Body Dysmophia In the Yoga Community

Kino MacGregor posted this on Facebook as part of a broader message on language mindfulness.

someone recently wrote that they are inspired by me because I am not one of the lithe yoga goddesses.
Google Definition of Lithe
  1. (especially of a person’s body) thin, supple, and graceful.
    synonyms: agilegracefulsupplelimber, lithesome, loose-limbednimbledeft,flexiblelissomeslenderslimwillowy

    “lithe dancers”


What hit me was, if this woman is not a “lithe yoga goddess”, than who is? It blows my mind that anyone could look at her body and see her as being not slender, slim, supple, graceful, agile, lose limbed and all the other synonyms mentioned above. As a matter of fact, her picture should be underneath the definition as an embodiment of it.



This also hit me with the recent Yoga Journal cover of Kathryn Budig where people jumped for joy because there was finally a “curvy” person on the cover.  When they say curvy, they are not talking big breasts and thighs.  They are not talking about the soft suppleness of a woman’s body. Trust me. In America, the word curvy is now synonymous with being “slightly overweight”. Are you serious? This woman is “curvy” to you? It just look like a poorly executed picture to me. She was jumping and it is a head on shot. She is not “curvy”.




Merriam Webster Dictionary

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: pathological preoccupation with an imagined or slight physical defect of one’s body to the point of causing significant stress or behavioral impairment in several areas

These are clear examples of the body dysmorphia that has taken over American society. Grown women are expected to look like teenage girls. Roughly 40 years ago, Marilyn Monroe was the epitome of female beauty. Look at her thighs. Look at her arms and hips.



This is Sports Illustrated 1993. These women were considered to be 3 of the most beautiful woman in the world. They would never make it on the cover of a magazine today.



Yoga is about wiping away the veil that is blocking us from seeing the truth.  The truth is that somewhere along the way, our views on a healthy female body changed. As a society we can chose to not buy into it. We can open our eyes and see that a healthy female body comes in many forms. If you are one of the women whose natural body looks more like Maryln Monroe’s or Kathy Ireland’s, there is nothing wrong with you! As a matter of fact, lets go back to choosing our yoga teachers based on how they embody yoga and not by their thighs or ability to do Handstand.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail [email protected]