"I think the biggest step to self-confidence is learning to love yourself and finding contentment in who you are just as you are. You don't need to change who you are for anyone." - Dianne Bondy
by Karen Kramer, DY&OF blogger
Dianne Bondy is an internationally recognized yoga instructor and social justice activist. She is considered the leading voice of the Yoga For All movement and spokesperson for diversity in yoga and yoga for larger bodies. She has become the advocate for countless people who didn't feel they had a place in the yoga community. Her inclusive views and teaching methods are for all people who wish to be a part of the yoga world regardless of their shape, size, ethnicity, or level of ability.
It's hard not to see what Dianne is doing since she has become one of the rising stars in the industry. She is a respected teacher and advocate in workshops, trainings, online videos, and her prolific writing, as seen in her contributions to many publications including Yoga International, Do You Yoga, and Elephant Journal, and published work in the books: Yoga and Body Image, and Yes Yoga Has Curves. She is featured and profiled in international media outlets such as The Guardian, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, and People to name a few.
Her resume in advocacy continues with her collaboration with Pennington’s, Gaiam, and the Yoga & Body Image Coalition. She is the founder and CEO at Dianne Bondy Yoga, Inc., Yogasteya online yoga classes and community, and Yoga For All Online Trainings. She conducts yoga retreats, workshop presentations, and has many public speaking events throughout the year
We are so excited for Dianne will bring her dynamic energy to this year's festival as a major presenter! Dianne will conduct an all-day intensive on Friday; “Making Yoga Accessible; The Art and Science of Teaching Accessible Yoga Classes to Different Populations” for 5 CEUs, two sessions on Saturday; “How to Serve Your Students – The Power to Serve!”, and “The Path to Empowerment: Body Acceptance, Body Love, and Body Equity.” She will also teach a Sunday session; “Yoga, Body Image and Social Justice.” These workshops are not to be missed!
Dianne had a few minutes in her demanding schedule to answer some questions about her work as a “yoga for all” trailblazer. Her answers are so inspiring that I’m sure you will be just as excited about meeting her and learning what you can from this celebrated teacher.
"I am so encouraged (especially during these times) that there are disruptors and agitators who are showing society, media, and spaces of yoga that yoga should be inclusive and be used as a tool for uniting us, instead of dividing." - Dianne Bondy
Many consider you a “trailblazer” in the yoga industry. You’ve welcomed in people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and abilities, opened doors to yoga that people felt unwelcomed in until you made it ok. Do you see yourself as a trailblazer? Who or what inspired you? Did you have a role model that helped shape your message, style and mission as a teacher?
I do love the idea of blazing a trail for people to find and follow. I think all of us do that in some aspects of our lives. I was just really tired of being the only fat, black person at yoga and I felt that so many people were missing out because of this limited stereotype of what yoga looked like. I was ready to introduce it to more people which is why I took teacher training. I wanted to make this practice more accessible in every way; physically, spiritually, financially and locally. I am inspired by anyone who isn’t ashamed to put themselves out there. I was influenced by my mother who introduced me to the practice, my yoga teacher Linda Makowski of Namaste Yoga in Royal Oak who created a very inclusive space which I really felt at home, and Betsey Downing who taught me the value of progressive teaching. One of the very first plus sized yoga teachers I encountered was Anna Guest Jelley. Her unapologetic practice illustrated to me that there were more curvy, large and plus sized bodies that needed yoga. Her work continues to inspire me as well as Michael Hayes of Buddha Body Yoga, and Amber Karnes of Body Positive Yoga.
You have published many articles and done many interviews, workshops, videos…is it the yoga industry that recognized the need for your message or is it the many people who wanted to practice yoga but felt unwelcome who have finally found an advocate in the yoga industry?
Maybe a little of both. There are lots of people doing this amazing work and have been doing it for almost 10 years. It is so nice to see it finally take hold. Nothing before it’s time, right? I think lots of people have been feeling left out of the practice and are now happy to see representation on the mat. When we use our power to stand up we invite others to do the same. I think using our images and our voices have emboldened the movement towards body positivity. It is important that we all have a seat at the table.
What was the driving force behind creating Yogasteya.com? (Yogasteya.com is the online yoga studio and community designed, developed, and managed by Dianne, dedicated to creating diversity and affordability in yoga which offers classes for all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and levels of ability.)
Yogasteya started out as a way to extend my studio offerings to my students outside of studio hours and it grew into a place where we could create accessible yoga. It is where the Yoga for All movement began. Yogasteya features lots of different bodies doing yoga. When we started Yogasteya.com in 2012 the imagery around yoga was not as diverse as it was today. I wanted to be alternative.
What does your personal practice look like today?
My practice varies from super gentle to very vigorous. Currently, I have been practicing every day since October as a way to gauge how my body feels and what changes I see in my personality and my overall mood--and it has been amazing on all fronts! I am inspired by my body’s ability to do what it can do and to heal and grow. The body really is a miracle when you think about it. I am thrilled with my practice and I learn from my injuries.
Are there more changes that you would like to see in the yoga world?
Publications being held accountable for the harm they do to the culture of yoga by tokenizing certain bodies. I would love to see mainstream yoga media make a real effort to be diverse and inclusive. I would like to see studio culture become more connected to expanding the practice outside its walls to underserved populations. I would like to see body image taught as part of the Yoga Alliance 200 hour requirements.
I’d love to get a preview of what your “Yoga, Body Image and Social Justice” workshop on Sunday is about. Can you give a description?
I believe that together we rise, and together we create positive change. I want people to open their minds to yoga as a tool of exploration into the power of social change. Body image is powerful and our society’s grasp on body image determines that certain bodies have more rights and privileges than others. Certain bodies get better access to justice, education, wellness and experience a more desirable life. I love to talk about the connection between body image, equality and equity and the power of the yoga practice as a vehicle for shifting consciousness.
What are you most proud of in your career so far? What are you looking forward to?
The Yoga For All training online course that I teach with Amber Karnes. I LOVE training teachers, watching them grow, finding themselves, and changing yoga culture and the world. I am looking forward to teaching more courses on empowerment.
We have changed the name of the festival to include “Oneness”, the Dubuque Yoga and Oneness Festival. Do you have any thoughts about the concept of oneness in your yoga philosophy or in general that you would like to share?
Oneness signifies that we are all in this together and when one of us rises we all rise. I am hoping the world will begin to celebrate what make us different but embrace what makes us the same. I am excited for the exploration of unity that yoga teaches us!
Join Dianne at the 2017 Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival! Click HERE for more information about the weekend schedule and HERE for registration information. Check out her website for more information, https://diannebondyyoga.com, at yogasteya.com, and yogaforall.com for more information about her online teacher training.
by Karen Kramer, Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival Blogger
Welcome to the 2017 Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival! We are so excited to celebrate another festival filled with great presenters, awesome yoga, and connection with like-minded people. We are especially delighted about the evolution of this event to include the element of ONENESS…We Are One!
Scott and Julia Theisen are owners of Body & Soul Wellness Center and Salon Spa, founders of Heart-Centered Yoga Teacher Training & Personal Transformation in Dubuque, and are the visionaries and co-producers of the festival. It’s evident that their commitment to building safe and sacred community, celebrating diversity, and trusting divine inspiration has been their guiding force. As Julia points out, the festival began as a clear message that “just dropped in” in the early morning hours in the fall of 2014. She knew it was the right thing to do as several big names, like Sadie Nardini and Max Strom, seamlessly came on board as festival presenters.
Now, in this third year, the Theisens felt that divine guidance was asking them to “play a little bigger” as Scott described it, and “be a bigger source of light”. Recently, I had a chance to talk to them about the focus for the 2017 festival. The couple discussed the importance of “oneness” and how they were inspired to rename the event the Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival.
What does the term “oneness” mean? How did it become a part of the yoga festival name?
Scott: “Our definition of oneness is the energy of love that connects everything and everyone. It lies within each of us and connects us to each other.”
Julia: “We have always had the very strong component of ‘sangha’ at the festival which means “safe, sacred community”. Sangha and oneness intersect completely. Sangha really is a deep expression of love. We knew that we would dedicate this year’s festival to the theme of “oneness” and felt guided that we needed to make it a very explicit part of the name.”
Scott: “This feels like more of a reflection of who we are and what we’re about. We have always been dedicated to personal transformation. Now the Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival incorporates personal growth beyond yoga. It empowers and welcomes in those people who are interested in the opportunity to experience powerful personal and spiritual growth and to raise consciousness. The yoga festival has always been about celebrating diversity and being inclusive no matter what the experience level, age, color, or size. Now, with this expanded view, we are drawing in those who never thought that a yoga festival was for them.”
Julia: “There are even yoga practitioners who don’t see themselves as one who could go to a yoga festival. It’s an eye-opener for people drawn into the experience to realize that this yoga festival truly is for everybody! Everyone belongs and it’s right for all yogis and everybody interested in personal transformation…and maybe the people who come for the personal growth will try a bit of yoga.”
How will we see “oneness” represented at the festival this year?
Julia: “It’s represented in who we ask to be a part of the event. It starts with the conversations that we have with them and everyone who will be involved in any way. Several of our yoga presenters will teach sessions built around the concept of oneness, and there will be at least one workshop per session regarding this theme. The concept and intention is in our website and it’s a part of all our information. Then everyone involved will naturally hold this vibration of love—sangha and oneness—so those who decide to come to the festival are tapping into that energy. With this great vibe there is an expansion of light. We will feel that at the festival and then we all take that back with us from the event. Really, nothing else needs to happen!”
Scott: “At the festival we will embrace and embody oneness and sangha through the sessions offered, the entertainment, and the opening and closing ritual. They all serve to elevate that energy. In some ways, it seems separation has taken center stage in our world right now. We can come together and celebrate our diversity as a community. We can celebrate our connection. All people belong and are welcome. Part of the draw is that you can come and be with like-minded people who are committed to oneness and living more compassionately and being more aware. We believe there is an awakening happening-- of realizing our oneness-- and this festival is an expression of that. “
Be a part of the awakening. Early bird registration begins January 11 through March 1, 2017. Like our website, join us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates and announcements of presenters beginning December 26th. We are one!
Karen Kramer is a yoga instructor and festival blogger.