Dear Yoga Student,
I've been teaching yoga for a long time. Almost two decades.
I've been practicing yoga an even longer time. I started before the era of $100, even $200, yoga pants. I attended my first yoga classes wearing T-shirts and sweatpants. I remember buying my first "yoga tank top". It had a shelf bra, and Chinese calligraphy splashed across its maroon chest. Wearing it made me feel like a legit yogi.
I was in my twenties; and young and beautiful in that way that all young people are beautiful. I had a complicated relationship with my body; in that way that most women have complicated relationships with their body.
Through yoga I learned that my body contained the detritus of stars, that every cell was sentient and brimming with intelligence. My yoga practice taught me that my body had value other that the way it looked; it could be strong and capable; soft and vulnerable.
I learned to stand on my head, and to do the elusive Crow Pose—after falling face-first into the precarious tower of pillows literally hundreds of times. Sticking those poses that had eluded me for so long felt great!
For a while.
Until I bumped against the limits of my physical proficiency which, as I later learned on Instagram, turned out to be a pretty low bar. Also, pushing to achieve ever more advanced poses hurt my body.
Eventually I realized that measuring my worth on the yardstick of fancy yoga poses I could—and more often could not—accomplish was also a fairly limiting benchmark.
I'm not going to lie and say that today my relationship with my body today is perfectly uncomplicated. Nope. Like every little girl who loved fairytales about beautiful princesses, I received powerful messaging—subliminal and overt—reinforcing society's memorandum that a women's value is her physical appearance. Full stop.
Loving my body is a practice. In the same way that I practice unaggressive yoga poses today, I practice becoming more proficient at loving myself. Some days are better than others.
At Stamford Yoga we're dedicated to Body Positivity. That means we're emphatic that your body—yes, yours—is sacred. At every size. In every shape. You do not have to be skinny or acrobatic to be worthy of love, or to be welcome in this studio. You do not need $100 yoga pants (but, hey—if they make you feel good then enjoy them and god bless).
None of our instructors are going to sit at the front of the room patting invisible tummies, saying, "I had a second helping at dinner yesterday so today we're doing ab work and detoxifying poses."
That's not how we roll.
It's not that our StamYo team is so spiritually enlightened that we're somehow above feeling the pressure to pray at the altar of skinniness. But we are committed to practice not buying into the narrative that anyone's inherent worth lies in physical beauty, or that physical beauty is defined by what we see on magazine covers.
Do you enjoy tending to your physical appearance? Great! Can't be bothered to brush your hair? Great! (You too guys. Body Positivity isn't just for women.)
Want to enjoy simple forms of movement? Great! Want to play with challenging poses? Great!
We celebrate you. We celebrate diversity, and the diversity and evolutions of your choices. We're committed to feeling more comfortable in the skin we're in, and to championing you to do the same.
We practice yoga at StamYo because we want to be strong and healthy. We're here because our bodies (and yours) were made for movement. We're here to marvel in the miracle of our human bodies, to find relief from the stresses of modern life, and because we longed for a community of like-minded people.
Are you one of those people? Join us! Don't wait for some unknowable date in the future when you'll look like a yoga person. (Whatever that would mean.) It may never come and it would be a shame to miss out on enjoying your body while you're actually living in it.
If you want to know what a yoga person looks like, just look in the mirror.
Hope to see you on the mat soon,
Bernadette Birney, Founder