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.
- Lady Gaga Responds to ‘Fat’ Criticism With Underwear Yoga Photos, Launch of ‘Body Revolution’
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- Can Yoga Help Stop Bullying?
- Study: Yoga Kicks Eating Disorders, Body Obsession in Teens
See, now this story is an example of moral courage. This is a woman who understands she is responsible for her own personal growth and contentment.
Thank you. Yoga is one of the most personal experience you can have with your own body.
The is a wonderful book that talks about this issue by Christina Sell. Yoga from the Inside Out! Great book!
What a great story! Catherine is inspiring. I am sick of reading about women who are all agitated because they don’t have perfect arms/butt/flat stomach and have “tried everything” to no avail. How vapid can you get? I have dealt with some of the same issues Catherine has – curious to hear what you think of this post … http://www.bikramnashville.com/6/post/2012/04/your-body-5-tips-to-help-you-love-it.html
Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story. I agree, “the yoga” is doing the best you can…as you are.
Wonderful attitude that Catherine has. I am a Kripalu yoga teacher and the acceptance of all shapes and sizes and of all yoga styles is why I love their approach. Yoga of compassion.
I remember a yogi from my training who is a big woman, being pulled up front at a workshop to demonstrate how to support a student in wheel. There was an audible shift of energy and a ” yeah right…she can do wheel?” disbelief felt in the room… this from teachers no less. I wanted to say to the group who were scoffing her ( at least internally), just watch and learn and also “shame on you”. She rose into the wheel and strongly held it..and held it …and held it, as the workshop leader discussed how to assist her showing techniques on her body. You go enlightened girl!
A blunt annd truthful account of her feelings about herself. Brilliant post. Yoga is the union of mind and body and through Bikram she is achieving it. thanks for sharing
great thoughts………..thank you!
Thank you for a very motivating story. It makes me realize that acceptance of myself is a lot more important … and I needed to hear that.
I am a fat woman and I have been doing Bikram for ten years. I am often the fattest woman in the room, but I am buoyed up by believing that I am also there for the fat yoginis that will follow me. I believe that no one can make you ashamed without your permission – or at least, that’s a good attitude to take. I try to model self-acceptance and peace and I have not had the negative experiences that Catherine talks about, but I have probably been lucky.