Friday, April 24, 2015

Hooray for fat yoga!

When I put on 50 pounds (23 kilos) between the fall of 2012 and the summer of 2013, I didn't know if that weight was here to stay or not, but now it's starting to come off. It's probably similar to a woman who puts on 50 pounds while pregnant, and then finally starts to lose them. It's a relief, but it also just feels like going back to the way things are supposed to be. When you don't carry the extra weight for long, weight loss can just feel like returning to normal. Below is a photo of me taken last week. For a photo of me taken in August 2013, go here.

13 April 2015
I didn't spend a lot of time at my highest weight, but one of my favorite forms of exercise is yoga and when I hit size 18, it got much harder to take my weekly yoga class. Even after I pointed out to the trim instructor that I couldn't bend the way she did, she offered no modified poses for me. There was no way I could do her moves because my stomach was in the way (and for the most part, it still is), but Jessica disappointed me. When I asked how I might make the poses work for my chubby body, she began giving me advice on losing weight. It was insulting and completely disregarded the question I was asking. It's interactions like that that make people think things like "skinny bitch."

Yoga instructors must accommodate the fat people in their classes, especially in a beginner class, which Jessica's was. It's alienating and rude not to give modified pose options when there are people whose bodies just don't bend the way the instructor's does.

I appreciate very much yoga studios that not only accommodate fat people, but focus on us, so I love the title of this New York Times article They're Not Afraid to Say It: 'Fat Yoga.' The Fat Yoga studio in Portland, Oregon gives fat people the opportunity to enjoy the relaxation and invigoration of yoga without feeling like we don't belong. Check out the article for places that offer fat yoga in other cities.

At these studios the instructors are fat, the students are fat and everyone gets a chance to feel the invigoration of stretching, breathing and fully inhabiting your body in a relaxed way. Unlike every other yoga class I'd ever taken, the fat yoga class I took involved absolutely no ego. We weren't there to hit every pose perfectly. We were there to give ourselves permission to simply enjoy being in our bodies. The instructor told us that in her personal yoga practice, sometimes she moved through poses and sometimes it was all she could do to just lie in corpse pose (flat on your back) and try to coax her body into releasing its tension. She was very matter-of-fact about the goal being to relax and accept yourself just as you are. While I'd heard a variation on that idea in conventional yoga classes, it was in the fat yoga class that it felt most sincere. 

What I like about fat yoga is that unlike in other yoga classes, the teacher doesn't come around and push you into the pose or make comments about how "well" someone is doing a stretch. You're all just there to give yourselves permission to fully be in your bodies. There's a Buddhist view: start where you are. I think fat yoga classes practice that approach better than any other yoga classes.

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