Is Body Positive Yoga, Positive?

I’ve been in eating disorder recovery for over 25 years, I also live with severe mental illness. My area of expertise is in yoga for mental health, I teach PTSD Yoga and work regularly with people who live with ongoing mental health concerns. I feel left behind by the body positive yoga movement.

The brain is part of the body.

 

I have chronic illnesses that will never go away. In order to survive I have done herculean internal work with my mind that helps me live. That work, the most effective action I have ever taken and the thing that keeps me showing up day after day for my family, for my work, for the world was in embracing negativity.  It wasn’t until I stood and faced and witnessed and held space for all the darkness, all the horrible thoughts, all the never quiet screaming voices, the one dark booming drum of a voice that calls to me daily to end my life – that I was able to start living.

I embrace the fact that there are parts of myself that I fucking hate.

Especially that asshole “Rick” who sits at the back of my mental theater and yells “kill yourself”, I hate that guy but he’s not going anywhere so I guess I gotta find a way to survive his presence. The best way I have developed to keep living in a body that wants me to die, wasn’t through body positivity. It was through finding a way to make art with shit, and sometimes art isn’t positive.

My work with trauma and yoga is based in knowledge, but also in the lived experience that has been boiled into my bones from a lifetime of surfing constant trauma, upheaval and some generally heavy shitty stuff. One of the mushrooms to blossom from all this shit is that I am able to use my hyper vigilance (developed through years of abuse) to gain some sensitivity into the “energy” of others, I can read a room pretty fucking well. This makes me a sensitive yoga teacher and the feedback I’ve received from my students is that I give a feeling of safety. 

An important element of trauma sensitivity is autonomy which means we do not define an experience for our students, and can also be viewed as a part of ahimsa.

Forcing our students to join the body positivity mentality in order to feel like they can participate is not allowing them to experience their own truth. I think it’s scary to allow people their full experience especially if it feels negative or “toxic” to us, however it is damaging especially for mental health to deny our full experience. I have been exploring the ideas of body neutrality, being ok with not liking certain things and maybe feeling ok with other things. It’s been a natural progression of my yoga practice, it’s unfortunate that I had to get the fuck away from almost all yoga people and places in order to find that truth in my practice.

I was ready to quit yoga honestly until I rolled up my mat and stopped hanging out with yoga people.

We’re seeing massive amounts of marketing tap dancing going on in yogaland especially for the insta crowd. Shit’s getting co-opted, trauma is now a buzzword and everyone is suddenly passionate about it and an expert in it and everyone is calling themselves inclusive and accessible. Expertise is built through lived experience, wisdom and knowledge. It’s important that yoga’s redemption includes mental health and not just shiny white skinny girl self care “mental health”, after all it’s all of us or none of us.

One thought on “Is Body Positive Yoga, Positive?

  1. Holy wow! I’ve been teaching you with the same mindset. You’re a breath of fresh air. I took time away from teaching yoga because I felt I didn’t feel pure or spiritual enough to teach yoga. But slowly I discover there are fringe teachers who walk their own talk. I am walking in my way so that students can feel a space of non judgement….I decided to create a non cliché space; one that means whatever. It’s a space that changes based on my and students changes .

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