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Dianne Bondy Wants Every Body To Feel Comfortable Practicing Yoga

Wellness
Courtesy of Dianne Bondy

There's no reason yoga should feel like an exclusive space

Dianne Bondy, a yoga teacher and author, has been doing yoga her entire life. She started practicing with her mother at the age of three, in the basement of her childhood home, after her mother came home one day with a book titled Stay Young With Yoga. The 30-minute practice, which typically began with her mother bribing her with a butterscotch lollipop, taught Bondy how to meditate (or, in kid terms, stay still). The rule was that she had to stay quiet until she finished her candy, giving her mother a short daily respite from her three young children.

By practicing yoga at home with her mother and at a community center, which were both "very non-threatening," Bondy grew to love the supportive environment that was fostered. She was under the impression that all yoga practices were like this, with no judgment involved; but, years later, when Bondy decided to visit the most popular yoga studio in her town for a lunchtime ashtanga class, her bubble was promptly burst. After the receptionist gave her a once-over, she blatantly questioned Dianne's ability. "You know this is going to be hard, right?" she asked. What the receptionist didn't know was that Bondy had been practicing her entire life, and probably "longer than [the receptionist had] been alive."

Unfortunately—and ironically, considering yoga's origins—many Americans think of yoga as being a space mainly occupied by thin, white bodies, but not only is that not who Bondy is, it's also definitely not a uniform representation of yoga practitioners. And Bondy has made it her mission to disrupt that understanding. Her philosophy is simple: Yoga is for everyone, including people in bigger bodies, people of varying ethnicity, ability, mobility, and those who have been traditionally excluded from the yoga narrative.

We sat down with her to discuss body acceptance, the power of inclusion, and who yoga is really for.

Do you remember the first time you went to practice at a studio?
I do, because I'm still traumatized. I'm sure I have PTSD from it. I went to, at the time, the most popular yoga studio in town and it was the first time outside of my comfort zone. I was six weeks postpartum, and feeling all kinds of feelings about that. I go up to the front desk, and whoever was signing me in sort of gave me the once-over and says, "You know this is gonna be hard, right?" And I'm like, "I've been practicing this probably for longer than you've been alive."

For them to look at me and make a judgment based on my body kind of set the tone for the rest of the class. It was a lunchtime ashtanga class, so it was very shortened down, and I wasn't familiar with the ashtanga flow—I'd been doing vinyasa and all kinds of other stuff. So the teacher got pretty angry with me pretty quickly because I wasn't keeping up. Had I gone to a vinyasa class or a hatha class I'd probably have been fine, but because I was in an ashtanga class, she was pretty upset with me. It left a pretty bad taste in my mouth and I didn't go back. It was a miserable experience—but, it was fine because it led me to open my own studio. I never wanted anyone to feel that they didn't belong in a class, regardless of what the class might be.

How is your approach to yoga different?
Often, when we go to a yoga studio's website, we're seeing the very athletic, the very flexible, the very able-bodied, the very pretty people doing the yoga practice. But I wanted to show all kinds of people. I'm not saying the other people aren't pretty, but I'm saying that there's an over-representation of one particular body type.

When people would walk into my studio, I'd beg them, "Please please please, can we do a photo shoot? I'll give you a free week." I created T-shirts for everybody… There was this resistance to being photographed while doing yoga because people didn't look like those yoga pictures that we predominantly saw. There was a speech I gave everybody—and still do when I teach. I always tell people, "We are disrupting the constant imagery that is very specific to one group of people and showing the world that yoga looks all kinds of different ways." Because I've had so many people reach out to me and say, "I started practicing yoga because I saw you practicing it, and you have my kind of body." Or, "I started practicing yoga because you broke down this pose for me." So I said, "How amazing would it be if someone saw a picture of you doing your practice, your way, looking however you look in your asana practice, and said to themselves, They look like me, therefore I can do this, too?" So I was very clear about creating forward-facing imagery to disrupt the current imagery that I was seeing based around yoga.

Have you had any pushback?
I have definitely had pushback from "purists." If we want this practice to last forever—I know it's been around for 5,000 years in some capacity, whether that's asana which is relatively new or the philosophy of it which is 5,000 years old—then it has to change with the times. I don't believe that, at any point in the history of yoga, it was designed to be exclusionary, that it was designed for only affluent people, able-bodied people, or only people who are living in India.

I don't pay any attention to the purists. I find that that gets to be very dogmatic, and I'm just not a rigid person. I want to remain flexible and open to the possibility that this is for everyone. And if tradition doesn't allow for that, then fuck tradition.

How would you modify a pose to be accessible for someone?
I always like the idea of moving stuff out of the way during our practice, especially with bigger bodies, because stuff just runs into other stuff. It's okay to gently but lovingly move bellies out of the way, move breasts out of the way. I'll use straps, chairs, books, blocks, anything to help people move.

So, if someone is missing a limb, how do we compensate for that? Do we use a chair? Do we use the wall? For example, I have someone who is really stiff and can't fold forward. So I use the wall, I use blocks so they can put their hands on the wall. There are so many ways we can adapt this practice so that all of humanity feels included, not just a privileged few.

I'm currently doing a 200-hour teacher training, and one of the students is a double-amputee. So, how do I help John around the mat? Sometimes, a bolster gives him the elevation so he can keep up with the traditional asana practice or traditional vinyasa practice.

How did you discover these modifications?
I've been teaching for a very long time, so I've been around the sun a few times. I think, for me, working in a plus-sized body meant that I just had to figure it out. I studied Anusara yoga before it went the way of the Dodo bird, and they gave us great training on anatomy and physiology of the body. Then I could figure out how to negotiate the anatomy.

Also, having people coming to me and saying, "What can I do?" and us figuring it out. If it wasn't for allowing all kinds of people, or making a space to make all people feel safe to come practice, I would have never had the opportunity to work with different kinds of bodies, and that has been the most amazing teacher of all.

What is the most valuable thing that you've learned from practicing yoga?
That we have to be patient with ourselves, that anyone can do it. That we have to be open to hearing people's stories and believing them when they're talking about their experience of being in a yoga class. Because often when people talk about their negative experiences, the reaction is, "Oh I can't believe it! Yoga teachers are supposed to be 'fill in the blanks here.'" But at the end of the day, we're all human.

It's given me a really great lens into humanity and teaching people how to be in their bodies exactly how they are has been the greatest gift.

Do you think we're making progress in terms of representation?
I totally think we are. Five years ago, you and I wouldn't necessarily be having this conversation. We are slowly but surely seeing mainstream yoga outlets bending to the will of the people. We recently saw Yoga Journal put Jessamyn Stanley on the cover, and I really never thought that that would happen. We're seeing all kinds of things happening that weren't happening in as little as five years ago, but we're still stuck in this image of what fitness looks like, what health looks like, and what yoga looks like.

When I scroll through Instagram, I'm seeing anybody and everybody sharing, and I'm grateful to social media for that. I think that's been the biggest catalyst: To no longer have to wait for someone to recognize you, you can recognize yourself, and you have a free platform to share what you've learned with everybody.

Do you consider yourself part of the body acceptance movement?
I do, I hope so! I love it. I'm a little cautious around the phrase "body positivity," because it's been co-opted and has come to mean so many things. It has become quite watered-down, but I am a big fan of body acceptance. We've all been living in this world where we're conditioned to believe that we're not good enough, and that there [are such things as] figure flaws.

Who do you think yoga is for?
Yoga is for all of us. When it first started out, primarily it was for men. That's who dominated the yoga culture for a long time. Now it's shifted to primarily women practicing yoga, which is difficult because men now look at it and go, "Oh, well that's something that women do," when it's not. It's something we can all do and that belongs to all of us. There's value in all kinds of styles of yoga, there's value in all kinds of interpretations of yoga, and it's important that we stay open and flexible to how yoga grows.

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Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes www.youtube.com

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Photo by Rich Polk/ Getty

Her hypocrisy would be mind-blowing if it weren't so predictable

It's been just over two years since Tomi Lahren appeared on ABC's The View to assert that, despite her ultra-conservative bona fides, she holds one position more normally associated with the left wing: She's pro-choice. In that talk show appearance, Lahren made clear then that her pro-choice views were consonant with her self-identification as a "constitutionalist," further explaining:

I am someone that's for limited government. So I can't sit here and be a hypocrite and say I'm for limited government but I think the government should decide what women should do with their bodies." I can sit here and say that as a Republican, and I can say, "You know what? I'm for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well."

Back then, we noted the hypocrisy inherent to that position, since Lahren was an ardent supporter of President Trump—who made no secret of his desire to appoint anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court and other judicial benches—and Vice-President Pence, whose anti-abortion views are even more ardent.

Since Lahren's appearance on The View, she has appeared in the anti-abortion film Roe v. WadeRoe v. Wade, which co-starred fellow execrable conservative troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, and, um, Joey Lawrence. Though the film has not yet been released, it is alleged to contain "several graphic scenes depicting aborted fetuses," and also the acting styles of Jamie Kennedy, so we're not sure for whom it will really be appropriate.

But while Lahren's role in that film would be enough to make anyone question just how committed she is to her alleged pro-choice stance, the recent news about de facto abortion bans in Alabama and Georgia has incited Lahren to speak out about her views once again.

On Twitter, Lahren opened herself up to "attack[s] by [her] fellow conservatives" and spoke out against the Alabama abortion ban as being "too restrictive." And, indeed, her "fellow conservatives" did quickly attack Lahren for not actually caring about human life, and for having too liberal a position on whether or not a woman should be forced to continue a pregnancy that resulted from rape. But then also, as Lahren must have known would happen, other people supported her for... not having one irredeemably monstrous position amongst her arsenal of irredeemably monstrous positions.

But, let's be clear: Tomi Lahren is not—no matter what she tweets—pro-choice, and neither is any supporter of the Republican Party. There is no doubt that there are Republicans who are in favor of safe access to abortion—particularly when it comes to themselves and their family members having said access. But by supporting the Republican Party, they are showing how little it actually matters to them, and showing what it is that they really prioritize over women's safety and freedom: namely, access to guns, bigoted immigration policies, the continued disenfranchisement of voters across the country. I could go on, but there's no need.

Lahren's tweet doesn't reveal in any way that she's an advocate for women's rights, all it reveals is her hypocrisy and that of anyone (Meghan McCain, hi), who would love to have a world created specifically for their needs, and who is willing to sacrifice the rights of the less privileged in order to secure their own. It is despicable and dangerous and incredibly predictable. But, at least, it might give Lahren something to talk about on the red carpet with her fellow anti-abortion movie costars, if that film ever gets more than a straight-to-video release.

If you want to find out how to help women have access to abortion, please visit here for information about donating and volunteering.

Diplo, Vince Staples, and Rico Nasty also appear

Lil Nas X went all out with the visuals for his hit "Old Town Road," tapping all of his newfound collaborators and friends, like Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo, Vince Staples, and Rico Nasty, to star. The movie travels from 1889 Wild Wild West to the modern-day city outskirts, so saddle up and come along for the ride.

As the visuals start, Nas and Cyrus gallop away with a bag of loot, obviously having pulled off a heist. The trio of men on horseback that were in pursuit of them come to a halt, unable to catch up, and Chris Rock—the leader of the group—states, "When you see a Black man on a horse going that fast, you just gotta let him fly." Just as Nas and Cyrus think they're able to relax in stranger's home, it turns out the homeowner isn't so friendly. Nas jumps into a hole to escape, only to end up hundreds of years in the future on the other side.

Forget trying to figure out the logistics of time travel, and just embrace the hilarity of Nas' horse also having wound up there, and in peak racing condition. He impresses the locals not only in the race (with Vince Staples losing money in a bet against him) but with his sweet square dancing skills. Once he and Cyrus (yes, he time traveled too) trade out their old-timey duds for some fresh, rhinestone-adorned outfits, they enter a room playing bingo with Rico Nasty in it. Diplo is playing the washboard, I feel like I'm losing my mind, and this is probably the best music video I've watched this year.

Watch the movie for "Old Town Road" again and again, below.

Lil Nas X - Old Town Road (Official Movie) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus www.youtube.com

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Screenshot via YouTube

They really "don't care" about how this was edited, do they?

Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber used the name of their song as inspiration for the "I Don't Care" music video, and have presented what is essentially a long blooper reel of the pair messing around with a green screen.

The visuals show how dedicated the two are to proving just how much they don't care, because I'm pretty sure they did the editing on this video as well. They dance around in costumes, as an ice cream cone, a panda, a teddy bear, and more. I have a clear vision of Bieber and Sheeran raiding a costume shop just an hour before setting up a tripod and going to town on this one. They also juxtapose their faces on top of a ballerina, a skydiver, and a corn inside the husk.

Blink, and you'll miss the funniest moment of all in the video: Ed Sheeran gets married to a cardboard cutout of a young Bieber with swoopy hair.

Watch the visuals for "I Don't Care" below.

Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber - I Don't Care [Official Video] youtu.be

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Photo by Jena Cumbo

Her new LP, 'Take Me to the Disco,' is her most personal work yet

Meg Myers isn't afraid to admit she's still figuring out who she wants to be. Originally from Tennessee, Myers moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to dedicate her life to her music career. In 2012, she released her first EP, Daughter in the Choir, which set the groundwork for the releases of Sorry (2015) and Take Me to the Disco (2018). Well-known for her poetic lyrics, crude vocals, and cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," the honest singer-songwriter makes a point to tell me that self-acceptance is a process. After listening to her deeply personal LP, Take Me to the Disco, I know she's not wrong.

In the middle of producing her new forthcoming music, the star opens up to NYLON: "I've always been able to channel [more painful moments in life] into my art. Music always stood out to me as the easiest way to capture all the emotions at once in one piece. Music for me is wild and free." It's clear that it is this fearlessness to self-reflect that not only makes her body of work so authentic but also what motivates her to continue to grow.

Below, we speak with Myers about her new music, self-love, and her ever-evolving relationship with creativity.

The Great Eros Pants, Chae New York top, Schutz shoes, and Via Saviene rings. Photos by Jena Cumbo

How did moving to Los Angeles influence the artist you are today?
I feel more safe here. I've been tapping more into my truth and expressing myself on a deeper level here. Growing up, my family was very chaotic, and I never knew what was about to happen. I have four brothers and a sister, and we grew up basically as best friends, making fun out of the chaos and always creating some type of art from it. I've always been able to channel [more painful moments in life] into my art.

Music always stood out to me as the easiest way to capture all the emotions at once in one piece. Music for me is wild and free.

What are some of your biggest influences?
I think all the barbecue and shrimp and grits [in Tennessee] really adds a smokiness to my music.

My queerness gives me a lot of material to create with. It's allowing me to be more playful and not take every little thing so seriously.

Silk Laundry jumpsuit, Wild Vertigga T-shirt, and Nakamol earring.Photo by Jena Cumbo

Tell me about your new music. Why is it different than anything you've ever created?
This EP is going to have a lot of similar vibes to my last album, because I wrote it at the same time with the same producer about a lot of the same struggles and self-discoveries as my past music. I'll share more with you on my third album.

I'm such a fan of your cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill." Why did you gravitate toward that song to cover?
It's such a powerful song! Kate Bush is magic. It's almost like I've been being guided to cover that song for a long time. I don't know how to explain it in words, as they can feel so limiting, and this song is beyond words to me. It's just a deep inner knowing, and it makes my heart flutter.


Chae NewYork blazer; Saku top, The Great Eros bottoms, and Inch2 boots.Photo by Jena Cumbo

Are there any other songs you feel really connected to?
I would love to collaborate with Active Child. The songs "Hanging On" and "Johnny Belinda" are also otherworldly to me. I've been listening to this band called Walk the Moon a lot. I also love Phoebe Bridgers. I have a crush on her. I generally listen to instrumental music and classical. If you look up 432hz music, it's incredibly healing, and solfeggio frequencies have helped me with a lot.

What does self-love mean to you?
It's been a process for me. It's been quite the journey. Right now, I would say [self-love for me] is about accepting myself, and having love for all the experiences that have led me to where I am. It also means being grateful for growth. It's also been about learning to be in the present moment. It's been learning to trust myself and not listening to what others think I need to be doing. As I learn to do this, I also learn how to love others deeper. All this being said, it's a process.

Chae New York blazer and Saku top.Photo by Jena Cumbo

What advice do you have for someone struggling to find happiness right now?
Spend some time in solitude if you can, or with a really safe person who you feel you can express yourself freely with. Find someone who has no expectations of you and is supportive. In that present moment, ask yourself, What feels good to you? What do you feel like doing? Use your imagination. Daydream. Find what it is you enjoy doing. I promise you can unlock magic inside yourself. It just takes patience.

*This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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