Daily Rituals: 19 Expert Ways to Find Your Everyday Zen

Daily Rituals: 19 Expert Ways to Find Your Everyday Zen

For most of us, our morning and evening routines can make or break us. That is, they make us into shining pinnacles of human efficiency, or break us into grumpy monsters full of sludge-for-brains. To prevent the latter, we all have our own little rituals to energize, focus, and reset. Some folks kick off with a little downward dog. Some engage their minds with literature. Some people have a daily meditation practice (or at least they say they do).

Any which way you dice it, there are a lot of options out there. A lot of the time we sit on the sidelines, wondering which way is the optimal decision. We watch other people seemingly get it all together from their fasted cardio session or 6 am yoga class. But as you will discover, there is no one way to start and end your day!

There’s something sacred in each and every person’s morning and evening schedule, so let’s pull the sacred out of the mundane and really learn how to get our Zen for the day, no matter the ritual.

We’ve gathered together some awesome bloggers, from moms to fitness gurus to wellness experts, and asked them to tell us the honest-to-goodness truth of their hassles, quirks, and perks of their morning and evening routines. They’ve answered some of the crucial questions with which many of us struggle:

  • What is the best way to start your day?
  • What is the best way to end your day?
  • What do other people do in the morning?
  • How do people managing jobs, kids, fitness, and relationships tackle their morning and evening routines?

Take a look and get inspired. Maybe you’ll even be willing to forego the “Snooze” button tomorrow morning!

Want to skip straight to your favorite blogger? Check out the list below and click away to get their insight:

  • Clare Brady | Fitting It All In
  • Cammy C. | The Tippy Toe Diet
  • Karen Anderson | Karen C.L. Anderson
  • Jan Graham | Cranky Fitness
  • Erin Madore | Creative Soul in Motion
  • Ellen Brenneman | Fat Girl Wearing Thin
  • Whitney Olson | Live Run Love Yoga
  • Erika | Newlyweds on a Budget
  • Kendall Covitz | Kendall Covitz
  • Wendy McMillan | Fit and Frugal
  • Ashley | Nourishing the Soul
  • Mary Mack | Fit This Girl
  • Kim Daly | The Soulicious Life
  • Brittany Mullins | Eating Bird Food
  • Mara Glatzel | Mara Glatzel
  • Sarah Stewart Holland | Salt & Nectar
  • Tina Haupert | Carrots ‘N’ Cake
  • Diane MacEachern | Big Green Purse
  • Athena | Fitness & Feta

Clare Brady

fitting it all in

How do you start your day?

My favorite way to start my day is with a workout, followed by a hot shower and some tea or coffee with a devotional and some blog reading. I think early mornings are peaceful!

How do you end your day?

Talking to my boyfriend followed by a book in bed.

Cammy C.

The Tippy Toe Diet

How do you start your day?

I break a lot of “diet” rules, but the one guideline I do follow is to start my day with a nutritious breakfast–usually two nutritious breakfasts! Shortly after waking up, I have yogurt or oatmeal with fruit (I’ve also been known to eat half a tuna sandwich or a leftover chicken breast. Don’t judge, it’s all about the easy!).

During the winter months, breakfast #1 is followed by 30-60 minutes of exercise (strength training and/or cardio) at the gym. I prefer working out later in the day, but when it’s cold and gray outside, I have a tendency to procrastinate leaving the house. By scheduling my exercise for early morning, I can ensure it doesn’t fall victim to an empty promise. When the workout is done, it’s time for breakfast #2. Again, it’s something simple like cottage cheese, a hard-boiled egg, or maybe the other half of that tuna sandwich. I like the one-two punch of starting my day with good nutrition and exercise. It makes me want to continue the trend for the remainder of the day.

How do you end your day?

At the end of each day, usually while savoring a planned evening snack, I take a few moments to think about my schedule for the next day. If I perceive any obstacles or challenges, I visualize how I see myself working through them. I think of it as a mental dress rehearsal. Should an anticipated challenge present itself, I know my lines! Another thing I do at the end of each day is to prep as much as possible for the following morning. Having my workout wear neatly stacked on the dresser removes one excuse for not going to the gym. Finally, before I drift off to sleep, I let my mind wander back through the day behind me and give thanks for all the gifts and blessings I received. Sometimes I get caught up in the “doing” and forget to take a gratitude moment or two.

Karen Anderson

Karen C. L. Anderson

How do you start your day?

I start my day by opening my eyes, usually between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. I stretch in bed, then have a couple of sips of water (which I keep on the bedside table), and read for a few minutes. My husband, who has been up for a while, comes in and sits down on the bed so we can say our I-love-yous and our have-a-good-days, before he heads off to work. I get up, pee, wash my face, put in my contact lenses, and brush my teeth. I get dressed, drink more water, pop a few supplements, make a cup of coffee, and have some fiber (a piece of fruit or a Fiber Love bar). Then I start my work!

How do you end your day?

These days I tend to go to bed relatively early (usually between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.), and in the winter, it’s even more enticing to get tucked in early. My evening ritual is sort of like my morning ritual (minus the coffee and fiber), but in reverse, ending, of course, with closing my eyes.

Jan Graham

Cranky Fitness

How Do You Start Your Day?

I could pretend I start my day by sipping healthy herbal tea and meditating on my profound gratitude for the wonders of the universe, but that would be a big fat lie. I get up, head straight for the coffee pot and proceed to caffeinate while skimming email and gearing up for the day. It’s only once the java hits my bloodstream that the profound gratitude even stands a chance and I am ready to rock. Then it’s work and working out and chores, all of which are much more enjoyable with a buzz (which, with careful cultivation, can last most of the day). So yeah, I am not a clean-living model of abstinence and serenity, but it works for me.

How Do You End Your Day?

Earlier and earlier now that I’m middle-aged! Since I tend to wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. now, I start thinking about bedtime at an hour when most people over the age of 7 are just getting going. My bedtime rituals tend to be the mundane sort, and I’m afraid efforts to be mindful while flossing my teeth haven’t come to much. But the boring pre-bed ritual does make me nice and drowsy and I usually drift right off. Which really I have no right to do given all the coffee I drink, but I’m not complaining!

Erin Madore

Creative Soul in Motion

How do you start your day?

My day begins slowly and mindfully – after my Sleep Cycle app wakes me up I stretch in bed moving from child’s pose to cat/cow, waking up my body and mind through breath. Then I spend 5 – 10 minutes (depending on how much time I have) meditating in my bedroom – this helps me prepare for the day while letting go of the previous day. And while I make my green smoothie I like to listen to some of my favorite songs on Spotify and even dance a little to help me start my day smiling – lately I’ve been listening to The Lumineers, Head and the Heart, and Bright Eyes. Then I’m off to teach or lead a workshop feeling grounded and open to the day!

How do you end your day?

Just like my mornings I like to end my days gently. Usually I snuggle in bed with my husband, a cup of Sleepy Time tea and a good book; right now, I’m reading Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein (it’s great!). And before I let my head hit the pillow, I like to write in my journal about something positive that happened during the day and at least one thing I am grateful for–it’s a wonderful way to wrap up a long and productive day!

Ellen Brenneman

Fat Girl Wearing Thin

How do you start your day?

Most always I am the first to wake in my household. Before I open my eyes, I instinctively roll toward my window, which happens to face east. For that brief moment before my husband and dogs begin to stir and stretch, I open my eyes to a large pine tree that resides outside my window. During the warmer months, the sun rises behind this tree, making appear even more majestic. Rising this way each and every day gives me purpose and comfort; not only am I reminded that there is consistency in my sometimes inconsistent life, but also, that I can do anything I choose to with the day I have before me. What a great feeling that is.

How do you end your day?

I am a professional artist and generally spend most of my waking moments thinking creatively. For the past several months I have been working on yoga-inspired paintings, and it has become a ritual for me to spend my last waking moments envisioning myself within a painting, flowing through different asanas. It relaxes me and quite often allows new paintings to emerge.

Whitney Olson

Live Run Love Yoga

How do you start your day?

I start my day by moving slowly. Once the alarm goes off I give myself a few moments to wake up and prepare for the day. I never check my email or social media. Those first few minutes of the morning are all for me and help me set the stage for a mindful and stress-free day. Once I’m up and out of bed, I make a cup of hot tea. I love the act of drinking tea…the warm cup in your hand, the smell of the tea, the steam from the hot water and the slow steady breaths to breathe it all in. It helps to give me a calm and relaxing start to my day.

How do you end your day?

I end my day much in the same way I start my day. I turn off all of my electronics and let myself rest and relax in bed. Lately, I’ve been reading a book of daily yoga readings. It helps me to consider my day and gives meaning and perspective to my experiences. It also helps to calm my body and mind. After I finish reading, I close my eyes and focus on my breath. It never takes me long to fall into a restful sleep once I’m relaxed!


Newlyweds on a Budget

How do you start your day?

I typically start my day with a long walk with my dog. I wake up a bit earlier just to give myself some time to walk him. I know that mornings can be busy, so I try and prep as much the night before, such as packing my lunch and deciding what outfit I’m going to wear to work. The walks with my dog really help me focus on the day ahead and get myself centered.

How do you end your day?

I like to end my day by completely unplugging and reading either a book or a magazine. I am still considered old school because I get all my books from the library. But having some time where the TV isn’t on, and I’m not checking my phone or my iPad, really helps get myself ready for a good night’s rest.

Kendall Covitz

Kendall Covitz

How do you start your day?

I start my day by hitting snooze at least once, checking emails to wake me up in bed, ReTweeting, and liking things on Instagram. I’m a social media junkie, and this wakes me up a bit! I greet my adorable French bulldog, Clementine, feed her, and go for a walk. I then make something healthy for breakfast, like a smoothie, and start my workday.

How do you end your day?

Hopefully, I end the day with a healthy and colorful dinner, enough water, and having had moved. It’s never a 100% perfect with all of my work commitments, but I try very hard. If I know I’m busy at night, I usually shoot for a homemade lunch. This allows me to get two really good meals in and usually grants leftovers. After dinner, I crash. I desperately need at least 8 hours of sleep!

Wendy McMillan

Fit and Frugal

How do you start your day?

I’m at home this year with a very lively, alert four-month old, and so my day doesn’t really quite have a proper beginning and ending these days. Rather, I’m living one continuous stream wherein all the days roll into one. It’s exhausting…but it’s great. I love it, actually. And I do have a routine that keeps the semblance of a schedule. My husband is super supportive, and we’ve worked it out so that I can get a workout in early, either running outside or downstairs on the trainer or treadmill, before he goes to work. This helps me kick things off in a good, relaxed mood; later, during our son’s morning nap, I have some time to get some freelance done. With these two things covered, I’m much better about letting the rest flow, and I’m much more likely to take a short snooze with our baby in the afternoon, which is so much more than more than a crucial chance to keep from getting too sleep-deprived. The cuddles are priceless. 🙂

How do you end your day?

This is something I’ve been consciously working on and thinking about lately (due to said baby, mentioned above). It’s a struggle allowing myself to decompress after baby is in bed for “the night”…which has now come to mean a good 5-6 hour stretch from 7 or so, then another couple of wake-ups after that. I feel such an urge to race around doing as much as I can, for work/house, etc. Sometimes that’s exactly what I do–rush around then crash. But a better ritual is to let myself watch a show with my husband, or just talk, enjoying a cup of tea, then read (it’s usually just a couple of pages, and most often a baby book until recently), and bed.


Nourishing the Soul

How do you start your day?

My usual morning alarm clock is my nine-month old son, who loves to beat the sun in his rising. Pre-baby, I would start each morning with some kind of physical activity. It helped rouse me and start my day with a feeling of strength and energy. Because my mornings are now so unpredictable, I’ve moved exercise to later in the evening. Instead, I now start my mornings by scooping my son out of his crib and taking in a few deep breaths of his sweetness. I lay with him in my bed and feed him, my arms curled around his and his around mine. My eyes are usually still half or fully shut, as are his, but we are awake and welcoming the day, slowly and intimately.

How do you end your day?

After putting my son to bed, I try to spend at least a few moments each evening writing. It feels like a cleansing of the clutter that’s built up from the day. What I write depends on the day. It could be anything from an email to a friend, a presentation for work, a blog post, or a journal entry. But the act of writing is my nightly release, and I feel it clears me to more fully rest.

Mary Mack

Fit This Girl

How do you start your day?

What I do before bed is pack my food for the next day and then read to relax my mind. First thing in the morning, my goal is to do a cardio workout, but I am a trainer and often work first thing– so technically helping others reach their fitness goals!

Kim Daly

The Soulicious Life

How do you start your day?

With a large glass of water doused with the juice of half a lemon. It sets me on the right hydration path for the day, and the lemon is very cleansing. Then I’m ready to enjoy my one cup of coffee which I can only hope to get through while it’s still hot. With a three-month-old and a three-year-old, I usually end up reheating it a few times before I ever finish it!

How do you end your day?

By falling gracefully into bed! Sleep is so crucial to our health, and I need at least eight hours to function optimally. But before that (and once the girls are in bed) I also try to casually work in a few of my favorite seated yoga poses while unwinding and catching up on one of my favorite TV shows. I get so little “me” time these days that I try to squeeze whatever I can into the time I get! A bit of breathing and stretching before bed helps me release the day’s tension and tune in to areas that need more space. One night a week, I leave the girls with Daddy and hit an evening yoga class. It’s the best reset button there is and I sleep like a rock!

Brittany Mullins

Eating Bird Food

How do you start your day?

I like starting my day by drinking a cup of water. I tend to have water on my bedside table so once my feet hit the floor, I grab the cup and drink up. I always try to drink half my body weight (in ounces) of water a day and drinking a cup as soon as I wake up is a good way to start.

How do you end your day?

I take a few minutes to make sure I have recorded what I ate for the day. Sometimes I use MyFitnessPal, and other times I just jot it down in a notebook. Recording what I eat helps keep me accountable, alerts me if I missed any important food groups (so I can eat more the next day) and let’s me look back to see how different foods affect my digestion. Foods journals are a great weight loss tool and also help people pinpoint if they are intolerant or allergic to certain foods. I always recommend keeping a food journal to my clients!

Mara Glatzel

mara glatzel

How do you start your day?

I used to start my day with a quick cup of coffee as I rushed out of the house, which would make me feel frantic and overwhelmed during those tender morning moments. Now I have cultivated a routine of drinking a large glass of water first thing while I set a few basic intentions for the day. My intentions are built from the answers to these questions: How do I want to feel during my day? What would I like to accomplish? What do I need in order to feel really good? Then I get myself ready for the day, taking time as I wash my face and brush my teeth. I spend time looking at myself in the mirror and choosing an outfit that reflects the version of myself that I want to bring out into the world for that day. I find that carving out a little extra time for myself to be able to move slowly as I move through these tasks helps me feel centered and focused as I get ready for my day. I also find that this is also a really rewarding time to connect with my sweetheart, before the busy energy of the day sets in. So, if possible, I take a couple of moments in the morning to connect with her about our plans for the day and talk about the things that I’m looking forward to. Being intentional about my time and space in the morning dramatically impacts the energy that I am able to bring to every aspect of my day, and I’ve found that taking a bit of space for myself in the morning increases my productivity and good-feelings about my work.

How do you end your day?

As someone who feels more emotional towards the end of the day, it feels really good to start the unwinding and relaxing process way before I crawl into bed for the night. I like to eat a lovingly prepared meal in the evening, followed by some peppermint or ginger tea. I’m really into changing into cozy clothing as soon as possible after I get home, so I tend to change my outfit and put on my favorite slippers in the early evening. Often, I feel really tired before bed and it can take some extra effort to wash my face and brush my teeth instead of passing out on the couch. I find that making the time to develop a nightly hygiene ritual for myself allows me to feel really nourished and cared for before I fall to sleep. Like in the morning, I move slowly and am endlessly sweet to myself. I find that these tender moments are when we deserve our best effort and attention, and I work to make space for that whenever possible.

Sarah Stewart Holland

Salt & Nectar

How do you start your day?

I start my day with meditation and journaling. I have a fantastic (and early riser) husband who takes care of the kids while I take a few moments to deep breath and jot down some of my thoughts. Nothing fancy. I usually do it without leaving my warm bed! Once the kids are up and fed, I take the dog for a walk and then get my own self ready before heading out the door to preschool at 9!

How do you end your day?

Last month I ended every day with my Facebook Thankful post and I’ve loved it so much I’ve kept going. I actually do a few daily things on my phone at night. I try to record any funny moments with the kids in Moment Garden and I’m working on a year long (top secret) project for my husband as well so I put my daily work on that in Moment Garden. I usually have a cup of tea and then a little pillow talk with my husband and then I’m out for the night.

Tina Haupert

Carrots ‘N’ Cake

How do you start your day?

I always start my day with a healthy breakfast. I find that if I choose nutritious and satisfying foods first thing in the morning, it sets a healthy tone for the rest of my day, and I continue to make smart choices.

How do you end your day?

I always end my day by chatting with my husband in bed. The two of us are typically running around like crazy people all day long, so it’s nice to unwind and catch up with some conversation at the end of the day.

One of my daily rituals is being active in someway or another. It doesn’t always need to be a sweaty, heart-pumping workout, but anything to get me moving does the trick. I love CrossFit, running, and yoga, but on my “rest” days, I like to take my dog to the park, clean my house, or speed walk my errands at my local shopping plaza. Being active keeps me healthy, happy, and sane!

Diane MacEachern

Big Green Purse

How do you start your day?

I wake up early – anywhere from around 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. If it’s on the earlier side, I hate to say it, but I usually grab my phone and check the news. I don’t have an actual newspaper delivered at home anymore, primarily for environmental reasons, so I keep up with the events of the day by checking several news sites online. That done, I get up, splash a little cold water on my face, change into some sweats, and head out for about a mile walk with my dog “Heaven” (yes, that’s really her name). She’s an 80-pound mutt and it never seems too cold for her, no matter how much my teeth are chattering. When we get back, I put the kettle on for a cup of hot Chai or English Breakfast tea, and fill up the food bowls for Heaven and her two feline siblings, an old but enduring black cat named Midnight and her feisty younger brother Nike. If I don’t have a meeting, I’ll do a quick at-home workout before grabbing a short shower. I’ll tackle at least one crossword puzzle while I’m eating a bowlful of yogurt and fruit, just to get the brain cells pumping! Then, I head to my office, my computer, and a quick check of my email before I dive into the day’s real work.

How do you end your day?

I end the day almost the way I started it. I try to stop working by 6 or 7 p.m. and make a decent dinner for myself and whoever else in the family happens to be around. I light candles, even if I’m the only one home, just to transport me out of “work” mode and into a more relaxed frame of mind. After doing the dishes, I take Heaven out for her last walk, then come in and make a cup of some kind of soothing tea (anything with slippery elm bark in it, though mint is good, too). I’m in a couple of different book clubs, so that’s what I read instead of the news, especially if I want to get a good night’s sleep!


Fitness & Feta

How do you start your day?

My absolute favorite way to start my day is with a workout. It wakes me up, energizes me to tackle the day ahead, and then I can’t make the “I don’t have time” excuse after work. I love teaching my 6am total body conditioning classes because it’s so motivating to see the same 30 people wake up so early, week after week, to start their day with a healthy choice. On days that I don’t workout in the morning, I savor my time under a hot shower. Nothing compares to your own bathroom when you’re used to showering in a locker room 75% of the time!

How do you end your day?

It honestly depends on the day. On Sunday nights, I always do a week’s worth of food prep. I make my week’s lunches ahead of time, pack baggies of snacks, and have standard “go to” dinner items on hand such as batches of quinoa, prepped veggies, or grilled chicken. Doing this saves me so much time during my busy weeks because I don’t have to think about what I’m going to bring for lunch, and my healthy decisions are already made (leaves less room for straying from the plan!). Other nights I like to unwind by watching my favorite TV shows with my boyfriend, update my blog, or clean my apartment. Yes, cleaning helps me unwind!

The Glass Ceiling of Yoga: Body Positivity

The Glass Ceiling of Yoga: Body Positivity

The picture of a serene and beautiful yoga community that is celebrated by the media actually disguises a disturbing layer of normalized and ubiquitous body type discrimination. However, by unveiling a previously “invisible” glass ceiling over the Western yoga community, students, teachers, and administrators can find ways to effortlessly mold body-positive practice spaces for current, new, and future yoga practitioners.

Gender vs Body Type

I’ve encountered a lot of glass ceilings in my life. Honestly, when you’re black, queer, and born with female genitalia, you encounter them constantly and I’ve grown to expect situations wherein boundaries and limitations are the norm. However, there’s a glass ceiling that limits our Western yoga community to a troubling degree and it’s something I never expected to encounter. I mean, when “glass ceilings” are typically identified in Western society, they are almost invariably related to gender.

Ironically, the yoga community doesn’t really suffer from a gender glass ceiling, at least not one that negatively effects women.

Even though women weren’t taught asana until the 20th century, the vast majority of Western yoga teachers and students are female. And while discrimination against male yoga students and teachers is probably more common than any of us could imagine, it’s still not the most expansive and divisive glass ceiling in the yoga community.

No, the real ceiling within our community is based entirely upon physical presentation and, specifically, body type.

This ceiling is clear as day to those of us who have atypical yoga practitioner bodies. Instead of being slender, white and heaped with physical ability, there’s a growing wave of yoga teachers and students who are plump, multiethnic and powering through life with a wide range of disabilities. However, those of us who challenge the white washed yoga teacher stereotype face a very different practice landscape than our colleagues. For example, it’s inappropriately common to hear a story about a yoga student being shamed out of a yoga studio, based upon comments made by discriminatory yoga teachers and students.

In some communities, it’s nearly impossible for atypical yoga teachers to find teaching opportunities. And even when teaching opportunities are available, they are not on par with options for more traditionally bodied teachers. This problem is well documented within small communities of “different” yoga teachers, but it’s essentially invisible to those who don’t see themselves as “different”. And, what’s worse, there are way too many practitioners and teachers who don’t see this kind of discrimination as a problem. Thus, an “invisible” glass ceiling has domed over our community, and only those who have been discriminated and oppressed are fully aware of its existence.

What Does This “Glass Ceiling” Actually Look Like?

Here’s the thing, no one in the yoga community is ever going to openly bad mouth someone who looks different from the traditional idea of a practitioner. Ok, let me back up. I’m sure it happens. But being openly mean to people is not condoned in our yoga community. It’s a pretty big no-no, actually. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone reading this article right now is truly shocked by the idea that discrimination exists in a community which oozes the kind of saccharine sweetness that can only be honed by decades of marketing and product advertising. Unfortunately, the prettiest bandages can hide the ugliest wounds.

And beneath the surface of our saccharine sweet, mass media approved industry is a festering wound characterized by offensive language, discriminatory hiring practices and a bunch of other negativity that gets swept under the rug.

Admittedly, it’s not fun to acknowledge discrimination. In most cases, it feels very embarrassing, and many people would prefer to pretend as though they are not part of the problem. But anyone who turns a blind eye to this problem is also a key contributor to its existence. But how does this problem actually manifest and what does it look like? Let me paint a clearer picture for you.

Imagine you’re a curvy person who has finally decided to face your fear of practicing yoga in a group setting. Perhaps you’ve practiced yoga online with free videos, and you’re finally feeling confident enough in your understanding of asana to venture out of your living room and into a communally supportive environment under the watchful gaze of a knowledgeable instructor.

With a yoga mat under your arm and an emotionally swollen heart on your sleeve, you proudly stride into your local yoga studio.

When you approach the reception desk to check-in for class, the teacher (who looks, as expected, like a human Barbie doll) gives you a curt visual once-over. “Is this your first class?” Yoga Teacher Barbie chirps nonchalantly. While your knee jerk reaction may be defensive, you calm yourself down mentally. You remind yourself that she’s not trying to be offensive, and that she’s merely trying to take the proverbial temperature of a student she’s never met before. You smile and shake your head. “Nope, but I’m excited to take your class!” you say. Barbie smirks. “Well, this class is pretty intense,” she says.

You stare at her blankly. You’re wondering why she’s decided to tell you that the class is intense. Is it because she thinks you can’t handle the class? All of a sudden, you’re second guessing yourself and hiding sweaty palms. Why did you think you were strong enough to attend live classes? By the time you’ve rolled out your mat and gotten settled with props, the tissue thin confidence you brought into the studio has been shredded beyond repair by the self-doubt you’d managed to keep at bay prior to arrival.

During the class, you notice for the first time that your expressions of various yoga poses look a little different than other people in the class. Maybe your balance is a little less sharp, or you use props and modifications at times when other students seem to be able to go without. While that acknowledgement makes you a little self-conscious, it pales in comparison to the shame you feel at having your movements constantly corrected by Yoga Teacher Barbie.

Because, yes – Barbie has also noticed that your movements look a little different. And she’s decided to make your differences an opportunity for a teaching exercise by constantly correcting your alignment and offering more physical adjustments than you could have ever wanted. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if she’s offering more or less advice to anyone else in the room – in fact, it’s entirely possible that she offers this level of adjustment to every student. But your confidence has been shattered.

The emotionally swollen heart you proudly wore on your sleeve is now openly bleeding.

In the best case scenario, you somehow find the strength to believe in yourself again. In the worst case, you vow to never darken the doorstep of another yoga class for fear of ever feeling this way again.

The thing is, if you’re reading this right now, you’ve probably worn the moccasins of either Yoga Teacher Barbie or our Curvy Protagonist. Maybe both. And the weird thing is, I’ve heard this exact same story told by people who are not necessarily “curvy” or “different” in some other way.

In fact, it’s startlingly common for people who look just like Yoga Teacher Barbie to still feel discrimination at the hands of their instructors.

I could be wrong, but I think this is all the result of the fact that we live in a staunchly body negative society.

Body negativity is endorsed by the mass media – let’s face it, that’s how they get us to buy things. We make purchases because we find ourselves wanting or lacking in one way or another. Unfortunately, in addition to the mass media, body negativity has also fully permeated the yoga community. In fact, many teachers believe their discrimination isn’t discrimination at all – they see it as a kind dose of realism to students who don’t meet their personal standards of yoga perfection. Because that’s really all discrimination is – it’s the state of our judgment when we encounter people, places, and things which jibe with our personal definitions of perfection.

It’s sad to see this happen in a community which has the potential to include every single human being on the planet. Frankly, it’s not absurd to imagine a world where everyone practices a style or hybrid blend of yoga. However, that reality will never come to fruition if we don’t resolve the body negativity and discrimination problem. How do we do that? Well, fight fire with fire.

If body negativity is the disease, then body positivity must be the antidote.

The Antidote: Body Positivity

Body positivity is frequently confused concept. It’s pretty confused even within the body positivity community. You could get a different definition depending on the person you ask, the day of the week, etc. Some people think body positivity is solely tied up in body size acceptance, and others might even go so far as to equate it with fat acceptance and fat positivity. While fat positive movements have their rightful place of importance in the evolution of our society, I don’t believe they are synonymous with body positivity. Another popular way of describing body positivity is by equating it with constant self-pep talks. You know, a pattern of methods to remind yourself that “I’m Great! I’m Beautiful! I’m worthy of breathing oxygen in front of other humans without feeling suicidal!” While pep talks are rad and I fully endorse them, I don’t think they speak to the core of body positivity.

You see, body positivity assumes your constant perfection. It assumes that you’re always beautiful. That you’re always worthwhile. That you’re always capable. That you’re always strong.

In a truly body positive world, these statements are not up for debate – instead, they are seen as impenetrable fact. The only perspective up for debate is that of each individual – are you willing to accept your own perfection? Especially when the mass media tells you that those statements are definitely not true. Body positivity is the confidence to accept your constant perfection and beauty, no matter the proverbial weather. And, most importantly, to accept the constant perfection and beauty of those around you, even if they look and act different from yourself.

When we implement body positivity in our yoga studios and spaces, we create environments where students across an infinite spectrum of differences all feel as though they are equal to one another. This type of attitude is absolutely critical in order to see the yoga community grow beyond the one dimensional image offered by the media. Body positivity doesn’t mean teachers aren’t free to offer alignment tips and adjustments to their students without fear of offending someone. But it does mean that every word, every gesture, and every moment is an opportunity to be encouraging. To make someone feel welcome. To actively avoid discouragement.

Eventually, this kind of environment will lead to the end of classes where certain students are viewed as superior to their fellow students. Good riddance, as far as I’m concerned. This is a glass ceiling that desperately needs to be shattered.

We must all take responsibility for the role we play in a yoga culture which is thoroughly embedded in discrimination and negativity.

We need more than a few people who are proud of their bodies. We need a legion of yoga teachers, administrators and advanced practitioners who truly walk the walk of the eight-limbed path, and who will stop at nothing to spread the practice to every soul across the planet.

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