I looked at the cover of last month’s Yoga Journal without much thought. She looked like most of their covers – thin, lithe, strong, young, etc. She is doing a nice forearm balance and has a smile on her face.
Anyway, when I opened it to the editor’s letter page, there was a picture of the model with a bunch of other people – first, I felt shock. So I looked a little closer, it’s a small photo. More shock, a bit of nausea and something like a sense of optical illusion, like I’d been duped…
The woman in the lime green leotard no longer looked strong and healthy – she looked like…Well, let’s just say, very, very thin. The words “scary thin” come to mind.
Now, I certainly do not want to make any inaccurate statements about her personally, or that her body or mind is unhealthy – but surrounded by a bunch of normal-bodied women in normal clothes, she looked painfully thin and I was shocked and a bit nauseated because I realized that, to my eye, a bone-thin woman alone on the cover is normal – It is what my eye expects in a magazine cover, it is deeply etched in my psyche.
I wondered, “Are any of their other readers seeing this the way I am?”
So I was kind of curious to see the “Letters” section of this month’s magazine. But there was nothing about the cover model, only a letter gushing with gratitude for someone who had written a story which spoke about how it can be intimidating for those who don’t feel like they are good enough, thin enough, or stylish enough to go to yoga class. Hmmm. Now I have this phrase rolling around my head: “Mixed messages.”
Then I turned to the “Editor’s Letter” page. It was essentially an apology for the thin, perfect-bodied models used in the magazine – “It’s true that we feature some amazingly capable yogis – people who’ve worked hard to develop the strength and flexibility to hold advanced poses for longer than you’d dream possible and, after a moment’s pause, do it again.”
But she didn’t apologize for or address the scary thinness. However, interestingly, there are a few normal-ish women modeling this month – even the cover model has a few extra pounds (she’s probably a size 4, rather than a 0). It makes me feel optimistic and hopeful that the yoga community seems to be putting a bit of pressure on them to stop promoting dysfunctional messages in their eagerness to sell magazines.
Over the years I have witnessed the regular, consistent promotion of mixed messages in this magazine – yoga is about self-awareness, self-growth, even Self-liberation – but also, ya gotta be thin, hip and cool to be part of our club. When I see what they’ve done this month I think, Hmmm, maybe the uncool, but nice kid’s club is starting to grow.