Come As You Are: Body Positive Yoga

Anna Guest-Jelley in tree pose. Anna is the owner of Curvy Yoga in East Nashville. Photo: Yoga for Healthy Aging

Anna Guest-Jelley in tree pose. Anna is the owner of Curvy Yoga in East Nashville. Photo: Yoga for Healthy Aging

Any yogi will tell you that there are as many ways to practice yoga as there are asanas. But the yoga body portrayed in mainstream media fits only one mold, and it’s the same one that the multibillion-dollar beauty industry dictates: the homogeneously slim, long, sexualized body of a woman. For this reason, yoga studios seem mighty unwelcoming to people whose bodies don’t conform to this standard and whose lifestyles lie outside the mainstream. One purpose of yoga is to go inward, to identify less with the body and more with the higher self or spirit. Doing yoga doesn’t require die hard athleticism or crazy flexibility, yet it’s developed a mythology that says the opposite: if you don’t fit the mold, you don’t belong.

Nashville’s yoga studio have something to teach us: as the city grows, so does its social consciousness. Curvy Yoga opened in East Nashville in September, led by teacher and practitioner Anna Guest-Jelley, who literally wrote the book on body positive yoga.

She notes that when yoga entered the mainstream, it was commodified and simplified. “So while it’s interesting and certainly sells products to have bodies that meet mainstream beauty ideals doing complex poses most of us could never dream of, it can also make people not even give yoga a try,” Guest-Jelley says. “In reality, yoga is many things to many people, and it can very much be done with the body you have today, no matter your flexibility or fitness level.” Over the past five years, Curvy Yoga has trained 150 teachers, and Guest-Jelley co-authored the just-released Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery and Loving Your Body.

Positive body yogis are all over the country now, and they want to inspire a sea change in how we perceive fitness, bodies, and beauty by claiming space for inclusive practice. I took a class at Curvy Yoga and enjoyed it. I’m not really a yoga person (though I’d like to be) and have attended a smattering of classes over the years. This one was different. I felt like I was checking in with my body more than usual. It was by no means easy–my abs ached the next day–but I also didn’t feel like I was killing myself to meet some expectations that had nothing to do with me.

Curvy Yoga is right above Five Points in East Nashville in a beautiful old home with hard wood floors. Your first class is just $5.

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