Yoga teacher's powerful post about "stomach taming" leggings is so important

Jennifer Savin
·5-min read
Photo credit: Emily Harding/Tom Wilson Leonard
Photo credit: Emily Harding/Tom Wilson Leonard

From Cosmopolitan

The benefits of yoga are endless: practicing it can not only help with managing stress and anxiety, it can also build strength and improve flexibility – and there are so many different types to try too. But in recent years, the ancient practice has been somewhat usurped with "ideal" body stereotypes (and a feeling of pressure that in order to hit the mat, you need to look a certain way), says one experienced teacher, Emily Harding, founder of The Yeh Yoga Co, who is now passionately speaking out against it.

Taking to Instagram after spotting a pair of "stomach taming" yoga leggings for sale, Emily wanted to share a message of self-love with her followers and to remind them that practicing yoga should have nothing to do with what you wear, or how you look. Seeing the yoga leggings boasting that they could slim the wearer's stomach even prompted her to reach out to the company directly too.

Writing about the experience, Emily said, "Since getting in touch with the brand in question, they've taken down the advert and removed the wording from their website, but it really got me thinking about this continuing messaging in the yoga industry. This may come as a shock to some of you, but DIET CULTURE HAS INVADED WELLNESS. Yoga, and seemingly yogic brands are not safe from the message of 'you are more worthy if you are thin/toned/flat and/add in ridiculous claims as you see fit'. It's got to stop!"

View this post on Instagram

Are you ready to reject "Stomach Taming"?! At the start of this week, I was made aware of a yoga brand selling their leggings with first reason for purchasing? 'Stomach Taming'. 😤🙄🤯 Since getting in touch with the brand in question, they've taken down the advert and removed the wording from their website. But it really got me thinking about this continuing messaging in the yoga industry. This may come as a shock to some of you, but DIET CULTURE HAS INVADED WELLNESS. Yoga, and seemingly yogic brands are not safe from the message of 'you are more worthy if you are thin/toned/flat and/add in ridiculous claims as you see fit'. And pals, it's gotta stop!! 🛑 Yoga is not about having a flat stomach or being 'thin' 🛑 Your stomach is not an unruly wild animal, in need of taming and obedience lessons. 🛑 Yoga is not another stick to beat yourself with. It's not an 'aesthetic' to punish yourself towards. It breaks my heart that HOW WE LOOK WHILST PRACTICING YOGA has become another measure of our 'desirability'. 💚 Yoga is about reconnecting to your health (not sacrificing it!) and your most joyous self 💚 Yoga is a way to release ourselves from our mental suffering 💚 Yoga is for everyone, in EVERY BODY So please, next time you see any kind of toxic message telling you that you need to bring your stomach into some sort of control or change it in any way, don't be afraid to speak up and challenge it. First in your own mind, and then out loud. With friends. With brands. So that one day hopefully we can all live in our beautiful bodies & bellies of all shapes and sizes without feeling like we need to change in any way to be worthy, or, to practice yoga! 😍😍 Please share this message on to someone it might help or who needs to hear this today. YOUR BELLY IS BEAUTIFUL, JUST AS IT IS. 😍😍 And FYI - I have a belly. It's constantly morphing and changing, and more often than not it spills over my leggings. And that's neither good nor bad. It just IS. And I've made the active decision to LOVE IT. As that's where ALL the magic happens. It's where my pizza, wine and food get changed into the energy I have to live and to love. 📸: @tomwilsonleonard 😍

A post shared by Emily Harding | 🎥 Yoga Teacher (@yehyoga) on Oct 14, 2020 at 11:17am PDT

The teacher then broke down some truths alongside a photo of herself in fitness gear, stomach on show: "Yoga is not about having a flat stomach or being 'thin'. Your stomach is not an unruly wild animal, in need of taming and obedience lessons. Yoga is not another stick to beat yourself with. It's not an 'aesthetic' to punish yourself towards."

Emily added, "It breaks my heart that how we look while practicing has become another measure of our 'desirability'. Yoga is about reconnecting to your health (not sacrificing it!) and your most joyous self, it's a way to release ourselves from our mental suffering... [and] it's for everyone, in every body." She then encouraged her followers to challenge any kind of toxic messaging they encountered in future, both in their own minds, then out loud – be it with brands directly or with friends.

Photo credit: Luis Alvarez - Getty Images
Photo credit: Luis Alvarez - Getty Images

On the topic of her own belly, Emily said, "I have a belly. It's constantly morphing and changing, and more often than not it spills over my leggings. And that's neither good nor bad. It just IS. And I've made the active decision to LOVE IT. As that's where ALL the magic happens. It's where my pizza, wine and food get changed into the energy I have to live and to love." We couldn't agree more.

Following her inspiring post, Emily told Cosmopolitan UK that after attending her first yoga class in London, having newly qualified as a teacher in India, she actually left feeling worse about herself. "The class was largely centred around aesthetics and physical fitness," she said. "Ever since, I've been passionate about trying to normalise the way real bodies look. Yoga is meant to be for every body, regardless of shape, ability and size, yet we see such little diversity in the way yoga is marketed by mainstream studios, teachers and brands." Many have criticised yoga, and the wellness industry in general, for it's lack of racial, age and physical diversity too.

Lockdown, Emily says, saw her own relationship with her body change, as for the first time she started teaching online classes and saw herself on screen. "I had a meltdown about how my belly looked while teaching... I could see myself in action and felt like I wasn't living up to the 'yoga body' standards."

Photo credit: Recep Buyukguzel - Getty Images
Photo credit: Recep Buyukguzel - Getty Images

She continued, "Diet culture has invaded the yoga industry, and the core message is becoming lost. Yoga is a healing science and a lifelong practice that is meant to help free us from the suffering of our own mind, and gives us tools to live a fulfilling joyful life, rather than being another form of exercise with which to push or punish ourselves with. Yet with the pervasion of diet culture into the industry, yoga is being held up as an aesthetic and used to sell clothing and unattainable body ideals back to us!"

She's now stepping up her fight to challenge expectations of how a 'yogi' should look and openly discusses bloating with her followers and class attendees. "I'm sick of seeing a flat, toned stomach held up as the example of what the ideal yoga body is meant to look like. I am bored of being told that bloated or softer bellies should either be fixed, or only found on pregnant women. Round is a beautiful shape just like all the other shapes."

For Emily's students, she hopes the message is clear: "Real yoga teaches us to be content and grateful in the amazing body that we have, rather than being a workout designed to shape your body into an unrealistic ideal as peddled by most yoga brands these days."

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

SIGN UP

You Might Also Like