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Cut the Fat: An Open Letter to the Yoga Community

Happiness | Lifestyle

Dear Students, Teachers, and Friends!

This season, I have one wish for all of us: Nourishment.

For too long, I have heard (and even been a part of) a rhetoric of unhealthy reciprocal speak about exercise and eating behaviors during the holiday season. Do we really need to do more asana to “burn off” those holidays? I think not!

I’ve privately struggled to see how this type of communication serves anyone. At best, I feel that these commentaries are cheap motivators. Sadly, I fear that perpetuating a dialogue like this is actually a type of passive violence that is antithetical to our code of yamas and niyamas. For the health and happiness of our spirits, we can and need to make a change. This is why I am bringing this conversation to our beautiful community.

I know that yoga is not infallible. Nothing is. Yoga is a living practice and we are all a part of it. I also know that not all of us speak like this. And, surely, few of us speak like this intentionally. But still, we CAN listen and improve! As teachers and students, we CAN raise a consciousness around how we speak about food, exercise, and nourishment. And, I'm certain that it's time we did.

Every time we speak in terms that portray food, exercise, reward, even love(!) as part of an economy of exchange, we are latently affirming a message of: you are not good enough as you are. Every time we permit this language of hierarchical conditionality, we allow for the continuation of the belief: you are not enough. Every time we employ a rhetoric of action-consequence we effectively say: you are not enough. Simply, this is not yoga. We must be mindful of this. We are SO much more than conditional thinking.

On a more personal note, as a recovered anorexic/bulimic and eating disorder (ED) recovery advocate, I feel that this language is not only maladaptive, but that it also reinforces a dangerous ideal. Both from my personal practices and my work in the ED recovery field, I've encountered how the negative conditioning an exercise-exchange economy adversely affects people. It is often tantamount to verbal abuse. This is ironic, because as yogis, we are committed to ahimsa.

So, this season, I am committing to nourishment. I am committing to nourishment not just through physical food, but through language and action. I and my studio (The Grinning Yogi) promise to offer a message of acceptance and nourishment starting NOW. We are pledging the following:

  • We will NOT teach from a voice rooted in an exchange economy of food, guilt, calories, indulgence, or anything related to not “being enough” as you are.
  • We will create a safe-haven for our friends to feel empowered so they can take effective steps in promoting their own self-care and overall wellness.
  • We will open a dialogue about what real nourishment is.
  • We will remind our friends that food is food, love is love, and yoga… yoga is a GIFT!

Please join us in this commitment.

We are sharing this letter with friends, students, teachers and studios in the area. We will be posting our commitment publicly in the studio and on social media as well. We will be honored if you join us in making this a powerful, communal statement, grounded in love and health. Please feel free to share this and post this letter as you see fit.

We can do this, together!!! I leave you with gratitude and this: And love says: I will. I will take care. To everything that is near. —Hafiz

Thank you for your nourishment,

Jamie Silverstein and The Grinning Yogi

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