July 19, 2024
233 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 6AB United Kingdom
Article Philosophy


‘Yoga must be made to suit the individual, not the other way around’.

The body-positive yoga movement has been around for many years. But it is during these last few years that we have seen it make its way into the mainstream media. This is a good thing. But, as a result, it has been co-opted – as is the case when most things become popular. Body positivity’s roots may have become a little distorted and its origins are often not very well known, even though it may be something that’s now more commonplace on our social media feeds.

I can’t help but feel that the media appears to be perpetuating an untrue perception that only certain individuals with a particular body type practise yoga. The image that modern yoga perpetuates is someone young, tall, and slim often in a perplexing pose. It was yogis like Jessamyn Stanley, Dana Falsetti, and Dianne Bondy who were sharing their yoga practices and were providing a contrast to the typical bodies that were being seen on Instagram. They were part of the recent resurgence of body positivity and how it came to the forefront of yoga. They were able to dispel the yoga stereotypes that we see that only certain body types can practice yoga. I have learned so much from these pioneering yogis and have been fortunate to have met and studied with them.

Before we look at body-positive yoga, we need to discuss what is body positivity:

There have been several iterations of the body-positive movement, but we will start from when it was created – by black 38 facebook.com/official.yogamag femmes. For those who felt marginalised, this was a statement of acceptance and it carved out a safe space to exist and be seen. It is a movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image and be accepting of their own bodies as well as the bodies of others.


The term ‘body positive’ has a slightly different meaning depending on who you ask. However, its core message is one of self-acceptance and a belief in yourself regardless of the shape, size, or level of your yoga practice. For me, it means everybody is welcome on the yoga mat to practice in a way that suits their body. I can’t help feeling that the mainstream media perpetuate the myth that only certain individuals with a particular body type practice Yoga. It’s great to see this misconception is now being challenged. Sadly, we still have a long way to go. But it is so good to see students and teachers of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and abilities teaching and practising yoga. Instagram has provided a platform for yogis of all body types to share their yoga practice. Since starting to teach body-positive classes, I have seen that they attract a wide spectrum of individuals of various sizes, shapes, gender, and ethnicity.

A body positive class celebrates the student’s body. The focus is on “how do I feel” and not on “how do I look”. Giving the student agency over their bodies, I tell them that they are their own best teachers. But trusting their body, they begin to breathe and move. It’s like they are given permission to relax into their body and just let go. Sometimes in their very first class, they are able to accomplish things they never thought would be possible. To witness the awe on their faces is pure joy as the transformation begins. A body-positive class is about providing variations of yoga poses for a wide range of body types, as well as having an appreciation and understanding of some of the difficulties that a student may encounter. Students should not have to force their bodies into the pose – the pose should work for their bodies.

These classes are not about separation – which is some of the objections that I hear. It is not dissimilar to having a pregnancy class or classes that cater only to women, allowing students to enjoy the many wonderful benefits of yoga that will cater to their needs and bodies. The hope is that one day everybody will be able to practice together. But we aren’t there yet! Letting students know that if all they want to do for the duration of the class is lie on their mat in savasana or simply breathe, then that is perfectly fine – because simply that too is yoga. We must remember that yoga DOES NOT discriminate or make any assumptions about abilities. Yoga is NOT just a physical practice. Similar parallels can be drawn between the body positivity and yoga journey in terms of how they have both evolved and in some instances have lost their original meanings. Often excluding the individuals that they were intended to support and who need it the most. Since starting to teach body-positive classes back in 2015, I have seen that they attract a wide spectrum of individuals of various sizes, shapes, gender, and ethnicity, making them so diverse and inclusive. It is so wonderful to see that there are so many body-positive classes available – but we still have a long way to go. All students essentially want is a safe, judgment-free space, where they can receive support and come home to their body and recognise how wonderful it is. I believe that body-positive yoga needs to be the future of yoga – to ensure it can be accessed by the many and not the few.

Words: Donna Noble

Donna Noble is a well-being coach, educator, and the founder of Curvesome yoga. She is widely known for her dedication to making yoga and well-being more accessible and inclusive. She is also a social justice, diversity and inclusion advocate. Donna is an author and her debut book ‘Teaching Body Positive Yoga’ was published in August.
Website: www.thenobleartofyoga.co.uk
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/donnanobleyoga

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