Sure, yoga can be relaxing, but let’s be real. In its very essence of purpose yoga can cause a total mental shitfest, before the calm. And this is good. In this article from XOJane, Catherine Lafuente shares her experience of being an overweight yogi, echoing the internal battle many of us have in our mind about our bodies, and adds to it the challenges she faces with obesity to “settle on being the only person in the room who can’t touch their toes and heels together” and to ultimately find acceptance on and off the mat.
I have to work really hard at being OK with my fatness. It’s a daily mantra for me, like it is for so many of us. I would say that it is pathetic that I have to consciously tell myself that I have worth, that I have a Master’s degree (and that means something), that I am good at my job (I work at a rehab, you should hear my Xanax voice), that my husband enjoys having sex with me (even though I was 40 pounds lighter when he married me), and that I am a worthy human being. Fat shaming has really fucked me up.
It’s clear, I struggle to find value in myself that is not weight related. But I make conscious attempts to love myself in spite of my nagging, shithead brain that tells me I suck 24-7.
Of all the styles of yoga, Catherine chose one of the most unforgiving: Bikram. Mirrors to stare at yourself (or others), hot temps that make you sweat bullets and your clothing cling like a second skin and a regimented script that requires you to do the poses as instructed (ie. “Toes and heels touching. Lock your knees.”) But, it works.
But when I am doing Bikram yoga, that stupid voice shuts the hell up. While I am wearing tight clothes. While dreambods are barking yoga directions at me. While I am sweating my ass off and I want to die and I swear my PTSD is going to flare up and I will end up slapping people with my yoga mat until the class is done. When I leave that class, my brain is adjusted. I feel light and happy and free. I even strip and shower with all of my fat hanging out in front of other women in an affluent California city and frankly- do-not-give-a-damn-Scarlet what they think of my fat rolls. Fuck all if I am the daily anthropology exhibit. At least I showed up and did my best.
We can be hard enough on ourselves, and then you add the pressures of media, society, peers and so on. And we’re not even paparazzi bait Lady Gaga. And yoga, well, it’s designed to bring a confrontation between our minds and our bodies, our thoughts telling us ‘I shoulds’ ‘I can’ts’ and ‘why nots’. But at the end of the day, what matters the most is that you showed up and did your best no matter your shape or size. And that’s the practice.
After class, I chat with my yoga teacher, who is slender. I tell her that recently, I learned that I have been deceiving myself. I told myself that I couldn’t do certain postures because my fat is in the way. And then I tell her that I have been lying to myself — there is no fat in the way. It’s just my mind and my self-hate getting in the way. I am perfect in my practice. It is yoga practice and not yoga perfect, right?
She rejoices with me. I am never too fat to be a gorgeous yogini, falling in love with what I see before me, even if it takes heat and hell to do it. At least I know how.
I feel like in those moments I can be grateful to have a body that is even capable of attempting yoga postures. I have a good body, a beautiful body, a body that I sometimes even love, that my husband loves, that keeps me healthy. And because of this yoga, I can stop fat-shaming myself, if only for a hot minute.
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