Sign up now for Yoga Journal’s new online course Inclusivity Training for Yoga: Building Community with Compassion for an introduction to the skills and tools you need as a teacher and as a student. In this class, you’ll learn how to better identify student needs, make compassionate and inclusive language choices, gracefully offer pose alternatives, give appropriate assists, reach out to neighboring communities, and expand and diversify your classes.
Meet Dianne Bondy, a Yoga trailblazer, motivator, risk-taker and teacher. She’s the founder of Yogasteya.com, a body-positive online yoga studio for people of all sizes, genders and abilities. She’s also a founding board member and partner of the Yoga + Body Image Coalition and a contributor to Yoga + Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body (October 2014).
YJ: The most empowering image of a female is…
DB: ...someone who stands strong in her power, who is not afraid of being a strong woman. She compassionately speaks her mind, is aware of the presence of others and holds space for people to be themselves without apology. She supports diversity and inclusiveness. A strong woman to me is someone who is not afraid to impact the world through her actions, her words and her appearance. She is kind. She is compassionate and she is fearless.
YJ: How would you describe your relationship to your body image?
DB: I have had a love-hate relationship with my body for most of my life. I am afraid to say mostly hate. I have been tortured because of my size for a great deal of my life so it is hard not to internalize these comments. I have been really fat and really thin. (It was much easier to be thin.) Now I am just focusing on being the best person I can be for me in any body I have. I appreciate my body for taking care of me. It is the only instrument I have to navigate this world and connect with others. It is not about what I look like, it is about what I have to offer the world.
YJ: What scenario taught you more about self-acceptance?
DB: Being at an advanced yoga teacher training that I had no business being at. My asana was not up to it. I was the only big black girl in the room of thin, small, hyper-flexible, strong, and mostly Caucasian yogis. I spent most of my time crying on my mat. People where afraid to pair up with me because of my size. Feeling very lost and alone and the big brown spot in a sea of white faces. I remember feeling like there must be others out there like me. I will take this miserable experience and create my own awareness and classes for bigger bodies.
YJ: What has your physical body taught you about your emotional self?
DB: I am more than what I look like. I have the ability to inspire others. I am not alone.
YJ: What has been your most dangerous experience with body image in your personal life or culture?
DB: I was bullied relentlessly by my father about my size and developed an eating disorder. I allowed the bullying to determine my self-worth and participated in dangerous self-harming practices.
YJ: What can we do as a community to support women and create a body-positive culture?
DB: Shape consciousness around body-positive self-image. Change mainstream media to include people/women of all sizes, colors, and genders. Don’t pander to negativity. Be inclusive in our language as well as our actions.
YJ: Choose one: Body, mind, soul.
DB: The soul is infinite and beautiful. The body is limited and temporary.
YJ: If you could speak to your physical body, you would say, “_________.”
DB: I love you and thank you for supporting and sustaining me. I am so sorry that I abuse you and am sometimes critical and hateful toward you and you love me anyway. Thank you for being the perfect instrument for which I experience this world.
YJ: And she would say back, “______.”
DB: I love you unconditionally, and we are here in this together.
YJ: What’s your best advice for feeling comfortable in your own skin?
DB:Do what you love and shape your life around that, and it will give you confidence, support and joy. Remember, people who are critical of you are just not ready to receive your gifts. Meditate every day and create your own personal mantra: I am enough and I have something powerful to offer the world!
YJ: Fireworks or Firefly pose? (It is July…)
DB: Fireworks...Arm balances are just not my thing :)
Join us this Saturday to hear more about Dianne Bondy's personal experience with body image at Yoga Journal LIVE! San Diego. Or head over to our Facebook Practice of Leadership group to join the conversation. But first, read Part 5: LA Yoga Teacher Gigi Yogini on Cultivating Courage.