I’m a yoga teacher and I’m fat. I know some people think that it doesn’t go together and wonder, is it possible to be fat and do yoga? I’m here to tell you YES!
***This post was inspired by the beautiful and brave Anna Rosenblum Palmer and her post I Can’t Quite Get My Arms Around It — What Fat Feels Like.
First, let’s remember that yoga isn’t about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down. (A lot of people have said this, including me in a yoga class and I can’t find a specific person to attribute it to.) Many people come to yoga for the yoga butt and stay for what they learn about themselves. Of course, there are some that only stay for the yoga butt or the competitiveness to do every pose perfectly. That’s not yoga, that’s gymnastics.
When I first found yoga, I was 200 pounds and had just quit smoking. I wasn’t there to lose weight or get a yoga butt. I was there because I wanted my breath back. Along the way, I found a calmer me—which was amazing. I also gained confidence and strength, all of which led to losing weight as I started hiking and learned how to cross country ski. When I took my yoga teacher training, I was curvy, not skinny and I didn’t want to be skinny. I liked my curves, my big hips and strong thighs.
But over the years, injuries (not from yoga) started to interfere with my practice. Then an opportunity to work full-time interfered with teaching. And slowly, yoga and hiking became a sometime thing and the weight crept back. And I’d like to say that it’s ok, but it’s not. And not for the reasons you might think. How I look depends on my confidence not on whether I’m fat or skinny—that I got from yoga. No, instead of looks, I’m concerned about how my body feels with the excess weight, the strain I’m putting on my heart (hey, I’m in my 50’s, not my 30’s.) I’m concerned about how my knees and ankles feel, carrying the weight around. And I’m concerned that I spent so much time trying to regain my breath and I need to find it yet again.
And now, with injuries from a car accident still interfering, yoga is harder than it ever was. I know I can do yoga when I’m fat, but can I still be a yogini if I can’t bend my knee into lotus or pigeon pose? How about if I can’t stand in Mountain or the Warrior poses? The answer is still YES! Because yoga isn’t about the pose, it’s never been about the pose. For me, it’s about why I came to yoga in the first place. Yoga is where I came heal myself. And that is why I need to come back to yoga again, to heal. It doesn’t matter that my knee won’t allow me to get down on the floor to do seated poses, I can use a chair. And even if my back won’t allow me to do standing poses for very long, I’ll do them as long as I can. And I will focus on my breath. It’s time to heal.
Why did you come to yoga? Why do you stay?
****If you don’t believe that yoginis can be large and beautiful, I dare you to gaze upon the awesome beauty that is Jessamyn Stanley, yoga teacher. Or check out Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga. Both beautiful women, doing beautiful yoga.