have literally changed my life.

    It is also relevant to mention that I am a Skinny Minnie Yoga Teacher and do not regard myself as a “Half Starved Yoga Star” – I have little understanding as to what carbs are so eat what my body has advised me to eat which is something I have learned to listen to through my practice.

    Your article is full of contradictions and hypocrisies which removes 99% of the credibility you may have had had you self reflected prior to posting your thoughts which can be merely interpreted as (in your very brash lingo) a pi$$ed off fat chick.

    Above is an example of a contradiction and hypocrisy on my behalf to which I felt necessary and, in theme of your articles, uneducated perspective to which I deem ignorant and misguided.

    In your first line of the “Im no skinny minnie” article, you yourself state: “As much as I want to ripple with muscle and sinew, and sport teeny-tiny rock hard buns, I have to face it; it’s never going to happen” continuing on with reference to your priorities in your 20’s and 30’s

    This merely supports the wide spread belief that Yoga is perceived as something to keep your body in amazing condition at the same time as remove from your lifestyle all that you deem “good” like “smelly cheese, chocolate cake and fries”. This line in the first 5 paragraphs of the initial article only merely reinforces your lack of understanding of Yoga in it’s entirety.

    The overall goal of Yoga is enlightenment with the asana practice itself making up a very small component of this, most hard core practitioners or dedicated yogis take on many aspects of the lifestyle which results in the amazing bodies they model; I encourage you to become educated in the overall Yoga approach and also review your current practice if it is not working for you. If you have been practicing for 15 years and do not “See” or “Feel” any difference – further supported by your need to write this article – put simply… You’re doing it wrong.

    Do not blame the corporate world for your perception of yourself or how you interpret an image on the cover of a fitness magazine or within articles.

    This brings me to “Yoga Body” now and as much as I tried to walk away and not bite, I couldn’t and won’t.

    Your comments making reference to Briohnys body – “It’s the body of a finely honed athlete” … like der! Will you criticize those who advertise sports, body building, dancing etc that often use an attractive, open and well worked body to entice others to join… That is like fast food companies using a larger person to eat their food on adds – in the modern world the perception of healthy is a slimmer, toned body with definition. This is not Yogas issue, this is the modern worlds perception so why is Yoga so high and mighty and must abide by rules that seem unreasonable. Advertising is what it is, to inspire and motivate often means working with a misconception of current “priorities” deemed just that within the modern world.

    Yes, most peoples wish when they join Yoga is to achieve the “yoga body”… that is the modern world – accept that. HOWEVER, with a good teacher, one that educates not just on asana students soon become aware yoga is far more than asana practice and effective on the body. In my short period of time teaching, every single one of my students, and I say this without word of a lie, have physically changed however I do not advertise skinny – nor do I advertise old school traditional info.

    In the same period of time, my students have ALL realised Yoga is more than asana and their bodies physically are benefitting however, the internal benefit takes priority over that physical change which further supports my comment. Students perception of Yoga can and will change with the correct teacher.

    Naked yoga photos, yoga in lingerie and videos or images seeming too sexual are merely that due to your perception which I do not state as wrong as you are welcome to perceive as you will. HOWEVER, I must enforce further that the Kinos, the Briohnys, the Naked Yogis are all doing one thing that is far more amazing than this blog. That is, providing inspiration and placing Yoga in the modern world. Yoga is a few thousand years old but in the last 20 years seems less associated with “hippys” and more attainable to those living in the modern world initially ignorant of this amazing practice.

    In conclusion, there is no such thing as “the yoga body” apart from the one you perceive to be your goal or your own perceived self expectation. It is not unhealthy to practice Yoga, however it should be deemed unhealthy to deem a “healthy” body of any shape to be unattainable – whatever you deem this to be is your choice however you choose this; live it and love it confidently. The comment relating to the labelled “Yoga Body” being simply a result of a narcissistic obsession with working out – once again – ignorant and rank.

    What you lack in understanding you make up with controversial blogging and I question my intelligence in biting to this ignorant article. However you choose to achieve more likes on your blog or facebook page is up to you, however writing an article fat with offensive assumptions will lead to poor interpretation of your true understanding of Yoga and how best to capture and incorporate this into the modern day world.

    The world needs Yoga; an old school practice that should forever be a part of each and everyones lives in any capacity.

    1. amphibi1yogini says:

      Well, since you consider “New School Yoga” the new breakdancing, and might subscribe to the consequentialism of bringing “new people” into the fold, consider this: Yoga Journal has just drawn its own, firm consequentialist line in the sand, by appointing SELF Magazine editor Carin Gorrell as its new Editor-in-Chief …

      Am so happy I am not in class with those acrobats and gymnasts (who would try to convert my old, sick body to its cult) anymore ….

      1. Elisa says:

        Your assumption that I believe Yoga is the new Breakdancing is incorrect however, I stand by my opinion and response. It is there to be interpreted however the reader wishes and I believe this interpretation is a reflection on the reader. Thank you for your response.

      2. amphibi1yogini says:

        Elisa, a stuntwoman would have had more soul than a Briohny … even when twerking …

  69. The Petite Polynesian says:

    There are 8 limbs of Yoga, and the Asana practice is only one of them, but to be doing Yoga you need to be doing all 8, much of which has to do with your spiritual growth, one big one is non attachment. So really if all you’re doing is the physical practice, you’re just exercising! I will give these ladies props for taking themselves to the limit, that is an accomplishment. Just as every sport has an ideal elite athlete — running, basketball, gymnastics, dance, surfing, swimming — we recognize that these people are genetically blessed and put a lifetime of work getting there. We should view these elite Yoginis as similar. They work hard and were also blessed with good joints. There are so many variables such as Scoliosis, retroverted hip joints, and on and on which make it impossible for some people to achieve that level of physical prowess without causing severe injury in trying. Going back to Yoga, it’s a shame that the West has commercialized and commodified it to this extent. Blech.

  70. Tyler says:

    You are responsible for your physical appearance and financial success. Once you accept that and take action, anything is achievable, even having a perfectly ripped body and acre-wide bed!

    This article is full of criticism and complaint, instead of praising these beautiful women for the hard work and dedication they have given to achieve their dreams!

    You are only holding yourself back by criticizing those that are more successful than you are and complaining about your current situation. If you were in their shoes, your outlook on life would be completely different and you would be proud to show off your body.

    The good news is that is never to late to change…

    Lastly, you can either be happy or be a feminist. Your choice.

  71. S says:

    THANK you. I needed to hear this. I’ve been wondering for a while what it is about the yoga world that makes me uncomfortable and you’ve outlined it beautifully here.

  72. PREACH sister. What a beautifully written breath of fresh air. Thank you xx

  73. Carl says:

    Sounds to me like a lot of folk making excuses for not putting the effort in to attain their true potential.

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