I learned recently that there is, or at least was, a marketing tick list for big-name yoga brands – their advertising models and partnerships were mainly with young, single, athletic, white women.
It is noticeable, since the recent support of the #BLM movement, many studios and yoga brands are rethinking partnerships and strategies and there is a more diverse presence online at least. And as a small business owner I have definitely taken on board my responsibility to commit to equity and taken stock of the imagery I use on my platforms.
However social media is still full of model-esque acrobatic yoga which, quite frankly, does not reflect any yoga class I have ever been to or the classes I teach.
Check out this instagram page for some beautifully shot but not very realistic yoga images.
What’s the problem?
As a teacher, my view is that there will always be a place for beautiful images and creative photography and this is fine as long as there is a representation of a cross section of community.
The reality is that most yoga classes are full of everyday people of all shapes, sizes and abilities. You may sometimes have people who are trained dancers or particularly athletic but that’s the mix of life anyway, isn’t it?
For people who would like to try yoga for the first time or perhaps come back to yoga after children, the unrealistic images can intimating and off-putting. I have often had emails from prospective students telling me that they will be awful at yoga as they are so unfit or inflexible and my response has always been, “great, you are totally in the right place!’.
I have been practicing yoga for around 15 years and there are many, many poses I cannot do. I am not naturally flexible which brought me to yoga in the first place and my practice now is a lot less physically intense than when I started. It is a more compassionate, embodied practice and feels so much better.
I also have pet hate of mirrors in yoga studios. I understand some studios also teach dance where mirrors are needed but otherwise, no, I don’t think we need them in a yoga studio. I want to focus on my own practice and how it feels in my body without worrying about what I or anyone else looks like. It is very hard to have a mindful practice when you are looking at your own reflection.
Breaking the stereotype
There are some inspirational yoga teachers who break the marketing stereotype and reach global audiences with their honest and inclusive approach to yoga. Check out Jessamyn Stanley on Instagram. Her tag is “I make space for people to be themselves”. Her practice is impressive!
In her 2017 ’Every Body Yoga’Wisdom Conference talk, posted below, Jessamyn refers to the importance of questioning how yoga is packaged as a “trendy exercise for white, cisgender females…and processed for us in a patriarchal…media saturated way”.
Ultimately, she says, yoga is for every body and the important thing is for us to be ok with who we are today, right now, not who we were in the past or who we want to be in the future.
And yoga is not limited by age, Tao Porchon-Lynch, who sadly passed away this year at the age of 101, was the world’s oldest yoga teacher.
Every Body Yoga
So what can we do?
Continue to question the stereotype and work on feeling truly positive about ourselves, our bodies and our yoga practice.
Be ok with who we are today.
I would like to use more images of real people doing yoga on my social media platforms and website. Would you be able to help?
If you are happy for me to use your images in online marketing, please send me an image of you in Tree pose to firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Instagram or Facebook Page and a second image of you in your favourite pose, with a one liner of why you like it. Please send the highest size image you can on your device.
I would like to make an online poster of people in the same pose to show how we are all unique and also share more images of authentic yoga practitioners.
Tips for photos:
- Take the photo in good lighting, if outside then the sun in front of you;
- Consider a fairly blank canvas background, a wall or fence;
Please also confirm in your message that you consent to me using your photos in marketing.
And thank you always for your support in coming to classes, reading these blogs and generally being awesome.
“This is it: This body is home. This is where I live and hang my hat. This is where I settle into my hips and sit easy in myself, slung together with strong muscles and bones, made gentle and forging with flesh. This body is durable, has lasted for years, hunkered down through fierce storms and allows for the peaceful erosions of age. It is like a cottage on the shore: weathered and well made, a place where a person could comfortable live. I like it here. It is my own.” – Marya Hornbacher