“Baptiste Power Yoga is designed to be accessible to all and all are welcome in this class. Be ready to step up to the edge--wherever that is--and go for it!”
Teaching yoga and building community started five years ago in Meg’s garage as she began teaching friends and neighbors the Baptiste Power Yoga method while she trained all over the continent with Baron Baptiste himself. After outgrowing her garage she stepped out to her personal edge, took a leap of faith, and opened her own yoga studio.
Building community with her clients is one of the hallmark components of her practice as well as “empowering others to shine bright,” as Meg says. “Sometimes we have to peel off the layers but this practice that we do helps us renew our physical vitality, and the work we do through inquiry and meditation helps us fire up any places we are feeling stuck, so that we can get out there and live big.”
Another vital component for Meg, and the Baptiste style of yoga, is what she termed “True North Alignment.” She describes the true north concept as “a whole system of where to put what body part to get what’s true to your body”. And, she assures us, this works the same when we’re upside down.
Baron’s father Walt founded Baptiste Yoga and Baron continued and evolved the practice after learning from Iyengar, Krishnamacharya and Desikachar, and other well-known yoga practitioners who were big influences for him. This style has three elements of the practice: asana, meditation, and self- inquiry with emphasis on personal growth and transformation of the student. “Baron took eastern poses and blended it with western methodology of empowerment and community and came up with this heated flow that takes people up against their edge and leaves them in their greatness," as Meg describes this style of power flow.
Although there is a sequence that is common no two classes are the same since instructors are taught to teach to what is right in front of them-to whomever shows up to be taught. She wants beginner students in her classes to feel welcome. That’s no different in this workshop which is appropriate even if you’ve never gone upside down in a yoga class before. “I want people to leave this workshop having been empowered. Typically that means having faced their fear.”
Meg, her husband, and young family all practice yoga, even her toddler. “I love going upside down! I practiced inversions all through my pregnancy. I did a handstand right before I delivered my baby.” They are an active family and whether it's coaching their kids' teams or running them from place to place Meg is inspired by her own practice. “I have to be okay with being in the flow and I really need yoga to help me find balance. I take time to take short meditations even if it’s only a few minutes.”
The defining aspect of yoga for Meg, though, goes back to integrity. “If there is one thing that is at the foundation of the practice it is integrity, that is, for example, in our practice, standing in our true north, aligning our body in a particular way, and also standing in what we believe, what we stand for, who we stand for, that can be really freeing for people when they walk out of the studio, to be aligned with what they stand for.”
"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.
Karen Kramer is a yoga instructor and festival blogger.