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Diversity in Yoga: Battling Stereotypes

When you think of a person who does yoga, it’s likely that the image you come up with is a young, fit woman, probably doing quite acrobatic yoga poses. You wouldn’t be alone. Yoga globally has a diversity issue. 

The vision of your classic thin, white yoga woman has evolved over the last 50 years. BKS Iyengar is credited with bringing yoga to popularity in America. To achieve this feat, yoga was made to look beautiful and athletic. Gyms and popular culture have also promoted the “look good” aspect of yoga. Because of this, the therapeutic elements of yoga fell a bit to the wayside and the marketing benefits of acrobatic poses were prioritised. Western yoga has therefore become somewhat competitive and about the performance. People from all walks of life don’t last in it because of their unrealistic expectations.

Like other areas in society, many of yogas diversity struggles can also stem from systemic inequality and financial inequality. While yoga is beneficial for all, it hasn’t always been accessible to all. Whether it is inequalities, or stereotypes, we’d do well to push back against these problematic norms. Men are less likely to participate in yoga. Perhaps because of ideas of masculinity and the image of who a yoga practitioner should be. While many male professional athletes have found great benefits in practicing yoga, and studies have found that practicing yoga has great benefits on body image, the aesthetic stereotype of yoga in the media creates difficulties for getting people to get started. The lack of body diversity in media related to yoga can also discourage many to participate, particularly for those already suffering from poor body image. When we realise that yoga is about more than our body shape, or gender or race, we can start to dismantle these assumptions.

Utopia House yoga has been paired back to the foundations of yoga to be about connecting the body and components of movement with features of breathing and core. The movement supports integration and deeper experience. As a more gentle practice that prioritises movement over holding challenging poses, the wellness benefits at Utopia House are accessible for people from every walk of life. 

No matter who a person is, everyone has stress in their lives that yoga can help them manage. Utopia House yoga is not just for one type of person, It is gentle and supportive of the everyday person, and can adapt to an individual’s physical and personal needs. It is free of the weight of body perfectionism and stereotypes we so often see in other ‘Yoga’ practices.

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