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I’m excited to share an interview with Mel Klein, co-founder of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery + Loving Your Body
I love the Yoga and Body Image philosophy of “yoga for every body” — like Bikram says, “never too old, never too sick…”
Mel is a writer, speaker and Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Santa Monica College, and of course a dedicated yogi. As you can imagine she is insanely busy so it is an honour that she took the time for this interview. Thank you Mel!
How did you begin your yoga journey?
My younger sister asked if I wanted to sign up for a Kundalini yoga class with her in the fall of 1996. Yoga was far from becoming the cultural phenomenon it is now. The class seemed to be composed of odd physical movements and chants but I was intrigued and felt compelled to return week after week and we signed up time and time again for new a series of sessions.
Eventually, I wanted to practice more consistently and found Bryan Kest on a friend’s recommendation. His rhetoric and the practice appealed to me immediately. I felt open, connected, and completely alive. The physicality of his class was appealing given that I was coming off a major gym obsession. Eventually, I cancelled my gym membership and that was the start of liberating myself from some incredibly toxic behaviors associated with an abusive and disrespectful attitude toward my body and replacing it with a nourishing and loving yoga practice.
How has life changed since you discovered yoga?
My yoga and meditation practice has taught me how to practice forgiveness, compassion, gratitude and mindfulness. Yoga has allowed me to get to know myself in new and mysterious ways and it’s helped me create a strong community. Events and experiences that would have completely knocked me off my feet years ago are lessened in intensity. There’s a greater sense of balance because I am able to remain present, feel deeply while knowing that my current state is impermanent and will change.
What is the one posture you can’t live without?
Child’s pose and savasna!
What do you say to people who say, “I can’t do yoga because…”?
If you have the ability to breathe, you have the ability to practice yoga. I think a lot of people get caught up in the “yoga body” stereotype as well as the misconception that yoga is a series of gravity-defying arm balances or strength poses. It’s unfortunate, because a yoga and meditation practice has the potential to bring about great healing and integration.
Who inspires you?
Everyone working through their stuff and creating social, political and personal change.
What is your favourite quote?
It is a waste of time to hate a mirror or its reflection instead of stopping the hand that makes glass with distortions.
~ Audre Lorde
What’s your favorite post-yoga treat?
Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
What is the mission of the Yoga and Body Image book and coalition?
We are committed to creating social and political change to shift the limitations and exclusivity of the current yoga paradigm.
We are committed to creating safe spaces for bodies of all types, devoid of body shaming, while offering a comprehensive body image education for yoga teachers, community and media outlets. We believe that every body is a yoga body.
YOGA IS FOR…
Every race & ethnicity.
Every class & socioeconomic status.
Every gender identity & sexual orientation.
Every size, shape, height, weight & dis/ability.
We believe the slogan, “love your body,” is a fully dimensional mantra promoting body acceptance in ourselves and each other. We believe body positivity is more than a #hashtag, marketing slogan, or commodity – it’s conscious action and lived practice.
Share a comment on how yoga influences your body image!