Have you seen that YouTube video of the kid who is so hopped up after being at the dentist that he existentially (and inadvertently) questions, “Is this real life?”
That’s pretty much how I felt, minus the feel-good effects, after reading the most recent issue of Yoga Journal.
As I flipped through the Table of Contents, I felt a flush of disbelief and excitement (disexcitement?) when I saw that an article called “Love Your Curves” was included.
I joked with my husband that Curvy Yoga, the body positive yoga for people of all shapes and sizes that I’ve been teaching for over five years, must have finally made it because it had been co-opted without being referenced.
The ultimate backwards compliment.
And as I began reading, I was delighted to find in the first few sentences that “no matter what your shape, you can feel confident, strong, and – yes! – beautiful on your mat.”
As I read on, though, I began to question what reality I was in as I realized that my offhanded comment wasn’t a joke after all. Because as I looked at the next page, I saw that the article wasn’t about loving your curves at all, but rather disguising them.
But also not new.
What’s Old is New Again
Almost four years ago, I wrote an open letter to Yoga Journal calling them out for the same thing in a slightly different form. In that case, they used the language of the Health at Every Size® movement, which “supports people adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control)” to lead into an article that was actually about how great dieting is.
This time, they used the language of loving your curves to lead into an article that is actually about how, for goodness sakes, they didn’t mean you or your curves.
How did they pull this off? Well, with the old bait-and-switch, of course. Yoga Journal has heard from its readers over the years that we want more body diversity reflected in its pages, including in a panel that it convened about yoga and body image at a recent conference. We want more representation of the breadth of shapes, sizes, ages, races, abilities and gender identities and expressions of practitioners. We want more of what really shows up for us on the mat – feeling good in our bodies, no matter what our body looks like.
But because a message of truly loving your body can’t fill a magazine that needs to take up ad space with products like pills that offer a “1-step cleanse,” as in this month’s issue, they went for the old switcheroo. Make readers feel heard, use the phrase “Love your Curves,” then hope no one notices they’re being sold something else entirely (and literally – they tell you what clothes to buy to best change your curves).
But guess what?
We noticed that only white women with a similar shape are featured – “curvy” enough to not be stick-thin, but certainly far from representative of any particular range of bodies, despite the magazine’s attempts to label the women with kindergarten flashcards, declaring them “Apple” or “Rectangle.”
We noticed that our fears and body insecurities (created, of course, in part by the media) were used against us.
We noticed that although the women featured shared encouraging quotes and undoubtedly have positively shifted their relationship to their body through yoga, they were undermined immediately by features like in-image text boxes about how to “conceal butt dimples.” (Seriously: you can’t make this stuff up.)
And we noticed that while the magazine still may not get it, we do. The real work is happening, as it always does, on the ground — in body positive yoga classes, in one-on-one conversations, and in solidarity with others committed to sharing the message that the only body you need for yoga is the one you have today.
We’re going to keep living and spreading that message.
Because that is loving our curves, for real.
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