The “better than” epidemic.

Holy frenzy, Batman. An itty bitty Facebook post and tweet from me in my itty bitty studio last week earned a ginormous response from one of the most ginormously-popular celebrity yogis:

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Within a day, Ms. Budig mentioned me in a blog post, Color the World, in which she talks about the Women’s Health Blog post that had sparked my comment. My statement had everything to do with the media’s portrayal of yoga and very little to do with Ms. Budig herself. Yet, that isn’t how it was received. In hindsight, perhaps I could have written more context around my post. I’m not sure that would have mattered. Most often, the “body positive yoga” conversation quickly turns into “I’m size <fill in the blank> and white and I can have body image issues, too!” Yes. Yes, you can. But that’s not the point.

This quote from Ms. Budig’s post:

“There was no equality for all in this post—just another excuse to separate people and create a ‘better than’ epidemic. This kind of attitude will kill us and any progress being made towards self love and acceptance.”

Amen! A ‘better than’ epidemic is toxic as hell. But, see, that’s not what I’m trying to perpetuate. A critique of the media machine is NOT a critique of an individual person. While I don’t support many of the things I see or hear from Ms. Budig’s public image, I don’t believe she’s intentionally trying to create the epidemic. I  believe in the best in people and I believe we each bring our own truth to the party. Those truths are what make for interesting and thoughtful conversations around complex topics.

And, folks, this social media exchange is a beautiful example of conflicting truths. I’m not someone who will argue with another’s truth. We each bring what we bring and I am continually working to understand where others come from.

Inclusive yoga and body positivity are about people being allowed to show up as who they are. Without question.

What I bring today, because of who I am and who I want to be, is a call for a panacea to keep the “better than” epidemic from spreading. I’m calling for:

– Continued understanding that different people bring different stories and, within that, a willingness from each of us to understand the parts of our stories that are simply not helpful to the overall mission of creating a yoga culture of inclusivity. An example: Part of my history/story placed value on expensive clothing. Within the yoga community, the perceptions that $150 yoga pants are necessary to a yoga practice…that doesn’t create inclusivity.

– Willingness to understand privilege and examine where it plays a role in each of our lives. What’s privilege? It’s having something of value just by virtue of who you are. I’m an able-bodied, white, heterosexual, middle-class woman – those categories carry privilege into every aspect of my life. I can walk into any yoga studio, anywhere, and look like I fit in. (Except for my size. That’s still an issue.)

– Collective opening of our eyes to the damaging effects of images in the media. Yes, the media has a right to post pictures of yogis in their underwear. The media also has an obligation to post pictures of yogis who want to wear sweatpants. Or jeans. Or anything else they damn well please.

– Openness to the idea that inclusive yoga and body positivity are not just about race or class or size or physical ability or gender or any other one thing. They are about the intersection of the many facets of each one of us. If nowhere else on the earth, a yoga studio should and must be the place we can each be exactly who we are. Every time.

The social media chatter that my original post ignited gives us all an opportunity to join and continue the body positive conversation. To sit down face-to-face and connect with open and honest conversation. To discuss what’s happening in the media and how it affects us. It gives us an opportunity to examine our own perspectives, our own privilege and our own power. It gives us an opportunity to recognize each other’s humanity.

Because, really, the yoga community might not need fewer Kathryn Budigs. The yoga community absolutely needs more of the rest of us.

2 thoughts on “The “better than” epidemic.

  1. One addition to your lovely article. Privilege is a combo platter of having something of value unearned, as you explained, but it is also the absence of barriers that others routinely face. It is that subtler, smoother pathway we travel that makes privilege so pervasive and invasive.

    Your example of yourself is a nice example of how you can face undeserved barriers, while still enjoying unearned privilege. You have aspects that welcome you into the studio, but you also have barriers that I won’t have to face. Anyway, glad you are doing the work of recognizing privilege, but maybe more importantly removing barriers.

  2. Sorry, but it was a disappointing tweet and this is a disappointing response. You say “A critique of the media machine is NOT a critique of an individual person” – how was your initial tweet anything but a critique of an individual person? If your tweet had very little to do with Ms. Budig herself, then why mention her at all?

    You could build a following for your coalition and your work without taking negative cheap shots. The whole thing smacks of opportunistic self-promotion.

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