Author: Melanie Klein
Photo by Robert Sturman
Body-positive yoga and the movement to make yoga more accessible for every body has been steadily picking up steam over the last few years. In fact, one could argue it’s trendy and one of the dominant conversations in yoga culture today. Cami Cote, a staunch advocate for living life to one’s fullest potential, has been on the front lines long before the message went mainstream. Cami’s mission is to bust myths about the “yoga body,” share the ways in which yoga can promote body acceptance, and stand tall as a role model.
In fact, Cami’s story proves how important body-positive role models are to newer yogis in exploring and maintaining a consistent yoga practice.
“I started practicing yoga in 2005. I first went to a gentle yoga class, where I found an amazing teacher and mentor. With my first teacher, I was never made to feel less than for having a bigger body, I was always encouraged to push my limits and to grow as a yoga practitioner in a safe way. I can't say that I have never been judged—I sure have—but I show up and do my practice to feel worthy of owning my body, move it in ways that feel good, and feel better about about myself in general.”
What advice does Cami give for those who have never tried yoga or are new to the practice and may feel intimated, unsure, or like they don't fit in?
“Find a teacher that inspires and accepts you for who you are. Investigate what works for your body and then above all show up for your practice—you have to make your self-care a priority. The biggest lesson I have learned is, I can not let others determine my practice. Instead, I have to listen to my body and I allow it lead the way.”
Yoga is the practice that keeps on giving. Listening to your body and connecting to your authentic self through a personal practice is a liberating gift in a culture that constantly tries to convince us we’re not enough. And taking our journey deeper through exploring the many nuances of a practice only provides new opportunities to nurture, heal, and restore.
“Initially, when I started practicing, it was all about the physical body. As I practiced more, I realized the benefit yoga was having on my mind and heart. After a life-changing achilles tendon rupture in 2015 (I was not doing yoga when it ruptured), I had to let go of my physical practice while I was healing. During that time I found solace in my other practices like mantra and meditation. As soon as I could, I started doing restorative yoga and then gentle yoga. I took almost a year off from teaching to heal and to explore myself in a deeper way. Now that I'm healed from my injury, I don't feel the need to be as physical in my practice as I used to be. I honor my body in a deeper way, I listen to it, breathe with it, and find that sweet spot in my practice.”
Cami proves that yoga bodies come in all shapes and sizes and that yoga is just as unique and diverse as those who practice it. What’s Cami’s take on her place at the forefront of the movement and the ways in which yoga culture is changing?
“Eleven years ago, I was embraced by my yoga community and thankfully, no one told me I couldn’t practice or teach yoga. Today, I like seeing the body-positive movement evolve—and not just for curvy practitioners, but all body types. I have always thought that collectively the more people practicing yoga, the better it is for our world.”
What inspires Cami to share her mission of compassionate self-acceptance and self-care with the wider community?
“My students inspire me to be my best self. Their love, enthusiasm, and acceptance of me as their teacher is inspiring! I draw inspiration from my body—it needs to practice to function. I have always credited yoga as what keeps me walking!”
In addition to sharing a different woman’s story with you each week, we’re also going to be featuring ALL women who are participating in the initiative by tagging their posts with #everybodybends and #whatayogilookslike. Tag @gaiam and @ybicoalition to also be entered for a chance to win a free swag bag with loot from the Gaiam collection and literature from the Yoga & Body Image Coalition, and to possibly have your content reposted.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Contest begins 7:00am MST on 10/24/16 and ends 11:59pm MT 12/16/16. Open to legal residents of the U.S. & D.C., 18+. Void where prohibited. Subject to official rules available on contest page. Sponsored by Gaiam Americas, Inc., 833 W. South Boulder Road, Louisville, CO 80027. For more information, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
AUTHOR BIO: Melanie Klein, M.A., is a writer, speaker, and professor of sociology and women’s studies at Santa Monica College. She is the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery + Loving Your Body (Llewellyn, 2014) with Anna Guest-Jelley, a contributor in 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice (Horton & Harvey, 2012), is featured in Conversations with Modern Yogis (Shroff, 2014), a featured writer in Llewellyn's Complete Book of Mindful Living (Llewellyn, 2016) and co-editor of the new anthology, Yoga, the Body and Embodied Social Change: An Intersectional Feminist Analysis with Dr. Beth Berila and Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016). She co-founded the Yoga and Body Image Coalition in 2014.