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“You can’t be what you can’t see.” This saying was a call to action for Melanie Klein, a professor of women’s studies at Santa Monica College, California, and Brigitte Kouba (a.k.a Gigi Yogini), a Los Angeles–based yoga teacher. Both feel a passion for opening the yoga community to become more inclusive of all body types, races, abilities, genders, ages, and sexual orientations.
“I used to try to do yoga the ‘perfect’ way. Now yoga reminds me I am whole and complete just as I am… and so is everyone else.” –Pia Guerrero
Last July, the pair founded the Yoga and Body Image Coalition to raise awareness of diversity within yoga. Their goal is to provide a counterpoint to a yoga culture they believe has become overly focused on thin, athletic figures and dominated by images of younger, white women. “Marginalized groups are often misrepresented or not represented in yoga and the culture at large,” says Klein. “Our idea is to represent everybody. Let’s create a paradigm shift that popular culture can recognize. We know yoga is powerful and transformative; we want to make it accessible to a broader range of the population.”
“Yoga is much more than just the physical poses; it’s a way of life.” –Brigitte Kouba
These photos feature yogis and members of the coalition who wanted to help portray yoga’s varied image and serve to launch the coalition’s campaign, “This Is What a Yogi Looks Like,” which includes sales of their T-shirt (yogis are encouraged to snap a selfie in it and tag it #whatayogilookslike).
See Also Yoga’s Evolving Body Image
“Yoga is about stilling the mind and going within; only then can you realize your true purpose.”–Joni Yung
This year, the coalition will also launch a series of live workshops, a virtual conference, and online interviews and podcasts about diversity and privilege within the yoga community (ybicoalition.com). “We hope the campaign will spark people to practice who would otherwise be turned off by yoga culture, who feel they don’t emulate the stereotype of a yogi,” says Klein. “Our message is that anyone can practice yoga. Every body is a yoga body.”
See also Yoga for Everybody