By guest writer, April Eckwielen.
I have gone to several yoga studios in my own community as well as out of state. Some studios have turned their lobbies or check-in areas into retail spaces. They sell mats, props, bottled water, essential oils, jewelry and, usually, clothing.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a funky pair of leggings or a relaxed fitting Ganesha tank top like the rest of the yogis out there, but there is a problem with the clothing usually offered in studios. They aren’t meant for yogis like me. I am a curvy girl. I have a large chest, tummy and extra padding in some areas. Even though they have the size I wear, nine times out of ten it will not fit because the item is cut for someone smaller than me. You see, everyone is built differently and some brand’s extra large is another brand’s medium. Not all are created equal.
You may be asking yourself why this is a big deal? To answer simply, it can cause a great deal of self-doubt and insecurity in a larger yoga student. Imagine going into a studio to take a class and you already feel out of place because you don’t look like the “typical yogi” (whatever that is). You want to fit in and have the cool clothes and gear to go with it all (even though it’s completely not necessary). You find an awesome shirt, but they don’t have your size or the size you try on is way smaller than the tag says.
We all know how we feel when something doesn’t fit. It is a bit different when you already feel like you don’t fit in to this yoga world and that feeling is even more validated when you try to buy your studio’s apparel and it doesn’t fit. As small as that sounds, it can impact a larger yogi’s self esteem more than you realize. By turning studios into mini boutiques, we send out a message that this is the clothing standard by which students here should live by. This, I am sure, is not what owners are thinking that they are portraying, but to the larger student, this is what goes through their mind. It deflates their self-esteem and makes them think that the only people who can do yoga are the ones that are smaller than them and are bending like pretzels.
If studios are going to change how the world sees yoga and who practices yoga, then they need to be conscious of what they sell. They cannot spread the message that yoga is for all when their apparel they sell tells a larger practitioner that yes they can take class, but no we don’t carry sizes “that big”. It cannot only turn students away from the studio, but it can also turn them off yoga all together.
Let’s be a bit more conscious of items in our studios. Maybe keep it to yoga gear, studio bumper stickers, your favorite oil blends or a handy reusable water bottle. You may say your studio is for all, but your merchandise can say differently.
Note: I was originally introduced to April through her blog post. “Grow Roots and Stand Strong” on Yogasteya.com. We are thrilled that she agreed to write for us, too. Thank you, April!