A Fat Girl and Yoga
By Kyla Palin
Yoga isn’t supposed to fill you with rage and self-loathing right?
That thought, as it flashed through my mind, was the end of the line for me with my love affair with yoga. For a while.Let me set the stage for you. I’m curvy. Plump. Round. Luscious. Fat. They’re just words. For the most part I don’t let it bother me. Since I was a teenager and hormones gave me hips and boobs, I’ve been struggling with my size. While I was pregnant with my first, and I was eating for two, I ate as if the tiny baby inside me was a full grown adult. I believed everyone who said it was ok and natural to gain that much weight. I gained even more with my second. Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming my kids for making my body this way, because assigning “blame” makes it sound as if my body is wrong.
So despite being larger-than-average, I have always had a decent sense of self. Until I shop for jeans, but that’s a whole other story right there! I’ve always tried to stay active when my mom-schedule allows. So when I found a yoga class near my home with classes that worked within that schedule, I happily signed up for twice a week classes. And for a year, I reveled in the practice. I challenged myself, sweated, ached and loved every moment of it. I’d never really “gotten” the spiritual side of yoga, I thought that was hokum. But I opened my mind and tried it, and I was amazed at the change in my mood and attitude. I was hooked. I even got a lovely lotus flower tattoo on my back.
The studio hired a new teacher. He was fairly newly certified, so I was willing to try him out. I wasn’t sure about his style, as it was less…..let’s say kind…than my other teachers were. It may have been the style of yoga, but it was very pose-centred and picky about posture. That was fine by me, I had been practicing for a year and loved trying new styles. But there was something I couldn’t put my finger on, and I left that first class feeling frustrated.
The second class with him, I was in tears during sayvasana. This restorative meditation was only bringing up an intense self-loathing, and a feeling that I wasn’t good enough. What? I drove home that night in tears.
I gave it one final shot. And I was mindful of how I felt through the class and I pinpointed what was happening. He was very fit, very excited about yoga, and loved to show us the full expression of every pose. There were five others in the class, who were very fit, very excited about yoga, and able to do the full expression of every pose.
Then there was me.
I’m carrying a lot of fat in my midsection. This makes certain poses difficult or impossible to achieve without modification or props. I have bad knees, so I avoid squatting poses or kneeling for too long. I have bad toes, and so on. I know I’m not the only yogi who has injuries or other issues, but I was the only one in *that class*. He didn’t know how to teach me. He acted as if I embarrassed him. If it was a pose I was unfamiliar with, I would ask for a modification, and only after he made sure all the other students were comfortable, he would come to me, give me some half-baked modification and then immediately move to the next pose.
Not good enough. Not good enough. Not good enough.
The chant echoed in my head through the final corpse pose, and I left the class in tears again. On my drive home I decided never to go back to his class.
Now I wish I had confronted him. Talked to him and the studio owner about what I need, and how he could have helped me. Instead I walked away from something I loved. I am certain it was only his ignorance of how to make his class more inclusive that created that atmosphere, and I regret not helping him realize it.
Today I’ve just finished the fourth consecutive day of practicing yoga. I’ve finally picked up my practice again, and I feel like I can breathe again. I’ve found a new studio, with accepting nurturing teachers. But more than that, I’ve decided not to let anyone else dictate how I feel about myself. I regret not speaking up before, but I will speak up from now on. My body is too precious to let it down like that again.
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