Dana Falsetti is a yoga teacher, writer and public speaker. She’s also a thought leader, forward-thinking encourager and social advocate.
‘Confidence, authenticity, critical thinking, body justice, inclusivity and awareness are just a few of the values that this mighty yoga practitioner is passionate about both embodying and sharing with others’. Meet Dana.
Having won the 2017 Shorty Award for Health and Wellness on Social Media, Dana has also been included in numerous ‘most inspiring’ lists for her work in making yoga as accessible as possible and continuing to embolden others to live intentionally and authentically, whatever their shape or size.
Dana Falsetti has been an inspiration to so many yogis, including myself, and I was excited to be offered the opportunity of interviewing her during her recent visit to London to deliver a series of Body Positive Workshops at Triyoga.
How did your yoga journey start?
I started practising yoga about 6 years ago. I was initially drawn to yoga after a year of my (last) attempt to lose a significant amount of weight for the sake of my happiness. I found myself in a smaller body, still miserable, and unable to understand why assimilating didn’t give me the satisfying feeling I was looking for. My yoga practice started as an exacerbation of the same patterns I had been stuck in my whole life, but eventually brought me towards peace with my body and self through both embodying who I am and through expanding my perspectives.
How did yoga help you to heal from your eating disorder?
I’ve shifted away from even labelling what I used to experience as an eating disorder, recognising it was always a result of disordered thinking and not something innately wrong with me. Ultimately, it was a shifting of my thoughts that shifted my relationship with food and not the other way around. Yoga helped by giving me the space to appreciate my body for simply being what it is – a home for me. But it took a true dedication to learning and to unlearning to shift my thinking about food. We hyper-focus on it as we do fatness. Rather than hold onto complexes and beliefs that tie moralism to what I eat or how I eat, I allow my relationship with my body and with eating to be intuitive and pleasure-driven as I do the rest of my life.
What was the reaction to your body not been deemed a typical ‘yoga body’?
In the beginning, I was just grateful to be seen. But there is plenty to dissect in why I gained the visibility I did and why the world is obsessed with defying the familiar. 5 years later, I’ve been tokenised to no end, but allowed it for the sake of representation. My body is not one that is valued the same way others are. My body is not one that is seen through the same lens others are. My body is not one you’re used to seeing in a variety of contexts: as strong, in a yoga class, etc. The shock value is kind of hilarious to me. Of course, we know yoga is for everybody. The fact that it needs to be seen to be believed is an innate problem, a microcosm of a macrocosm, in why we think the way we do.
What do you think about how the body positive movement has increased in popularity and how it is no longer representing the individuals who founded the movement?
Body positivity was created by fat Black femmes, for the most marginalised – as a statement for acceptance and to carve out a safe space to exist and be seen. Like anything, including yoga, it has now been commodified and with that comes consumption and the notion that we should all be allowed to consume equally. I see over and over again those who do not experience marginalisation for their bodies claiming the spotlight in the body positive movement. In fact, we see over and over those in privileged bodies inflicting further harm towards those who are marginalised in the name of peace, of body love, and more. What the mainstream masses miss (what I missed a year ago) is that fighting for their personal freedom to love their bodies is not the point, but rather, we need to be dismantling all oppression at its root to free all of us. That, and body positivity in its intended form (fat positive, intersectional), is not about learning to love our bodies but to make statements about the violence inflicted upon those who do not fit the cishet, white, able bodied normative society we live in. Lastly, with the consideration of how privilege functions, not all of us are equally safe in claiming love for our bodies.
What is there not enough of in yoga?
Representation, the other 7 limbs, de-centring the body, access.
What is there too much of in yoga?
Asana, capitalism, elitism, and an adherence to oppressive structures.
How can we use yoga as a cause for change?
Take the time to analyse what asana is doing for you and recognise some back-pedalling may be in order. Learn the foundation of the Yamas and Niyamas beyond things like veganism and love and light. Recognise that yoga cannot be separated from social justice and that both are practices that require our commitment to change and grow.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
I don’t like taking advice or giving it – but I’ll give you something I’ve learned through my recent dedication to therapy. We are pleasure-driven beings and we have mostly forgotten how to be in tune, to be intuitive. Pleasure is a valid priority. Doing what feels right is OK. Knowing others won’t understand is part of the process. Boundary setting is important work that must be done before we can do much else without it being precarious. And lastly, it’s all well and good to find acceptance for ourselves, but it cannot be done without the kind of self-examination that lends to accountability in how our existence impacts others.
Thank you, Dana, for sharing your wisdom and experience with us.