A note for yoga instructors, about eating disorders 1


I sometimes do talks at yoga studios to yoga instructors and studio managers on what eating disorders are, and what they should do if they suspect a person who frequents their class has an eating disorder. This is incredibly important, as more than 20% of the population have eating disorders, and due to the morality aspect, yoga and things that we consider “good” or “right” are often attractive to people with restrictive eating disorders. I like to use these opportunities to dispel some myths about eating disorders and give instructors options for when they suspect a problem.

I received this email recently, and I asked the sender if I could publish it on my blog because I think it is such an interesting point. As a yoga instructor myself, I ceased actively teaching for the reasons outlined in this email. I fell out of love with yoga as I just could not seem to find anywhere to teach that didn’t focus on some commercial marketing aspect. And with that, it always comes down to selling people the promise of body change. I’m not into that. At all.

 

Well-meaning yoga teachers need to know what they’re up against. They
might be the most grounded, earthy, lovely folk in the world who are
in this to promote healing, but the product they ‘sell’ has been
co-opted by something bigger than them and many of the people that
come to their classes will be there because they want to change their
bodies, not to accept their bodies. This includes those who are
struggling with disordered eating and eating disorders.

Yoga teachers therefore have an opportunity to help fight disordered
eating and poor body image in a way that they might not know – they
can really and truly integrate body acceptance into every single class
that they teach. I don’t mean wishy-washy ‘you should love
yourself’ platitudes, I mean talking about how fat is a vital organ;
I mean inviting people to stroke their bellies when they’re in
savasana; I mean encouraging them to share a piece of cake with
someone they love after class, and to call it part of the practice!

Yoga teachers just need to be aware that in every class they teach AT
LEAST one person in there hates their body and has been given the
impression (probably from the internet) that yoga will make it small
and perfect. This is an opportunity to tell them ‘that’s crap’; to
actually say that out loud.

That’s all!

(P.s. definitely also cover up when teaching. Don’t show
abs etc. Just don’t.)

What are your thoughts on this?

I thought is was interesting. And that these are points for anyone involved in the yoga industry to think about.

I also agree with the last part there about instructors covering up a bit if they do have perfect abs etc. And on top of this, the whole Instagram yoga pics marketing aspect of being an instructor has to go. It is not needed, because it is pure ego. I wish instructors would think twice about posting instagram shots of perfect bodies doing yoga poses. It isn’t inspiring, it’s just you showing off.

So yoga instructors. Here is a question for you to ask yourself before you post glamorous yoga pics:

Does it improve the silence?

 

 

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About Tabitha Farrar

I work as Head of Marketing for a software startup in Boulder. As a recovered Anorexia sufferer, I advocate for proper understanding of eating disorders in my spare time. On that note, I wrote a book about my own journey into eating again called Love Fat.


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One thought on “A note for yoga instructors, about eating disorders

  • Anonymous

    I agree completely. I have never had a yoga teacher in real life who has focused on on the appearance or size of a body, or used it as a tool to ‘motivate’ (thank goodness!). However I currently practise at home and use a lot of online resources ; mostly you tube tutorials. And OMG it is TERRIBLE out there in you tube yoga world. I have to sift through so much crap to find authentic teachers ! Loads of Near naked ‘ideal’ bodies in hot pink crotch displaying outfits, fake tans etc selling the yogic philosophies and virtues along with ‘tiny waists!’, ‘flat abs!’ and ‘Clean’ eating BS. Nothing sucks my energy more and makes me feel more turned off than a yoga ‘teacher’ who focuses on (and seemingly buys into it themselves) the superficial stuff . I hate it! Mine you, quite a number appear quite disordered in their thinking and eating habits, so maybe they aren’t aware… I just wish they didn’t have such a big influence.