In my core, I love humanity. I am empathic, I am an advocate for women. But I was raised in a dogmatic culture. I am immersed in media and the beauty industry that certain types of female bodies (thin, tall, young) are worth more than other types of female bodies. Not one of my yoga training ever taught me how to work with all body sizes.
Through being, trauma-informed I now have awareness of how trauma impacts us all. Just as much in our yoga classes. I have lived with this trauma in yoga classes. My body was good if I left a class being able to fit in and do all that the teacher instructed. My body was bad or broken if I had a different experience than what was "supposed" to happen. I was learning a practice outside of my body.
I live for 12 years after the passing of my mother in 1996 with an eating disorder. It's hard to heal when our very culture does not support connection the physical body. Nor does it empower a person to listen to the answer already inside. It is the ultimate victory to love yourself in a world that is promising you many times a day that you have no right to. It is a victory that requires constant attention. So I’m working hard on my own prejudices every day. It's shameful but true. To be the yoga educator that I know is there, open and inclusive. Let's be the change!
1). Make sure the body is not the problem to be solved or changed. Offer experience of embodiment and oneness.
2).Change how you refer to postures as beginner, intermediate, advanced or any other language that implies a hierarchy of ability. Say something as simple as, “if you want to, try this!” Or refer to the desired state instead. For instance, “if you’d like more heat in your body, try this.” Or, “if you’re looking to calm the body, try this.” If you’d like to invigorate without raising your heart rate too much, try this.”
3). Listen to other people’s stories about yoga and classes and being looked at, because how else will you know how those stories differ from yours? They are your greatest teachers.
4). Teachers must be willing to observe and validate and accept the bodies that show up in class or students will feel it. Training is helpful, however if you are unsure how to offer additional choices ask the student for help.
5). Try not to position yourself as the expert. You are not the expert your students are.
If you’re a student reading this, and you’d like your teacher to consider these things, bring them up. You are not just a student; you’re part of a yoga community. We need stories to remind us that there is a connection between the mind and body, not just to be able to teach students through the postures.
Raechel Morrow, is the founder of GR Healing Yoga. She is a certified yoga therapist, holistic health care educator, and registered yoga teacher. She brings 15 years of experience to the practice of teaching. Her intent is for each student to find the Self. She offers full yoga training in her methods She uses the tools of somatic experiencing in connecting the mind and body. She sees clients struggling with body image issues, depression, anxiety and trauma.