Fitness, yoga and body image

What a loaded topic, huh? 

Let’s take some deep ujjayi breaths, friends, and talk about some critical issues. 

This weekend at the Yoga Journal Conference, some blogger friends and I were invited to attend a panel hosted by lululemon, “The Practice of Leadership: Yoga and Body Image.”

In Attendance: (from the website)

Melanie Klein, MA, writer, speaker and Associate Faculty member at Santa Monica College, teaching Sociology and Women’s Studies, co-editor of Yoga + Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body (October 2014) and co-founder of the Yoga + Body Image Coalition

Dana Smith, yoga teacher, certified Master Life Coach, Holistic Health Practitioner, author of YES! Yoga Has Curves and ally and adviser of the Yoga + Body Image Coalition

Dianne Bondy Yoga, trail blazer, motivator, risk taker, educator, yoga teacher, author, contributor, Yoga + Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body (October 2014), a founding board member and partner of the Yoga + Body Image Coalition and founder of, a body positive online yoga studio for people of all sizes, genders and abilities

Carin Gorrell, Editor-in-Chief, Yoga Journal

Rachel Acheson, VP Brand and Community, lululemon athletica

Brigitte Kouba M.A. (aka Gigi Yogini), Positive Body Image Advocate & Yoga Instructor, co-founder of the Yoga + Body Image Coalition

Facilitator: Hala Khouri, Founder Off the Mat, Into the World 

Pretty amazing lineup, right?

I was really interested in what they had to say, and here are some notes I took from the panel:

[Direct notes are in bold. My thoughts follow each topic and are not bolded.]


Your body is reality; your body image is your perception of that reality. It’s the psychological blueprint we have of our bodies and it can fluctuate day by day, or hour by hour. Body image is extremely subjective and can be affected by various things. Research has shown that our body image is affected from 30 minutes of watching commercials, and any body image issues can be formed in a variety of ways.

As someone who has struggled with body image issues over the years, it’s something that I’ve become more mindful of over time. The importance of having a positive body image has dramatically increased since having a young, impressionable daughter. I want her to be confident in her own skin, but as much as I WISH that for her, I have to SHOW her. At the same time, no matter what I do here at home, I have no affect on what will happen when she goes to elementary school and has girlfriends. All I can do now is give her the tools for strength, confidence and self worth to hopefully minimize the affects of others. It’s a tricky thing, especially because I learned of the infamous “thigh gap” when I was eight years old. A friend told me you couldn’t have perfect legs unless you had a thigh gap. Horrifying, right? (And for the record: you can not exercise or diet yourself into a thigh gap. It’s largely genetics-based and depends on the width of your hips and pelvis.)

What is considered “the ideal” and how is this image perpetuated in the yoga community? According to one panelist, this is “white, skinny and flexible.” There’s no emphasis on total mind-body health, and it’s important to consider that someone could look great on the outside be a mess on the inside. 

I also wish there was an emphasis on overall health instead of achieving a certain aesthetic. Concurrently, that’s a difficult thing to “show” via the media without truly knowing someone. 

We need to create health and acceptance in the yoga community.  I haven’t experienced a lot of snob yoga (maybe since I don’t usually practice at hoity toity yoga studios). My favorite studios have every demographic represented: race, sexual orientation, age, gender identification, income ranges, body sizes and types. Everyone is welcome. 

Lunge  1 of 1 3

Aspirational marketing is problematic, and we need truth in advertising. I TOTALLY would love to see more *normal people* in advertising. I also feel like everyone says this, and everyone says they’re going to make a point to do it, but no concrete changes (that I know of) have occurred. If a magazine wants to promote more truthful snapshot of their reader demographic, don’t talk about it: do it.

Different images are inspiring to different people. I found this particularly intriguing because something that inspires one person could cause self-loathing and shame in another. Check out Pinterest for example. The “motivational category” ranges from beautiful quotes to photos of emaciated girls and crap “weight loss tips.” Just for kicks, I searched “motivation” on Pinterest, and was terrified by what I saw.

Aspirational means telling the whole story instead of a snapshot.  This struck home for me because I have a blog, which is a very small snapshot of a life. While I’m not going to make a point to regularly air out dirty laundry, I do like to keep things real over here. I have great days, I have fail days, I have confident days, and I have shitty days. We’ve all been there, right? As much as you may want to show a larger part of your unique snapshot, there are people waiting to critique it. For this reason, I feel like many bloggers are guarded in what they say and unable to share their lives in a matter that they’d like. It’s a tough situation because people say they want to whole story, but in the end, it’s not really the truth. For example, a mommy blogger that I adore is often nitpicked for presenting this “perfect unattainable life.” Her hair is beautifully coiffed, her children dressed to the nines, and her photos are spectacular. On Instagram, she posted a photo with her nails chipped, and instead of a chorus of “Go you! Thanks for keeping it real! I have kids and have a tough time keeping my mani fresh, too!” she was met with a host of nastiness like “Eww, your nails look awful. Get a manicure.” Sometimes with this one, you can’t win, so you really just have to do what’s best for you.

If you have your self worth, you’re more easily able to brush off the instances where other project their insecurities or pain onto you.

While I do think it’s important to show all sides of various situations and issues, there is only a small piece you can see in advertising/TV/marketing/blogs. Do we need a photo of a model looking awesome with a small disclaimer to indicate her mental and physical health, where she grew up, and the struggles/challenges she’s faced? No. I think it’s up to us to use our judgment and take the things we see with a grain of salt.

We need to create space for health, which means different things for different people. 

As a whole, we all need to be more welcoming and kind to others. Everyone is on a different spot in their unique journey, and as morbid as it sounds, we all have the same destination. 

On the yoga and body image front, do you think that yoga companies and individuals are promoting an unattainable ideal? What do you think needs to change?

I walked into this panel with one eyebrow raised because I have a mixed history with lululemon. I worked there for a while and absolutely loved it. In Tucson, I quit to focus on my book proposals and teaching classes, and I went on a full-up boycott when the CEO blamed the size of women’s thighs for their poor fabric quality. I’m pretty sure steam shot out of my ears when I saw the cringeworthy interview on TV. Aforementioned CEO Douchebag has since left, and I’ve started shopping there again (since the company is under completely different leadership), and I know they’ve been making a conscious effort to repair their bruised image. I really enjoyed listening to the VP of Brand and Community speak; she said she is making a point to get more sample sizes represented in their advertising and website.

There are also various aspects of yoga that could be promoted and shared, instead of the crazy hand balance and gumby poses. Even though I am guilty of aspiring to achieve the gumby poses, the journey is so much more valuable than the final posture. That’s a huge takeaway that I had from this weekend.

How has your fitness journey affected your body image?

I’d love to hear any of your thoughts below. Yoga Journal is also encouraging the conversation on this Facebook page and with the Twitter hashtag #practiceofleadership

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  1. Sejal M on July 16, 2014 at 7:08 am

    “-What is considered “the ideal” and how is this image perpetuated in the yoga community? According to one panelist, this is “white, skinny and flexible.” There’s no emphasis on total mind-body health, and it’s important to consider that someone could look great on the outside be a mess on the inside. ”

    This part made me laugh considering where yoga originates from and it’s definitely not from white people. Thanks for this post. It was interesting and I usually skim blog posts but I read this one entirely.

    • Sarah on July 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      I like how you pointed out that “someone could look great on the outside, but be a mess on the inside.” So so true. Thank you for pointing that out!

  2. Katie on July 16, 2014 at 7:31 am

    This post brought me to tears. Beautifully written. 🙂

    My fitness journey has absolutely affected by body image. I just graduated from yoga teacher training and that alone was the best thing I could do in terms of gaining self confidence and not allowing outside influences affect how I view not only my own body, but other people’s bodies.

    Prior to YTT, I was very depressed for about a year. One day a coworker came to me and asked if I lost weight and that I looked good. I was appalled. Yes I lost weight, not because I was taking care of myself but because I’m too depressed to eat anything nutritious for my body! I quickly resented him for that comment and made it a goal to get healthy mentally, which thankfully led to gaining a few lbs. 🙂

    Now I love and accept my body. I’m 31 and my body is completely different in such an amazing way than it was at 21. Extra curves and all, and that’s all thanks to yoga. 🙂

  3. Brynn on July 16, 2014 at 7:48 am

    I really love the conversation around “aspirational means telling the whole story instead of a snapshot” especially in terms of blogs. So often we do see picture perfect images and ‘all is well posts’ but that is not reality. My goal is to be honest and share my experiences to create a deeper connection with my readers, friends and community. The more we accept the false advertising that has now seeped into blogs, the more we lie to ourselves about health, happiness and inner peace.

  4. Tory @ tory of my life on July 16, 2014 at 7:56 am

    I love this! I suffered from poor body image and disordered eating in the past. My body image has improved greatly since both getting older and realizing that there are way more important things in life than having a perfect body and changing my fitness routine. It first started improving when I started incorporating weight lifting. Both seeing positive changes in my body and realizing what my body was capable of made me appreciate my body, flaws and all, a lot more.
    I started practicing yoga regularly since the beginning of this year. I don’t go to a yoga studio; I just take the classes at our local Y, and I think that’s better for me seeing as my classes include people of all shapes, races, genders, ages, and yoga levels. It’s very humbling seeing someone older and less athletic looking holding poses with ease that leave me shaking within seconds. It’s a nice reminder that how we look isn’t the whole picture. For me, yoga has helpd a lot with body image.
    Of course I still have bad days where I may think I look great in the morning, and then hours later suddenly feel like I look terrible, but now I realize that it’s all in my head and overall feel like my body image is soooo much better.
    Sorry this was so long, but this post really spoke to me and I wanted to share 🙂

  5. Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed on July 16, 2014 at 8:15 am

    I really want to get back to yoga! I really can’t afford a membership (CrossFit is taking all the funds right now!) but I could totally do it in my living room. Perhaps I need to find some free community classes. I’m headed to a barre studio for the first time tonight to try a free class with an instructor in training!

    • Kara on July 16, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      I get yoga dvds from the library sometimes. Then if I find one I like, I buy it on amazon for cheap!

  6. Cheri @ Overactive Blogger on July 16, 2014 at 8:21 am

    So what the panelist said really speaks to me. I am a Wellness Director, and I’m trying to bust through the image that white, skinny, and flexible is the ideal, but it’s a little bit trick sometimes. My body image has improved ridiculously since I got active and started eating good, whole foods, but it definitely has been influenced by that white skinny think. I am very thin, and very muscular, but as a black woman, I wasn’t sure where I fit in anywhere. I’ve had to change that and love what I see, which for the most part, I really do.

    In order to shift the way I viewed my body, I don’t focus solely on aesthetics, but I focus on the amazing things my body can do. I can teach fitness classes, I can run a marathon, I can dance, I can downward dog. And THAT is incredible.

    Sorry for the rambling, but a lot came up for me in this post 🙂

  7. Megan on July 16, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Growing up I have always had body image issues, and I even have days where I feel crappy about how my body looks today. Once I started working out regularly and changing my eating habits I started feeling much better about myself, physically and mentally. It’s crazy how it is so mental. I really do believe in only saying positive things about yourself, and get rid of the negative. I shouldn’t feel like I gained 10 pounds because I ate froyo one night.. it’s all about moderation. I learned it’s okay to indulge in my favorite treats without feeling bad about myself, and I love it!

  8. Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona on July 16, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Although I’ve been doing ashtanga yoga for almost a year now, I still take the beginner classes and do some of the modifications. The studio that I go to isn’t pretentious at all, and I feel comfortable there. I wish I could say the same thing about other studios I’ve been to. I think a lot of times the message of yoga gets lost in the consumerism, trying to look good in a post, and making money from it. My teachers always remind me it’s not about the pose, but about the breath and the mind.

  9. Vanessa V on July 16, 2014 at 9:00 am

    I’m glad you mentioned the irony of Lululemon hosting this discussion. The panelist who said yoga is mostly white, skinny, flexible women was leaving out one other thing: it’s UPPER-CLASS white, skinny, flexible women. The Atlantic published an article about this a couple of weeks ago:
    Look at Lulu’s site for example – it’s expensive (many would argue overpriced… $48 for a tank top made by children in developing nations) workout clothes, made for smaller women and 90% of the models I see on their site are white. Ok, I’ll hop off my soapbox now. 🙂

    • Sejal Mehra on July 16, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      Agree completely.

  10. Britt@MyOwnBalance on July 16, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Great post Gina! I would LOVE to see some more real advertising. I want to see short girls! Haha. Seriously though, I always see these women with really long, gorgeous limbs and I never look like that! I appreciate how more models have real muscle (i.e. Athleta’s catalogs) but they are still really tall, really thin models. I would really appreciate some more real life-looking ladies. Also, the comments re: mommy blogger make me sad.

  11. Paula on July 16, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Thank you for sharing this panel, Gina!! I was a runner (and an anorexic) for a long time, and had this idea of “the perfect body” as being what many yogis or runners are presented as — including the thigh gap. When a friend got me to add circuit workouts and weightlifting to my routine a couple years ago, I refused to lift heavy because “I didn’t want to get big.” Fast forward to today, where I still run but also do CrossFit three days a week.

    While I no longer struggle daily with the anorexia, I’m still trying to get used to the fact that CrossFit makes my body look different than it makes other girls look. I’m short, I have narrow hips, and I build muscle fast. And despite the prevalence of the “strong is the new skinny/sexy/beautiful” message, many of the images that accompany this message are still women with “perfect” bodies – muscles AND all the right curves. I’m lucky that my gym provides a great environment for celebrating what your body can DO rather than how it looks, but I totally empathize with everything you wrote above. I appreciate that you take the time to talk about things like body image and the importance of diet and fitness routines that work for you as an individual. And kudos for making the effort to impress upon Livi all that you’ve learned! She’s got a great role model.

  12. Lucie@FitSwissChick on July 16, 2014 at 9:22 am

    I have such a LONG story of body image (18 years?!) and loved this post.
    I am happy to be over the media pressure and think that every woman is beautiful no matter what size. I am a lot heavier than I used to be, I gained so much muscle – which not only gave me physical strenght, but mental strength. I overcame my body image issues and I wish for every woman to be able to do the same. Life is so freeing without the ‘body image cage’.

    I don’t understand the ‘white, skinny, flexible’ – remark. Yoga is originally from India, or am I wrong.

    • Liz @ The Sixth Letter on July 16, 2014 at 9:54 am

      Hi Lucie! I think the point is that while yoga originated in India, the image of yoga has been fairly co-opted in the US. There are rarely people of color on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine, and because of the expense of yoga studios, it is often only available to affluent white women who have the privilege of more expendable income.

      I’d love to see both the media and the accessibility of yoga change in the upcoming years.

  13. Jessica H on July 16, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Oh wow, I love where you say “There are also various aspects of yoga that could be promoted and shared, instead of the crazy hand balance and gumby poses.”

    I roll my eyes when I see instagram “yoga poses of the day” by women who “just started practicing in January!” It leads to unrealistic expectations as far as what someone else’s body may be capable of, and completely leaves out what I love about yoga!

    I have done yoga on and off for years, most recently from the comfort of my home via yogaglo classes. I love how I don’t feel pressured to wear trendy yoga clothes, or have perfect poses because I’m alone. More importantly, practicing this way has led me to be really mindful during the classes and realize that pushing myself to the limit isn’t the goal at all. The goal for me is mental, just as much as physical. The fact that I feel stronger and more grounded is just an added bonus. 🙂

  14. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on July 16, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Sounds like a really interesting discussion you had there. I think entering the fitness world as an instructor and now personal trainer has taught me that we have to fuel our body for work to be optimal, so restricting yourself to be small just doesn’t work. Food makes you feel good and gives you energy, if you eat the right things, so there’s no reason to be scared of it. And you need to be strong to get through life, pick things up, and live functionally, so growing muscle and being larger than a twig is a good thing. People can be beautiful, strong and healthy at any size. And when you increase your size with muscle, you’ll be really happy with what you’re body can do. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on July 16, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Great post! This sounds like it was a great panel and great conference in general to go to.

    My favorite workout class that I go to has people of all shapes, size, age and color too. It’s such a positive space that I look forward to coming to. The instructor makes it so much fun!

  16. Nicole on July 16, 2014 at 9:57 am

    What a great post! It’s unfortunate that so many women (my self included) struggle with body image so much from such a young age because of so many influences. I do feel that the older I get the more comfortable I am in my own skin, but I think it goes hand-in-hand with having a better understanding of how to take care of myself: what types of exercise and frequency are best for me, what I need to do for stress-relief, what I should be eating to feel great, etc.

    I especially liked how you talk about *showing* Liv how to have confidence and a positive body image–I will be keeping this in mind for when I have children.

  17. RachelG on July 16, 2014 at 10:02 am

    First of all, “aforementioned CEO douchebag” is amazing and she be on his business cards. 🙂

    Secondly, I just saw a news story about JC Penny using manicans based off of real people models…a vet who had lost his legs, a woman in a wheel chair, an overweight (& super perky) woman, & an average looking guy. Of course JC Penny isn’t a super fancy store but I still give them credit for this campaign.

    Like a couple other commenters mentioned I am not a fan of people posting pictures of themselves in yoga poses on social media (unless it’s for instructional purposes). I just feel like doing this is the complete opposite of ‘staying on your own mat’, & it promotes the unattainable perfection you mention.

  18. Michelle on July 16, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Ahhh. Maybe it’s just cause I’m in major city but most of the studios I’ve been to in the city proper are filled with only that “thin, white, flexible” ideal. It’s only at my Bikram studio and gym yoga classes where I see a variety of people and bodies represented. I actually said to a friend the other day that I was grateful Bikram brought me to yoga because otherwise I surely would have stopped from intimidation. So I stick to Bikram and my beloved classes at the gym and try to block everything else out if I drop in at another studio because it’s my own personal journey.

    This part really spoke to me: “We need to create space for health, which means different things for different people.” I feel like a lot of yoga needs to get back to it’s roots and not just focus on fancy poses and impressive inversions?

    Anyway this is getting long so i’ll just leave this blog i found here: she’s amazing and has a home yoga practice and is super body positive for anyone who might be intimidated by the “ideal”

  19. Emily on July 16, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Thank you x1 million for this! I LOVE the “aspirational means telling the whole story instead of a snapshot.” I’ve been thinking (and writing) about this a lot lately, and I truly believe that the only way we make the shift from judgement to compassion is to keep doing exactly what you do on your blog: keep it real. Everyone is different, and a lot of what we see is the other person’s “highlight reel.” Let’s keep that in perspective.

    No one wants to read a blog that focuses on all the bad stuff all the time, just like no one wants to read about the person that’s 100% perfect in every aspect of life (because neither scenario is the truth). Find the balance, write what’s real, and show compassion to (or sometimes just ignore) those who feel the need to judge you for the good OR the bad.

  20. Liz @ The Sixth Letter on July 16, 2014 at 10:13 am

    There’s a lot of great information here, thanks for sharing it. I stopped subscribing to Yoga Journal in part because in their advertising and editorial content, they totally promoted the white, skinny girl yoga ideal. A few months ago, I went to a fascinating exhibit at the SF Asian Art Museum called “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” that chronicled yoga from its inception; the crazy part is that asana postures are rarely mentioned in early yoga – the focus on they physical aspect of yoga is a fairly recent development. Part of that exhibit was also Chiraag Bhakta art project called #whitepeopledoingyoga where he collected yoga media over the last 40 years to show the evolution toward the white, skinny ideal. Here’s a great interview with the artist:

    All of that is to say that it’s tough to engage in a practice when you don’t feel like your race/class/gender/body is represented, which goes back to the body image discussion. I’m thankful to go to a studio that is fairly representative, but I’ve definitely been at others where this hasn’t been the case.

    I have found that most inspirational yoga imagery is challenging for me because it’s of people in fairly fancy clothes doing fairly fancy poses, while I’m still trying to make sure my knee is over my ankle every time in Warrior 2 or working on my balance in tree pose. It’s not that I think the fancy yoga pictures are bad, I just wish there was a larger variety of skill represented in those types of photos.

    The snapshot piece is very interesting; I think bloggers are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Haters gonna hate, and I think your nail anecdote is the perfect example of how the Internet is not a rational place. That said, I find it really refreshing when blogs (like yours!) DO keep it real and don’t make every day seem like a perfect day.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Paula on July 16, 2014 at 10:19 am

      That interview is fascinating and his perspective is really entertaining.

  21. Hayley@healthyregardshayley on July 16, 2014 at 10:30 am

    As an endurance athlete and former college runner I have felt like lighter is always better. And honestly I have raced better when I weigh a certain weight. I also fall into the comparison trap of comparing my body to my college running days (where I could have passed as a 13 year old). I am in the midst of taking a step back right now not only to rest my body but to give my mind a break. I don’t want exercise to be a means or a reason to be a certain weight or size. And as much as I preach that its not, I still have my mental monkeys I need to work on.

    • Fitnessista on July 16, 2014 at 11:30 am


  22. Lesley on July 16, 2014 at 10:47 am

    I’ve always been a tomboy and I have two great parents who never pressured me into being something I wasn’t. Playing sports my whole life definitely helped me stay healthy, but I will admit there are things I nitpick about my body. It’s not a “oh, I could lose weight here” but it’s still a “that’s not good enough” type of thought. I’m never going to be flexible and there are yoga poses that kick my booty, but since that inflexibility came from sports, I’m OK with that. I wouldn’t trade my sports background for anything. I have watched friends struggle, and even supported a friend who did suffer from anerexia, and it just made me so mad at what the media portrays. I just don’t read magazines because there are so many mixed messages. Their covers promote fitness right next to emphasising shedding weight and the next makeup craze.

    • Fitnessista on July 16, 2014 at 11:29 am

      the mixed messages in magazines are infuriating. “LOVE YOUR BODY” + “here’s how to lose 10 lbs by next week!”

      • RachelG on July 16, 2014 at 12:33 pm

        Wasn’t there an ad that said exactly that…”love your body/skin” and then showed a bunch of super skinny models?? Victoria Secret did it hardcore and I think an underwear company like Hanes did it too. I can barely handle these mixed messages and I’m past the age of puberty hysteria!

  23. Kevie on July 16, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Great post, Gina! Perfectly written…a funny sense of sarcasm with emphasis on the importance of the issue. Thank you for a strong, positive, inspirational message! Always love your blog!

    • Fitnessista on July 16, 2014 at 11:29 am

      thank you, and thank you so much for reading!

  24. Laura @ She Eats Well on July 16, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Sigh. I wonder if there will ever be truth in advertising. What really stuck with me in this beautifully written post is the notion that different images are inspiring to different people. We’re all unique, truly.

    Regarding Lululemon – one of my girlfriends works for corporate. I think it is interesting she told me they are committed to sticking within a certain size range and not making any maternity clothes because that is their brand. It’s interesting that the VP said they were including more sample sizes, etc…I think that’d only help them!

    • Fitnessista on July 16, 2014 at 11:29 am

      when i worked there, it was “well that’s how it’s been and how it will continue to be.” the VP seemed pretty intense on changing things around there. she said the employees who get the sample sizes were saying that’s the only size they make, and she said, “well make other sizes.”

  25. s on July 16, 2014 at 11:01 am

    i hope this doesn’t come across as mean-spirited towards probably a large portion of your readers, but i actually avoid most yoga studios because they’re all skinny (compared to me, anyways) girls who seem way more “stereotypical yogi” than me. i realize that a lot of the people who have embraced yoga have battled disordered eating and horrible stuff like that in the past (and maybe they still do), but i really just don’t fit into my city’s (DC) yoga scene. i would love to see yoga as a practice be more diverse and less judgey.

    • Fitnessista on July 16, 2014 at 11:27 am

      not mean spirited. honest. and i agree that it would be great if yoga studios got back to their roots and made everyone feel welcomed

  26. Amber Schumann on July 16, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your notes and thoughts from the panel. How inspiring to begin practicing a life free from the judgmental eye. Key word: practicing (like you said, we are all imbedded with these images and expectations, and it’s going to take major work to train ourselves to think otherwise).

    After having my daughter, I began experiencing the worst body image issues I’ve ever had. My husband made comments that he missed his confident wife, no matter how she looks. I surprised myself with how low I felt and how often I cried after not being able to fit into my favorite clothes. And after watching a video clip on a “selfie” project that a teacher conducted with her students, my perspective did a complete 180–my daughter sees my behavior and my attitude, and that terrified me. Time to change my attitude.

    Easier said than done. I needed a different self perspective.

    I accepted that I may never fit into those clothes again. Or see those magical numbers on the scale. But a number that DOES matter to me is my body fat percentage–I need to get to at least “average” so that my body (in its entirety) can perform at its best to work and take care of my daughter. It’s motivated me to make healthier options when I eat, and move a little bit more. And I don’t care whether or not my size or weight follows along for the ride.

  27. Domi @ Eat, Pray, Lift on July 16, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Thanks for sharing, Gina. <3 Reading this after a shitty night/morning was a little asana for the soul.

    I'm learning to let myself love yoga. It's this weird middle ground that doesn't come with the crazy "thinspo" culture that I thrived on when I was younger, but it's not at the other end of the spectrum with crazy crossfit/powerlifters/etc. Both extremes have been unsustainable for me thus far and have made me feel SO inadequate. Yoga, though, it just…there. My practice is whatever it turns out to be, and while it's challenging in a good way and there's definitely pressure (mostly from myself!) be all gumby-like and do arm balances, it always seems like a celebration. Of me, of my body, of my ability to move today, right now, in whatever way I'm able. The biggest struggle is in accepting that yoga is worth my time even though it's not going to make me lean/super strong. Like I said, it's this middle ground, and I'm slowly finding that this balance is – in so many ways – better than my former extremes.

  28. Melissa on July 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    You know that Chip Wilson still owns 9% of the company and has a seat on the board, right? So you are putting money directly in that “douchebags” pocket when you shop there. Just FYI. I strongly disagree that yoga is just a “skinny white girl” thing. I teach at three different places ~ my classes are comprised of the elderly, LOTS of men, and women of all sizes and demographics. I haven’t seen many people of different shapes, colors etc represented on your blog, but please don’t generalize yoga based on faulty suppositions.

    • Fitnessista on July 16, 2014 at 12:34 pm

      i didn’t know that, so thank you for letting me know. i thought when he resigned he was out completely.
      i also disagree that yoga is a “skinny white girl” thing, but was paraphrasing what was said during the panel. in my experience, i’ve seen all demographics represented in the studios i’ve attended. i’ve also been fortunate to learn from some of the most kind and welcoming instructors.
      i am a hispanic blogger, and if you read through the comments, they are from women (and some men) all over the world with various demographics. so i would say that this blog does represent all “shapes and colors.”

  29. Alicia on July 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Great post! I think one of the greatest things about yoga is that ANYONE can do it! Often, the people who look like they’d be the most flexible are not, and the girls with a little more meat on their bones are super bendy! Yoga is not supposed to be a competition and is really more about the mind/body connection than just how flexible you are, but in our culture that’s pretty difficult to obtain and we often size up our classmates.

    Also, I think the demographic of yogis really depends on where you practice. When I first started practicing, it was a mix of people, although a lot of them were what people might call “granola”. In college, it was mostly white girls. I did my teacher training at CorePower, and they actually have a pretty diverse clientele, even though they kinda seem like a hoity toity studio. Now I usually just go to the free classes at Lulu in UTC or Horton (because free) and they get a pretty good mix of yogis.

  30. april on July 16, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    this post is exactly why i love your blog so much. i’ve struggled with my body image, along with disordered eating, for the past few years, but i’m finally at the point where i just want to focus on being healthy, happy, and loving my body. i don’t know if you feel like a role model for your readers, but you certainly are an inspiration for me – i appreciate that you keep it real and seem to embrace a healthy and balanced lifestyle. thank you <3

    • Fitnessista on July 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      thank you, april <3 xo

  31. Clare @ Fitting It All In on July 16, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Yoga was a HUGE help to my body image! It was the first time I saw my legs as STRONG (for holding me up in balancing postures!) and I love that the “best” yogis are often not the teeny tiny “fittest” ones!

    And as for the keeping it real on blogging…ugh I feel you….

  32. Alex @ Kenzie Life on July 16, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing both your thoughts and some tidbits from the conference! My journey to body confidence through exercise is long and twisted and involves over-exercising during my eating disorder and then abstaining from exercise because I was too self-conscious. A few years ago, I started running, and that really boosted my confidence–not just when I ran, but the confidence spread to other areas of my life. About 7 months after I started running, I went to my first Pure Barre class and that changed everything for me. My body image, self-confidence, and fitness levels have been boosted and healed in ways I can’t describe. I think that finding a type of fitness you love makes all the difference.

  33. Erin on July 16, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I loved this post Gina! I think body image is the #1 problem girls face today. Girls do need to see images of all shapes, kinds, genders, nationalities, and fitness levels in ads. I’m still boycotting Lulu Lemon because I can’t trust a brand that allowed someone of that level of douche to rise to a position so high. Working out and healthy-ing up my life definitely improve my body image. I feel strong, confident, and a sense of achievement. Also, the endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t bash their bodies. I love your blog because you are normal. You take rest days, you don’t post pictures of your six pack with thinspiration written on them.

  34. Rachel @ Blonde with a Chanse on July 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    I have struggled with body image like many other women, and I love this! I really need to start doing yoga more regularly 🙂

  35. Kelly Sheehan on July 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I love this post, Gina. Great words and great thoughts. In response to the observation of more “real” advertising, the one solid campaign I’ve found recently is Aerie’s campaign to not edit their models. When I heard this I thought, “yeah yeah yeah, so they’ll pick the most PERFECT models out there”. When shopping a few weeks ago, though, I was pleasantly surprised to see perfect imperfections in the models and their bodies, and it was great. Check out their campaign here

    Thanks again for this post, it was very insightful.

    • Fitnessista on July 16, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      that is amazing, especially since they target a younger demographic (like middle and high school girls who NEED to see unphotoshopped bodies)

  36. Jill on July 16, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I bet that was an interesting panel. I have always appreciated your balanced outlook on life, fitness and body image – that’s why I visit your blog daily. I’m glad you brought up the Lululemon issue – that was the first thing I noticed as I started reading this post (topic of post + panelists). I have never shopped at Lululemon, mainly b/c of price, but after the former CEO’s comments, it definitely kept me away even more. I am interested in how they plan to turn around their image – only time will tell.

  37. Elizabeth on July 16, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    So true! This was a great post!!

    I do agree that there is more acceptance at the independent yoga studios. I feel much more comfortable there plus the vibe is always better. Unfortunately, the corporate studios in the Chicago area where I am, like Core Power, are more generous with their free classes so I tend to frequent them more. I always feel like I am being judged for not wearing enough lululemon.

  38. Heather Cory on July 16, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I totally agree there needs to be more truth in advertising. I recently saw that JCPenny has used a more diverse group of mannequins in the NYC(? could be wrong on the city) store.

  39. masala girl on July 16, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    wow. i love this post; it really struck home for me because up unitl a few years ago, yoga to me was either relaztion/meditation/stupid/boring, or the stereotypical expensive white girl-I’m better than you workout. now i practice daily (1-2 classes a week, on own almost eery day) and have been for the past few years. i’ve gotten so much stronger and love it.

    i especially loved reading EVERYONEs responses, and learned some amazing stories. thank you gina & everyone 🙂

  40. LJ on July 16, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    I have struggled with my body image a lot, especially when I was younger. A couple of years ago I started to train for a half marathon. I became stronger and fitter. Gradually I noticed how much less critical I felt about my body after a run. I started a “project”. See, I have always felt I have big thighs, but I started to call them “strong” instead of “fat”. (I used to look at myself in the mirror and point out my flaws, but I started trying to concentrate on my assets instead.) It took a while to stick, but I can proudly say I nowadays do feel my thighs are strong, despite being five-ish pounds over my goal weight. I have realized that being at or over my goal weight has actually nothing to do with how I feel when I work on my fitness: energetic, strong, happy. And after a yoga class: calm.

  41. Allison on July 16, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    This is a really wonderful post, Gina! I had been wondering what your thoughts were on the Lululemon scandal. Just quickly on the subject of workout clothes: once I discovered the Zella brand at Nordstrom I didn’t care to shop at Lulu anymore even before my moral outrage, haha. I think the Zella products are higher quality and better-priced, especially their “live in” leggings and their longer-cut capris. The fabric is SUPER soft, and thicker/more flattering than my Wunder Unders.

    I had a very humbling body-conscious experience this last year. Through my childhood and until I started college, I’d been pretty tiny. By living at home, eating normally, not experiencing any huge changes in my life, I’d stayed a healthy size that happened to be petite and slim. I didn’t stress too much since I knew I was generally smaller than my peers– though I always really secretly wished I could get a super flat stomach (just not in my genes!). I kind of assumed I’d never have to worry about my weight or size! After a bad breakup and a semester in Spain, though, I packed on the pounds and saw myself developing really bad overeating habits and, of course, horrible self-image! It was really hard to adjust to my changing body when I knew that my own bad habits and emotional health were the causes. I’m back in the US now, able to cook for myself and work out regularly, and while I’m not back to my old size yet, I already feel 100x better just from getting a hold on my emotions regarding my body and health. I know I’ve vastly improved my HEALTH if not yet my figure.

    We women have it pretty tough, but as long as we remain able to empathize and support with people at all stages of their journeys, I think we’ll be making great progress. Thanks for posting.

  42. Julie on July 16, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    I never post comments Gina, but this post was well-done, and you continue to inspire me with your positivity and great outlook on life. Liv is in good hands! 🙂

    • Fitnessista on July 16, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      <3 thank you for commenting today and for reading. xo

  43. Shira on July 16, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I love these topics being brought up and do agree with the major irony of Lulu speaking about such things.. However as much as I disagree with the conscious and unconscious messages they send, I feel that they are a fashion company and they are not ‘accountable’ necessarily to offer positive body image. It is up to us, the public, to understand they are promoting a brand and take their message with a grain of salt, just as you said about looking at models and such.

    I have been practicing yoga for almost 15 years (since I was 13!!) and I work in the fitness industry as well.. I grew up dancing, now teach and am a pilates instructor. I think doing yoga has always improved my body image because I feel so in touch with it. It’s not about lifting a weight external to your body it is about harnessing strength from within and I love that. I get into a flow like no other and it is unlike any work-out to me.. it is a real treat to practice. I sometimes feel I ‘force’ myself to do things like cardio and sometimes consider giving it mostly up for more regular yoga. I know I would love it but I fear how my body would react! If I’m being honest..
    I tend to like small studios the best over large ones, gyms or at home. It is the best of all worlds to me and allllll about a great teacher! I am always sad to leave an area with one I loved or when teachers leave me! Great yoga teachers are like finding a soul mate 🙂

  44. Tracy on July 16, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Loved this post!!

    “the journey is so much more valuable than the final posture”

    This really resonated with me! As my practice has grown I’ve realized that yoga is soooo much more than achieving asanas or holding poses longer than the last time, etc. It’s the journey and a mental state of balance that carries throughout my day in all expects of my life.

  45. Crystal on July 16, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    As someone who has struggled with body image issues for YEARS, this really hit home for me. I put a lot of my happiness on hold because I never felt like I was enough. I didn’t even try yoga until I was older because I always felt like I had to wait until I was thin and fit enough to be in a yoga class. Then I read I met an older woman who practiced yoga and she told me “YOU are enough. Period.” That was when I decided I needed to live the life I wanted to live, regardless of what my body looks like. Boy, am I glad I did! I’ve met so many amazing people doing the things I enjoy, especially from yoga classes. I’m emailing a link to this post to my friends 🙂

  46. Megan @ The Skinny-Life on July 16, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    This is a great post! I think it applies to more than yoga though. I absolutely feel like my journey has affected my body imagine. I lost 80 pounds four years ago & even today I still see myself as that size 14 girl. I’m now a size 2. I don’t think I will ever see myself as a small person.

  47. Angela on July 16, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Awesome post and very thought provoking! I have to say, I think Instagram & FaceBook are ruining yoga. It is all about the crazy poses. As someone who isn’t very flexible and can’t do crazy poses, it just makes it even more intimidating. I’m excited the days I can touch my toes and have a full on party when I make it in to crow. Yoga is really meant to center yourself and gain introspective, I feel like a lot of that is lost when everyone is just trying to out handstand each other.

    As far as body image goes, I have had huge struggles. I’m glad to say that today my negative thoughts aren’t controlling my life anymore. I have a bracelet that says “I am enough” and it’s a nice reminder. I’ve needed that reminder as I’m trying to get back to my former self after having a baby. Some days are better than others! I think we all just need to be reminded that everyone is on a journey and we can’t tell what is going on with someone just by how they look on the outside. I don’t think we can rely or expect media and businesses to promote healthy body image. They will always promote what sells.

  48. shaina on July 16, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    what a loaded topic….I love it!!

    I think every female has struggled/does struggle with body image at some point in her life. I’m no exception. I was never “fat” but I was definitely never the skinny girl either. Maybe I just got lucky that I carried it well?…but I was 165 lbs (not muscle) and 5’5″ when I graduated college. Then came along this super athletic sexy pilot that wanted to date me and I couldn’t figure out why haha. My lifestyle totally changed at that point (in a very similar way to your story): I tried various “diets” and workout routines until I found a lifestyle that worked for me. Then came the obsession part….I found what worked and was soooo meticulous about it that I had a hard time getting pregnant because my body fat was too low. Right after I had Tripp, I remember looking back at pictures of myself from that time and thinking “woah…no one told me I was that small”. Its amazing what a little perspective will do for you!

    I think having a baby definitely changed the way I do things. Once he was born, I couldn’t restrict myself as much because I had to make sure I was able to make milk and that was absolutely my top priority over losing weight. When I did start working out, I jumped in too fast (just because I was excited to lift heavy things) and almost dried up overnight. I FREAKED out. Once that was under control, I was lucky enough to find a healthy balance of rest/exercise/healthy diet that allowed me to nurse him for a year. That year totally changed my attitude toward food and I’m so thankful to him. 🙂 I feel like I’m now (at 29!) in the best place I have ever been as far as my attitude toward food and exercise. Its important to me to set a good example for my family and I love that Tripp wakes up asking to go running in the stroller!

    The whole media and society’s perception of “ideal” thing drives me nuts. My mom just lost 30 lbs and is fixated on getting into the 140’s because she’s stuck at 150. She’s a NURSE and I keep trying to tell her its not about your weight or how you look, you need to take care of your organs so you can be around for your grandkids! And I try to get her to go to yoga with me….key word try. “I’ll be the fattest, least flexible person there.” *smacks forehead* I’m working on my parents. 🙂 They did totally overhaul their eating, in a good way!

  49. Jennifer on July 16, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Even blogging about such a loaded topic is brave in my book. Kudos, Gina, for continuing to write posts about what’s happening inside your head and heart.

  50. Yaara Leve on July 16, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    You did a great job articulating your thoughts and synthesizing the info! I know this is such a loaded topic!!
    It’s actually funny that YJ sponsored this whole thing–because I actually used to read YJ religiously but stopped after a while when ALL the yoga models were “models.” It was getting really annoying.
    Hard Tail does the same thing! I love their yoga crops too-but all the models–like Katherine Budig etc.. are skinny and blonde fashionistas. It just got really annoying.
    I think a lot of it also depends on the type of studio you go to. I mentioned before when I was living in NYC–I studied at Jivamukti–and there were so many different types of people. I also loved that there were no mirrors at all! It was just you and the pose–what you looked like didn’t matter.

    However–when I moved back home to Chicago after college–I found it and actually am still finding really difficult to find a studio that is as non-judgmental feeling as JIvamukti. And it just doesn’t exist. I found many of the studios here in Chicago to be very body-image conscious. And the women were just catty and bitchy. Actually–it’s interesting-I found women to be especially like this when there was hot male yoga teacher. At the studio I used to practice at–the main owner was kinda hot and all the women would literally throw themselves at him. Like legit–after class–some would proposition him to have sex with them. Going into his classes was like walking into a fashion porn club–all the women would wear especially low cut tops and the most fashionable yoga capris. Let’s just say it was really hard to just focus on Yoga–lol!
    Anyway–sorry for the ramble–I have so many thoughts on this issue. But I guess what I”m finding is the Yoga atmosphere is not really all that different from any other fitness experience or life in general. People judge each other, compete with each other, and there is definitely an aesthetic that I think most strive for–aka–the tall, blonde, and skinny fitness model.
    Thanks again for brining this up! 🙂

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