Yoga for Elephants

Laurent de Brunhoff, the son of Babar creator Jean de Brunhoff, wrote BABAR’S YOGA for Elephants. Originally published in 2002, the book provides step-by step instructions on yoga asanas (poses) and shows how yoga can be used in daily life and travels.

Using Babar to show various poses breaks the western stereotype that you must be tall and slim to practice yoga. Even though Babar is a cartoon figure, it allows a person who carries weight to consider that their body could possibly move through flows and practice the meditative effects of yoga.

Given that this was written over 15 years ago, de Brunhoff was ahead of his time. The image of yoga in North America is only now starting to show a representative image of the practice. Just scroll through the cover pages of Yoga Journal on the Toronto Public Library website. Almost all of the covers involve a female model, skinny, and generally blonde.

Until the January 2019 issue with Jessamyn – in her words, “a black fatty who doesn’t hate themselves on the cover of one of the whitest magazines”. Why is this significant? She is representing a large portion of the yoga-practicing nation. People can relate to her.

The classes I teach are a representation of this forgotten group. I have people doing chair yoga, individuals that use walkers and canes, two participants in wheelchairs, various replacement parts (e.g. hip/knee), the usual stress related aches and pains … and they all range in body size, race, gender and age. Sadly, Yoga Journal didn’t run Jessamyn’s cover on all the copies and did half of the issues with another typical model. I don’t know anyone who can recreate the cover on the right (or would want to!).

Yoga for Elephants | | #everybody #yoga #accessible

I admit that I read Yoga Journal, they do have some good articles and can help me with my teaching and personal practice. BUT and this is a big BUT, it is the imagery that they promote that stopped me from doing this for YEARS. Why would someone like me (aka not a size 2) ever go and become a yoga instructor? I have a hard enough time with the criticism I get for being a fitness instructor and that doesn’t require becoming a pretzel and being graceful at the same time.

The promotion of this imagery also means that many in the general population think that “good” instructors or “real” instructors have to look like the cover of the magazine. I have been told (more than once) by a participant that I had no right to be teaching, that I was a disgrace to the industry, and that I couldn’t motivate anyone since I’m fat. Well, I’ve been doing this for 20 years – that is why. I have worked hard to achieve, maintain and add to my certifications including my canfitpro Fitness Instructor Specialist and East to West Yoga 200hr Certified teacher. And I believe that I can help.

Why can’t we promote that EVERY BODY and EVERYBODY can practice fitness & yoga and we can do it anywhere? Going back to Babar’s Yoga for Elephants, he gracefully practices yoga on the subway, in the park, at the airport, and in front of international treasures like the Eiffel Tower. In the end, most people want to feel better and have a nicer spirit. It doesn’t matter how we look when we are doing it. I’m proud to be the graceful elephant inspiring others.


In the comments, please share your thoughts on media imagery or making yoga accessible! And remember to follow us and SPROUT a conversation on Twitter – @sproutbalance – and Facebook!

Looking for some ideas on recipes, organization or things to do with your Lil Sprout? Come check out my Pinterest page and the things that inspire me to become more balanced.

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