As a world-famous yoga instructor and writer for several publications, Kathryn Budig is one of the most widely recognized faces and voices in yoga, but her body has also been the subject of great debate. In 2009, she posed nude for ToeSox ads (below), spurring controversy over the sexualization of women—and body image—in yoga. In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Budig agreed to talk with us about what all of this has taught her about body image and the myth of ‘the yoga body.’
Check out her answers below:
You posed nude for ToeSox ads and your body became the center of huge controversy in yoga; it must take a lot of confidence and courage to put yourself out there like that. Do you ever struggle with body image issues yourself?
I’d say I have way more confidence in my yoga practice and the amazing Jasper Johal (the photographer from ToeSox) than with my body. Yes, I have completely struggled with body image issues. Being regularly profiled in the fitness industry and living in Los Angeles isn’t the healthiest recipe for contentment. I find myself surrounded by people sacrificing their happiness and often health to achieve a certain look that makes them feel acceptable. This is why I’m so careful with the company I keep—my closest friends are remarkably confident and strong women who own their strengths and insecurities. My two dearest friends have both struggled with eating disorders so they keep me in line when I find myself wanting to be the air-brushed version of myself versus the beautiful woman that I already am.
As someone who teaches yoga and writes about food for a living, how do you keep from obsessing over those things in an unhealthy way?
I’ve always loved food—cooking, eating, dining out—basically the entire experience. Sharing and preparing food is a way for me to express my love. So as long as it’s always coming from a place of love it’s hard for me to think in an unheatlhy manner. I strive to eat healthy on a daily basis but I’ve also learned where to draw the line. I believe food is meant to be enjoyed, so if you find yourself out to dinner at a fantastic restaurant—enjoy it! You can go back to kale and quinoa tomorrow, but life is meant to be tasted and enjoyed. I’ve also found that the more rigid I am with my diet the more tense my body becomes and it holds onto weight. My body has looked it’s best when I’m eating healthy but also kicking back and drinking beers. The key is that I’m most beautiful when I’m happy so I work on blending my happiness with a sense of adventure and health.
Yoga now gets marketed as a means to lose weight and make your body look a certain way, which has angered many yogis. Is the idea of the “yoga body” a myth?
I don’t love the idea of yoga being sold as a weight loss tool, but just to be fair—why is it wrong to use yoga to lose weight if it helps you and makes you feel better? We’re all on different paths with different needs and if losing weight is going to bring you more happiness and yoga can get you there, then I say great. I do think the “yoga body” is a myth though only because I’ve seen amazing yogis come in all different shapes and sizes. It goes back to my last answer—I think people are sexiest when they feel happy and confident and yoga can definitely provide that.
On the flip side, do you think yoga can help women avoid eating disorders or recover from disordered eating?