Dianne Bondy Interview
Photos: ZISHAN ALI
I have been inspired by and admired how transparent and authentic she was when speaking about the lack of diversity and inclusivity in yoga spaces. As a curvy woman, I often stand out as the largest in yoga spaces. According to the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, “The average size of an American woman is now between 16 and 18,” so why is the size reflected in media closer to a 2-4? I had to thank Dianne for being a voice for us curvy women of color and being an advocate for us being seen.
What led you to become so outspoken about the lack of inclusivity and representation in yoga spaces?
Honestly, I was just really tired of seeing no one like me in yoga classes and wondering why. I was really disappointed with the front desk staff and yoga teachers treating me like an anomaly. I decided to speak out.
How were you introduced to yoga and when did you realize you wanted to become a yoga instructor?
My mother introduced me to yoga when I was three. She needed to manage her stress of having three children under the age of four. We learned from a book together. I have always been active. I was a fitness instructor in the ‘90s. Introducing my students to yoga seemed like a natural progression.
One of my early memories on my yoga journey was always being a larger body in classes where women were a size 2-4 max. What was your experience having a larger body in the yoga spaces?
I can truly identify! I always felt like the big brown spot in the room. I was often ignored in the yoga space. Yoga spaces felt very white and not very welcoming for a long time. In some cases, they still don’t feel welcome or accessible.
How do you feel the climate of yoga has changed in relation to inclusivity over the last 10 years?
It’s changed. We are seeing more pushback against exclusion and keeping yoga spaces white. We are also seeing non-white teachers and practitioners open their own spaces.
Have you noticed a change in the students who register for your YTT?
Not really, this seems slow to change.
On social media I love to share posts showing different sized yoga teachers. Do you think students have a misconception about curvier teachers?
Yes, there is definitely a yoga body narrative led by European beauty standards. Curvy or non-white teachers are thought of as less qualified and less yogic.
You have been open about your wellness journey. Can you share a little about it with our readers?
Almost four years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic illness of hyperthyroidism, also known as Graves’ disease. It went undiagnosed for almost a year. It began as a dramatic weight loss that I had no control over as well as extremely high blood pressure and heart issues.
My endocrinologist fat-shamed me and asked if I wanted to treat it because I was losing weight. I asked him how he would feel If I had a heart attack? because that was imminent if this goes untreated. Along with bulging eyes, loss of muscle strength and memory function, I felt horrible and I wanted to feel better.
I changed doctors and added holistic treatments to my regimen. I knew my body could heal itself if I had the right tools. I added more fitness elements to my life to manage my blood pressure and made sure I did yoga and meditation every day. My disease is currently in remission.
How has your personal practice and teaching changed as a result of your wellness journey?
I don’t take anything for granted. I make my yoga and joyful movement practices a priority.
How has your experience been straddling the world in different sizes?
It’s been difficult. I feel sometimes I am letting the body-positive, fat-positive community down because I physically take up less space. But, I also think it gives me a keenly unique perspective on all the issues we have with body image and body positivity. I can speak to how society treats you differently.
Many of us, myself included, send negative energy to our bodies through our thoughts. What lessons do you have for us in how to make peace with our bodies?
Try to remember all the incredible ways your body shows up for you without you even asking it to. Remember your body is thousands of years of evolution and ancestry designed just for you. And finally, your body is the only vehicle you have to experience life. It deserves your respect more than your criticism.
What is next for you?
I will continue to disrupt, speak up, call in and call out injustice. I will fight for equality and equity until I die.