Dear Yoga Journal

Dear Yoga Journal,

I love “Yoga Journal” day.  That’s what I call it when your mag shows up in my mailbox.  I always set aside time that I can curl up and settle in with a hot cup of tea to read it.

As a curvy yoga teacher and proponent of Health at Every Size (HAES), I’m sure you can imagine my excitement when I flipped to “Measure for Measure,” an article describing one woman’s story about food and weight loss, in your most current edition.  I thought to myself, “Dr. Linda Bacon, HAES and the word ‘fat’ are introduced in the first paragraph, OMG!  Curvy yogis and fat acceptance are finally about to get some page time!”

Unfortunately, though, that little word—fat—sent the article rapidly downhill away from the HAES principles raised at the beginning and onto a path of shame and dieting.

I think it’s important for people to share their story; that’s part of what makes us us, and everyone has the right to do that.  The intent of this letter isn’t to critique the author’s experience.  Rather, it’s to highlight the fact that weight loss is a minority experience, and sharing stories about it sets people up to feel ashamed if they can’t have the same results.   Sure, some people can lose weight in the short-term, but after five years (and often one), that weight is back—and then some.  No place is this point better proven than in Dr. Bacon’s groundbreaking book Health at Every Size.

Although this article is not presented as a “diet plan” for people to follow, the author promotes intuitive eating while “measuring out three ounces of cooked salmon.”  These mixed messages inspire people to believe that they can have the same results, setting them up to feel like failures if they don’t.  And while the tone of the article is about honoring your body, the not-so-subtle subtext is that when someone says you’re fat, and when you’ve been eating “pound cake made with organic butter, topped with organic peaches and creme fraiche” that you better shape up–literally.  Even if people agree and want to follow suit, the truth is that they can’t;  if two people eat the exact same amount of calories and do the exact same amount of exercise, they will experience different results, often greatly so.

And here’s the other thing: regardless of people’s beliefs about the likelihood of weight loss, using self-shame (as in the “sting” of the word fat) to get there is never going to work.  Dr. Bacon describes this problem eloquently: “Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat. Every time you make fat the problem, these are side effects, however unintended they may be.”

So this is a loving request from me, one of your curvy readers: please don’t disguise dieting articles as body positivity.  Yoga has been life-changing for me and for many other curvy people I know.  It has helped me embrace who I am, appreciate the amazing things my body can do, work towards health regardless of my size, and realize that practicing yoga while curvy is pretty fantastic.  I hope you’ll think as much of yoga as I do.

Love,

Anna

Update Jan. 13: This post has now also been shared at YogaDork.  Show them some love for sharing the message that yoga is for everyone!

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  • http://babsbabble.com babs

    Beautiful letter, Anna.

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thanks, Babs!

  • http://ecoyogini.blogspot.com EcoYogini

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this letter Anna.
    Thank you.

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thank you; I appreciate your kind words!

  • http://Flyingyogini.wordpress.com nancy

    You in a word: ROCK! love it and if they don’t publish it then they are fools. it is wonderful and so are you!

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thanks, Nancy! And I think you rock, too. :)

  • http://mycupcakemafia.com Tali

    Wow, when I first read the article. I loved it. I gobbled it up, every word, because I could see myself exactly in the author shoes. I am not clinically obese but fall into the overweight category. I often excuse my food choices byt knowing they’re organic or local.

    While I did take away some great tips, I had never thought, what’s going to happen if this doesn’t help me. If this doesn’t work for me, will it be another failure and thus setting my body image issues back more. I really appreaciate you bringing this to light. It’s great to reach out to YT and let them know this is not actaully body positive, and it’s more important for people like me, who thought it was.

    Much love.

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thank you for sharing your story, Tali!

  • http://Sarahsana.wordpress.com Sarah

    Standing and hooting and hollering and cheering and waving and shouting AMEN!

    Beautiful, Anna. Simply beautiful and perfectly written. I, too, get so frustrated with this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and, vicariously, the thoughts of so many of us!

    Much love and light to you, my inspiring friend!

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thank you, Sarah! I so appreciate you being in the sidelines with us. Love and light to you, too!

  • http://lindsayfields.com Lindsay

    Thanks, Anna, for continuing to be an inspiration and voice for so many of us. I love this article and I agree with Nancy that Yoga Journal should totally publish it. :)

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thanks, as always, for your support and encouragement, Lindsay!

  • http://prettyinorange.com Angela

    Just found this through a link on Facebook and I am loving it! I love my Yoga Journal, too, and I love Yoga – just found it last year. I weigh 370 but I can do more in Yoga than most people thanks to my flexibility. My biggest pain with it is finding great Yoga clothes. I wish that Lululemon would introduce a plus-sized line.

    I am so looking forward to reading more from you! :D

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Angela, you are officially my new hero. Love to hear about you rockin’ yoga!! And I’m with you on the plus-sized yoga clothes–truly a pain.

      So glad to have you here!!

  • sarah

    OMG This has got to get out there!! women need to hear this and the more people who hear it and embrace the more it will resonate and not only be incorporated into our articles and conversations it will be a belief and real. Woohoo for people of all sizes, all healthy!!

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      Couldn’t agree more, Sarah! Thanks!

  • http://svasti.wordpress.com/ Svasti

    Rock on, Anna! There are so many confusing messages out there for women surrounding their appearance. Many of them reside inside our own minds, thanks to years of indoctrination, fear and self-loathing. More clarity, more support for all kinds of bodies and more acceptance for everyone, please!

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      I’m so with you, Svasti! I love how you ask for more clarity and support; I definitely agree that those are key to a safe and enjoyable practice for everyone. Thanks for your comment!

  • http://liveloveyoga.wordpress.com Nikki@liveloveyoga

    What a great article. So honest. So compassionate. On the flip side of this, YJ mag (as much as I love them) sometimes puts pressure on teachers or students like me who are not curvy to want to look like a YJ model. Or worse yet, students who expect a teacher to look like a YJ model.

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thank you, Nikki! I’m especially glad that you highlighted how limiting yoga to one body type is hurtful to all of us–no matter what our size is. This is just such an important point!

  • Janine P

    Fantastically written and very real! Thanks for calling it out.

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thanks, Janine!

  • http://backtoallen.com/writers_blog Lisa

    AMEN! Love that call it like you see it….now I’m off to find that issue of Yoga Journal to have a peek.

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thanks, Lisa!

  • http://owningtheyummy.com Moe

    hey girl.
    i’m in Marianne Elliott’s 30 days of Yoga. I read your guest post – LOVED IT!
    then i visited you here and found this post.

    i’ve been doing yoga since 1995 and early on, subscribed to Yoga Journal.

    issue after issue of photos of beautiful lean people in yoga poses got me steaming mad.

    i finally cancelled my subscription with a letter to the editor telling Yoga Journal that i felt they were doing their yoga community and their readers a HUGE dis-service by not show real-sized people in their magazine. and i vowed not to subscribe again until they did. i invited a dialogue about it, but never heard back.

    kudos to you for letting them know that they missed the boat again.

    (can you tell i’m still kinda mad about this??!!)

    lots of love … and i am looking to exploring more on your site,
    moe

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      Moe, I’m so glad you found Curvy Yoga from Marianne’s course! Marianne and 30 Days of Yoga are both incredible.

      Thank you for your comment; I think the more of us who talk about how yoga is for every body, the better. Glad to have you here!!

  • http://elizabethpatch.com elizabeth

    Personally, I don’t think the primary intent of yoga is weight loss, and its troubling to think that there is a mind set that only those who lose weight through yoga are doing it “right”. Practicing yoga has many positive benefits for people of all shapes, sizes, ages, level of health and level of ability.
    Please continue your compassionate practice encouraging everyone, big & small, to work towards a happier & more healthful life!

    • http://karracrow.blogspot.com Hanna

      Thank you so much for this article! I’m in the process of writing my own blog rant about the “Measure for Measure” piece which made me furious. Not only on my own behalf but for friends I know who have eating disorders that this kind of behavior only exacerbates while pretending to advocate health. I was very disappointed to read something like the Macy piece in a magazine I normally respect for avoiding — or challenging — that kind of thinking.

      Would yoga be easier for me if I dropped 20 pounds? Yes, I’m sure some poses would come more simply — and I would be better able to do inversions if I didn’t have a bum left wrist from years of typing or a back that sometimes goes out unexpectedly. And I’d have an easier time in Tree pose if I hadn’t sprained my left ankle three times in the past eight months and had to leave it unattended due to lack of health insurance.

      I’m very happy to see there are other people out there who want everyone to be able to enjoy yoga if they want to.

      • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

        Thanks for your comment, Hanna! I think it’s great that you’re going to write a letter, too; the more people sharing their vision of yoga, the better.

        I especially appreciate your insightful point about the many different factors that affect our practice. Glad to connect with you!

        • http://www.fillmeuplord.blogspot.com/ Lived in Wien!

          Wow! Yoga, HAES, & Intuitive Eating? I’m in love.

          • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

            Yay, thanks!

        • http://karracrow.blogspot.com Hanna

          Nice to get in touch with you, too! I’ve been going through your back posts and I love what you do. I’ve passed your URL on to quite a few friends now, too, so the enjoyment is spreading with any luck. (I must admit, too, I second your recommend for Athleta gear: I’ve bought quite a few pairs of yoga pants from them and, bar one, they’ve all been great. Really comfy and long-lasting.)

          I plan to have my blog post about the YJ article up sometime next week — feel free to drop by and check it out!

          • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

            Thanks, Hanna! Will do!

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thanks, Elizabeth! I think you’re spot on about the benefits of yoga for many different individuals!

  • Linda

    Honest, courageous, daring article – way to go!

  • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

    Thanks!

  • http://www.yisforyogini.com Y is for Yogini

    WORD. so spot-on.

  • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

    Thanks, Lo!

  • http://alexshealingbeauty.wordpress.com/ Alex @ Healing Beauty

    What a great post! I just happened to stumble across your blog and this particular post caught my eye since I read that same issue. I think you made some great points and I believe your blog has a wonderful message. Thank you.

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thanks, Alex! So glad to have you here!!

    • Donna Landini

      Hi Anna! Great letter! I came across this from Yoga Dork – of all things I was reading the Times Article on Tara Stiles and ended up finding Curvy Yoga – totally perfect!

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  • http://www.dropandgivemeyoga.com sherry

    Beautiful! I would LOVE to take your class! What you have to say and how you say it IS yoga!

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thanks, Sherry! Hope you can come sometime! :)

    • http://www.thematandi.com Ejiro O.

      Thanks for writing this letter, i read that same article and after reading it i decided to do the food journal thing, but after the first day i started to get an all too familiar uncomfortable feeling. The one I get when i start doing something to fit into a mold, like a square peg in a round hole. The feeling that I was treating my body like a science project and that there was nothing intuitive about writing down everything that went in my mouth. Thank you for writing this letter, and for not getting sucked in :).

      Again thank you, i’ll definitely be coming back :)

      • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

        Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ejiro! Glad you’ll be stopping back by!

  • Aroona Sharma

    Anna,

    I love your beautiful and realistic thoughts. All of us women need to accept and love ourselves, the way we are. I discovered yoga truly at sixty plus and can’t even begin to express the joy and elation of doing a shoulder stand at age sixty two. Yoga has changed my life. I climb steps without the support of the banister. I am flexible and I eat healthy. My size or weight is what it is and does not matter. I understand my body and deal with little aches and pains through yoga. I eat as much and what my body demands. What others say or feel about my body does not matter.

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thanks for sharing this, Aroona! I agree with you and think it’s lovely that yoga is in your life. I hope you’ll submit a pic for my site! You can click here to learn more: http://www.curvyyoga.com/curvy/curvy-yogis-represent/

    • Rich

      Well, I’m not obese in the clinical sense but I *am* 56, uncomfortable with the middle-age spread and I get tired of seeing belly hanging in face when doing my shoulderstand. I could stand to lose 30 lbs. I don’t obsess on it (usually) but I do get pissed with the YJ image sometimes.

      My wife worked in an eating disorder facility as an RN and I’ve seen the devastation from untreated eating disorders… so I’m much more aware than the next guy when I see anorexic models of what is going on.

      I like the information in YJ also, but let’s see some real-world folks on the covers!

      Some background: I am disabled from a major mental health history with the honor badge of 13 hospital stays since I was 17. Started yoga in fall 2009 out of desperation after 3 stays in one summer. Since I started yoga, I’ve become a new person and don’t feel like a professional patient any more! Wonderful!! No more death grip on the steering wheel or type A behavior… the transformation has been wonderful! Been a vegetarian since 1991 but have to have salmon every once in a while along with the occasional sweet binge. Bad sugar addict-workin’ on it!

      • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

        Thanks for your comment, Rich! I love hearing how yoga positively affects people’s lives in so many ways!

  • Janet Landis

    Hi Anna:
    I was led to your letter by way of Elephant Journal and an article featuring the success of getting Yoga Journal to publish it. I’m not “dissing” the author of the article, but she listed a yogini named Sarah Tomson Beyer as the latest cover model on Yoga Journal who wasn’t a “size 2″. (Nancy Alder is the author) I eagerly clicked on the link and was actually nauseated by what I saw. I was inspired by yogini’s like Nischala Joy Devi, and Judith Lassater. The videos on Sarah’s website may be evidence of the director’s proclivities, but they were all about beauty, sex, and a “perfect” body down to the blonde hair constantly being thrown back to expose her lovely throat. I was relieved to click on the link to your letter and see beautiful YOU!! I’m 48, going through menopause, and weigh more than I ever have in my life. At 5’2″ and 130 lbs I feel a lot of antipathy toward my body, and am so very grateful for your voice of sanity. I have an 11-yr-old daughter who is the perfect size for her height and body type, and she’s asked me multiple times “what’s wrong with me Mom? I weigh 100 lbs!” Her 1/2 sister who is in her 20’s is six feet tall!! Sorry to rant on. Your letter was perfect and had all the elements of a regular yoga practice that had inspired me to train in the first place. You showed patience, compassion, and love that I’m too angry to be able to summon. Bless you!! I humbly bow to your beauty, spirit, and intelligence. The light of your spirit is a life preserver for many of us. Namaste’

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      Thank you so much, Janet! It means so much to know the letter resonated. So glad to have you here!

  • http://omnartistry.com Roanne

    Wow. I’m not even sure what to say in my comment. Even at 5, I was the tallest/biggest person in my class. At 33, I’m 5’10 and 220lbs and happy in my body because it can do wonderful things. I am also in re-starting my yoga journey which has been on hiatus for a while. I would love to re-publish your article at some point. I am so glad I found your page. Be encouraged in your work.

    Peace and Health.

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

      How lovely, Roanne! Thank you for the encouragement; it is much appreciated. So glad to have you here!!

  • http://findingyoga.blogspot.com Deven Sisler

    I hope you sent in that letter!

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  • JMegan

    I just started reading Yoga Journal, and I’m pretty surprised at the lack of diversity in its pages. I can’t even find any POC, let alone curvy yogis! And as a moderately curvy person, I have to say I feel pretty unwelcome.

    So I googled “yoga + curvy” as an antidote, and found myself here. Love it. Thanks for being here – I’m going to stick around for a while!

  • http://www.indiegogo.com/Thick-Yoga?a=423802 kate robinson

    I adore, adore adore this article.

  • Hilary

    Just to let you know – today I unsubscribed to YJ and their email blasts. They just sent out a promotion to “get YJ and Weight Watchers magazine for just $20!!” with pictures of skinny skinny women on the front.

    My email said:

    “Dear Yoga Journal,
    I unsubscribed from your news blast just now because of this partnership, and thought you should know. It continues to perpetuate the image of ‘yogi as super skinny, scared of calories’ person (women). Ick. I wonder what curvy yoga thinks of this.”

    • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna

      Wow — thanks for letting me know this, Hilary! I hadn’t heard about that. Love that you let them know why you unsubscribed. I think providing feedback is so important.

      Thanks again!

  • http://diversityinyoga.wordpress.com Molly Lannon Kenny

    Thank you so much for this letter, and for all that you are doing. This is such an important conversation. When I first opened my center 11 years ago, I wanted to have a wellness center, rather than a yoga studio per se. I thought carefully about what magazines I wanted to have available, and chose Natural Health as one of them. After a couple of months, I said “If the next issue that comes has something about weightloss on the cover, I am unsubscribing.” Of course it did, and I did. So many of these magazines touting health, including YJ, are all about weight loss and optimal weight, and size as beauty, and basically full of shit. I have been a yoga teacher for over 13 years, and have taught literally thousands of people yoga, from all kinds of diverse backgrounds, and with all kinds of bodies, from larger sized, to stroke survivors, to amputees, to super fit Ashtangis, and I can tell you this, absolutely unequivocally: 1. skinny does NOT equal healthy. (it can, of course, but not “by definition”) 2. the quest for some ideal is always, always, always a source of suffering. 3. presenting yoga as yet another way to shame (“inspire”) people into wanting to be different, is completely, completely antithetical to yoga and to living a life that transcends suffering.

    If we spent half the time working on love, acceptance, understanding, compassion, inclusivity, joy, wonder that we do on trying to lose 5, 10, 20, 50 pounds, we would be a much much happier culture. Guess what YJ? THAT is what yoga is about.

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      THIS: “If we spent half the time working on love, acceptance, understanding, compassion, inclusivity, joy, wonder that we do on trying to lose 5, 10, 20, 50 pounds, we would be a much much happier culture.”

      LOVE this and all that you’re doing, Molly! I am SO thrilled to connect with you! Thank you for all your beautiful work to serve people of all shapes, sizes and abilities. You rock!

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