Ditch the diet language

Ditch the diet language

Diet language in yoga classes? It’s a no from me. By Paula Hines

Let’s work off those mince pies” is not something I generally expect to hear in a yoga class — but that’s exactly where I heard a yoga teacher utter those words to the class in early January.

Granted this was a while ago, but it did stay with me. I hadn’t come to class to work off mince pies or anything else. Maybe this was a jokey, throwaway comment from the teacher, but it did not sit well with me.

Since the pandemic I have noticed an increase in messaging telling the general public that it is time to ‘lose those lockdown pounds’ and it seems that yoga, or at least the yoga industry, is not immune from this.

If you type ‘yoga for weight loss’ into a search engine you are guaranteed to find multiple results come up along with suggestions for the ‘best poses for weight loss’.

Is there a place for diet language in yoga classes?

Personally, I don’t think so. I can’t say I always felt that way though.

Years ago, before I was a teacher, when I first practiced hot yoga, one of the byproducts of attending classes almost daily was weight loss.

That may not have been my reason for going to yoga classes in the first place, but as someone who had experienced weight stigma from childhood onwards, this was – at the time – thrilling as it meant some respite from said stigma.

It became less thrilling when lots of people told me how great and how well I looked, which did not really feel like a compliment. Did I really look so bad before?

That’s my experience as a class student. From a teaching perspective, something I always think about is that people come to yoga classes for all sorts of reasons and you may never know what has brought someone there.

I remember reading a story from a woman who was recovering from an eating disorder and how comments from the teacher of a class she attended along the lines of ‘shifting post-Christmas pounds’ and ‘burning fat’ resulted in her not going back to a yoga class after that. As teachers we do not intend to cause harm, but in this case harm was the result.

Language matters. In the spirit of not doing harm, I will continue to keep diet language out of the classes I teach.

Paula Hines is a London-based senior yoga teacher and writer (ucanyoga.co.uk). Follow her on Instagram @ucanyoga1

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