As a now official member of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition (YBIC), it was my absolute honor to apprentice Melanie Klein and Tiina Veer at the Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) conference, which serendipitously took place in a city of my east coast upbringing: Boston. I was thrilled to accompany these pioneers of body image and yoga within the greater conference of the Health at Every Size community and I felt so grateful that this represented another full circle moment in my life brought to me through my work at Wear Your Voice (after having written my article about the powerful movement #thisiswhatayogilookslike).
This ASDAH conference included professionals of diverse fields with at least one common passion: creating greater acceptance of all bodies, especially fat bodies, which are so often marginalized and oppressed from the top down (and everywhere in between). From society as a whole to the very doctors who are supposed to save our lives and teachers that are meant to educate and enrich them.
The refreshing theme/core principal that this year’s conference was built around was intersectionality (a word that even my spellcheck tries to pretend doesn’t exist). This was the thread that wove all presentations together – Melanie and Tiina’s presentation directly addressed this topic from a Feminist, Activist, and Yogic point of view. An important discussion of privilege opened-up and Melanie was able to address the need for those who do have privilege, to recognize and utilize it to benefit those who do not afford such privilege in our society. Melanie also made a powerful statement when introducing the topic of intersectionality that resonated with me deeply: “Everybody has a body image; not just white womyn. Just as not just white womyn practice yoga!”
*It feels very important for me to note that this conference was being held at one of the most expensive hotels in the city, and that Boston itself is one of the most expensive places to hold a conference in the country. I feel that the expenses may have been quite limiting to those who really wanted to attend. In addition, I didn’t see very many attendees of my own age bracket (under 30), and I wasn’t sure if this had to do with monetary reasons, despite the scholarship monies that I discovered are offered but don’t cover all expenses (just as I wouldn’t have been able to afford attending without being able to apprentice and assist the YBIC, yet my work will benefit greatly from it). I would love to see this conference become even more inclusive and intersectional in this way, because this information is certainly not to just be coveted and shared within a small community, it needs to be spread to greater society as well. That being said, it is clear this ASDAH community is making giant strides toward the full enactment of this, and I’m looking forward to attending (perhaps presenting) at the next conference in two years.*
A peek of the conference’s brilliant Saturday morning program (just a small slice of what was offered):
I also got to experience this beautiful full-circle moment with author Judith Matz, after having reviewed her book, Amanda’s Big Dream in my article: Best Children’s Books Promoting Body Positivity, Compassion, Diversity, and Activism.
smiling so hard I can barely see is a sure sign I'm meeting an inspiring soul that I greatly admire – grateful to have met this wonderful author, Judith Matz, of an important children's book included in an article I wrote about for @wearyourvoicemag – as a young girl who ultimately quit gymnastics, dance, volleyball, and softball over the years due to feeling so uncomfortable because of internalized fat phobia that was externalized all around me. Can't wait to share this book with my future children and all of the children I come to work with!
Poster featured at conference: Now this is our kind of “Food Pyramid”!
ASDAH is an international professional organization composed of members committed to the Health At Every Size® (HAES®) Principles. Our mission is to promote education, research, and the provision of services which enhance health and well-being, and which are free from weight-based assumptions and weight discrimination. I believe the quick and completely on point video below, will do better justice to giving full understanding of their principals than my words could:
Melanie Klein, M.A., is a writer, speaker and Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Santa Monica College. She is a contributing author in 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice and is featured in Conversations with Modern Yogis. She is the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery + Loving Your Body and co-founder of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition A body image activist and media literacy advocate, she is the founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Women, Action and the Media, is on the board of Global Girl Media and the Brave Girls Alliance and she has worked with Proud2Bme.org and the National Eating Disorders Association. Her work has been featured at Ms. Magazine, Feministing, Yoga International, Yoga Journal, LA Yoga Magazine, Adios Barbie and Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine.
TIINA VEER, BA RMT RYT, is passionate about simple self-care, making yoga practice more accessible, the intersection of yoga and body politics and an advocate of Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size®. She is on the Leadership Team of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, and the Founder of Yoga for Round Bodies™ and Halcyon Health Clinic in Toronto.
Photographs by author; pictured: Tina Veer (left), Melanie Klein (middle), & Chanelle John (right)
After the conference, I then had the honor of moderating a community conversation at this beautiful yoga space, Akasha Studio, in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston, where we met-up with Chanelle John, who is also a member of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition.
Chanelle is a yoga instructor, race scholar, and wellness educator based in her home city, Boston, MA. Helping bridge yoga’s diversity divide is one of Chanelle’s greatest passions. She can be found teaching yoga at library branches, community centers and nonprofits throughout Greater Boston. In addition to teaching community classes, Chanelle speaks professionally on the topics of yoga, diversity, and racial health disparities. She brings this expertise to her role on the Leadership Team of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. Her writings on these subjects have been featured on the website Decolonizing Yoga, The Yoga and Body Image Coalition’s blog, and on her own website Whole Soul Health.
Of course, no day of conferencing and community meetings would be complete without a little photoshoot at the end – celebrating not just our own activist efforts, but those of the entire Yoga and Body Image Coalition, and humyns like those part of the Association for Size Diversity and Health. Honoring the fact that true yoga isn’t merely represented on the mat, but can be enacted daily in many small or large ways off the mat…
More proof that yogis can have fun too!…and be Intersectional Feminist Activists with resonate hearts and shiny souls.
Special thank you to all involved in making this day and beauteous as it was!