And then there was Fat Yoga. It’s the name and the cause of a new studio in Portland, OR. (And Stumptown seriously only gets number 8 on the Top 10 Us Yoga Cities? pssht.)
Yep, the studio is called Fat Yoga, and owner Anna Ipox is not shy about it. “I say I’m fat cause, guess what, I know I’m fat,” she told KPTV Fox 12. Ipox, who is not advocating that people not lose weight, says her studio is not a gimmick but more of a social statement. She’s on a mission to reclaim the word ‘fat’ and bring it back from shametown. On the studio’s website they call this Fat Remixed.
“There’s a responsibility as a fit woman of size to be visible and challenge those stereotypes,” she said.
“You just have to do a little Google searching to see all the fat hate. Fat girls shouldn’t wear stretch pants, they shouldn’t wear white, they shouldn’t wear yoga pants and you’re not allowed to let your fat jiggle,” she said. “I just realized I’m gonna make the place I want to go.”
Also, the studio, which opened in January, is there to help overweight people feel welcome in a practice that’s more suitable for rounder bodies because yoga teachers may not know how to suggest modifications.
“Child’s pose is impossible of you have belly fat or thick thighs,” [Ipox] said. “They just have no idea what it is to have a big body. I remember teachers pushing on my hips to make it happen. It’s not a flexibility thing and I couldn’t articulate any of that.”
(Which, side note, yoga teachers, is partly why Curvy Yoga exists. See also, Project Bendypants: Practicing Yoga While Fat).
Marianne Luther, one the first students who signed up for class at Fat Yoga said she’d rather not go than have a bad time.
“I definitely had issues. Instead of going to class and having a bad experience, I just stayed away from it,” said Luther.
We seem to have reached a tipping point in the Western yoga world where most of us are tired of the young, skinny, flexy stereotypes. Even yoga clothing retailers are realizing there are yogis of all shapes and sizes, and they’re eager to make a pretty penny of off it. But on the flip side of commoditization is self-empowerment, self-love and self-confidence which is sometimes denied when plus-sized or curvy yogis have a bad experience or feel out of place at a regular yoga studio.
Yoga isn’t about exclusion at all. (Everyone is welcome at Fat Yoga, btw.) But it’s hard to understand any discrimination (intentional or not) if you’re not part of a group discriminated against whether it be for race, gender, sexual orientation, body shape or anything else.
Maybe a slight stretch in comparison (or a big one), but let’s consider another part of society: gay people. Stay with us here. Just think if there were no gays bars, no LGBTQ organizations or social groups. Would we have gay marriage legal in 12 states? Maybe. Would we have Modern Family?? We don’t know! No doubt, there is still a horrific lack of tolerance and demonstrations of hate, but the gay community, together, has a voice and sense of unity. Or at least a really freaking fantastic fun time having cocktails. It’s a start.
Though some may argue that a studio called Fat Yoga is more exclusive than an all-types open yoga space, perhaps we can view this as a necessary step towards the everybodyyogatogetheronelove. Everyone deserves to feel at home in their bodies. Peace fingers.
Love this ! I am a plus size yoga instructor !
I’m not quite sure this is so great. I believe that if a studio does a good job and the teacher is an inclusive teacher, everyone should be able to come to a class and get something out of it. By creating these subgroups, we are simply separating ourselves and not promoting diversity in classes. If a teacher is a good teacher, they will be able to offer all kinds of modifications for all kinds of bodies. We need to embrace all people together, bodies, minds etc. in a class. We are simple excluding people based on how they look.
When an instructor doesn’t truly understand the capabilities of every person in their class, they automatically exclude people. Let’s be honest, a size 4 yoga teacher doesn’t know what it’s like to move around a size 24 body. As a size 20 person myself, I have been excluded from yoga because my belly or my butt gets in the way of certain poses. Now, an instructor who has never been overweight won’t understand that it isn’t about flexibility or strength, but about mass. However, an instructor, who herself is fat, will say in class “you may need to shift your belly” in order to get into a pose. I’ve personally been to Fat Yoga classes, and the best part is the tacit understanding that no matter what your size, you will be successful.
What is the difference between “curvy” and “fat” other than the connotation of the word? The point of Fat Yoga is taking back control of a derogatory word and using it as a source of empowerment.
It’s not just about being able to offer modifications for all kind of bodies. At my local studio, my fat has not been a barrier to getting good instruction, and the teachers are inclusive and welcoming. They do however see fatness as a problem to overcome. Knowing that they were regarding me that way was not conducive to my having a peaceful practice at that studio.
From the website: “Fat Yoga has no objective or claim towards weight loss. Frankly, we are not interested in it. We focus on strength building, flexibility, balance, self-acceptance and peace of mind.” YES! They are offering what others aren’t. What, exactly, is not great about that?
I agree w/Haley. There’s no reason at all that folks should feel unwelcome in a class that is suitable to their practice level, from beginner to advanced. I’m overweight and just do what I can. Have no desire to be separated from the rest of the students just my boobs get in the way of shoulder stand.
Just because you feel comfortable in an average class doesn’t mean everyone else does or should. It’s great that you have been able to find classes you like, but not everyone has found a class they feel comfortable in, and this is great for people still on a search for a class right for them. Some people will find great comfort and calmness in surroundings made to fit their needs.
And there are those of us, who, for whatever reason; don’t-to-hardly do inversions. Whether or not head to earth is involved.
Including stereotypical sized yogis who would rather be upright on land, at sea or in the air, thankyouverymuch.
Although, this article has a lot to do with it:
I am 1000% in agreement of 3 of the points made therein …
And written by a stereotypically sized yogini a LOT younger than me …
I think this is great. They are NOT advocating unhealthiness. They are advocating an active, happy, lifestyle, for those who are not, as the article says, skinny flexy young white women ONLY. Yes, it could be seen as exclusive, a little bit … but consider the instructors and the students at the most popular large studios — what do they look like? Would you feel good about yourself, going in there hefty and/or stiff as a board? I speak from experience here — I don’t consider myself “fat” but I am neither tall nor skinny, and I never will be. I have weighed more or less than I do now, and no matter what, I still wear a 34DD bra and I still have a little bit of a belly. I, too, am an instructor, and often get either looks or outright commentary on how I am “not built like a yoga instructor.” Why THANKS, rude-sayer-of-obvious-things! I had no idea! Anyway, go Fat Yoga!! Congratulations on living your truth and your dream. 🙂
I got so excited I forgot to mention that it is a great help to students to have someone who understands WHY your boobs are squished, or your cannot breathe from compression, in certain poses, because they have experienced it themselves. Yes, teachers and studios should make everyone feel welcome, but they often don’t, albeit unintentionally for some. At the very least teachers should be learning how to work around belly fat and larger chests, not just how to adjust a standing half-moon balance.
And what better than to be in a class where the POPULAR teacher with the GREAT PLAYLIST and the FOLLOWING, doesn’t just pay attention to the future yoga rock stars.
I’m all for this–or something like it–being/becoming a “scene”.
I am a yoga instructor and I teach a class for Curvy Bodies. The students who come to this class tell me all the time that they are not comfortable joining a regular class. While teaching, any class, I offer all kinds of modifications for beginners, for advanced students and those with mobility issues. All that doesn’t matter if the curvy student isn’t comfortable walking into that room. Yoga is for every-body and if studios like this or specialty classes help get people who feel intimidated practicing, then that is the right thing to do! The more people practicing yoga, no matter which class they attend, the better this world will be!
As a 325lb yoga teacher I can safely say that if you’re trained correctly and your studio is welcoming enough then there is no need for this, really. At my studio all the teachers are trained to work with all body types. We accommodate people of all shapes and sizes and abilities and thus have a wide range of students who look like stereotypical yogis and yoginis and then those that don’t. I think it’s a failure of the studio and the teacher if all people do not feel comfortable coming to any yoga class.
I agree that its a failure on the part of the studio and/or teacher and yet it happens all the time.
Which is sad. Wonder what the cause is? Lack of training? Lack of interest. I usually make a beeline for the more challenged folks in my classes because I know with a little more help they can go farther than they imagined. I guess I think everyone should do this.
There is absolutely a need for this kind of studio, in fact it’s the kind of thing many of us fat athletes have been searching for. If regular yoga studios were enough for all people to feel comfortable then Fat Yoga wouldn’t have had the crazy amount of interest from new yogis they’ve experienced since opening the studio. It’s a fantastic, inclusive community of people who understand body issues and athleticism and I for one am so incredibly glad I get to participate in it.
Obviously some of those pictures in the image above aren’t fat, but I do like that they are advocates for feeling comfortable in a yoga class. The name, though? Not so sure…
there is comfort in being with the likes, yoga is very intimidating because some come with many questions and the rest have no clue and realized WTH did I get myself into.
Instead of just a curvy class I get everyone interested in taking my intro classes because those as yoga instructors in a large class where we are teaching an all level or advanced class and someone comes in a beginners or has more to modify we can’t go from an advanced to a beginners when everyone else came to a beginners and I wouldn’t reflect my class on that student alone..now if it was the other way around, its a beginners class, an intro class that is the theme.
A good teacher doesn’t reflect not being un accomodating to a student, I think students should take accountability in walking to an advanced class do they have the ability to keep up.
My classes I make all welcome and have grown together as a community. As a curvy yoga instructor I have the knowledge to accomodate someone and encourage everyone what a bad arse person they are that its now how we look in our poses but what happens to us in our pose.
if separating will get more to come out and play so be it.. but do encourage to let their wings go and try out the next level. I teach growth, alignment, and modifications. When I practice I take a higher level class because thats where I am with the knowledge I have.
The only question I have is the name, FAT Yoga. I got my new drivers License picture the other day and thought they need professional photographers because NOW I AM FAT. When just a minute before the shot I felt sexy athletic. Fat is harsh to hear it has a bad emotion to it…not because I am a big girl but I get agitated when my skinny friends complain more about being fat than I do. AYE!
I applaud the girl, I would rather someone came to yoga feeling supported and comfortable rather than avoid it all together.
What makes it a fat yoga studio? Are the walls large, adobe-based, concrete block and stucco? Is the building rotund? That makes Madison Square Garden a fat concert venue in New York City.
Anyway, could a trim type 2 diabetic go there?
I used to be very large bodied. Am trying always to be large-hearted (and not in some fat-phobic, Dr. Oz kind of way …)
“Yoga isn’t about exclusion at all. (Everyone is welcome at Fat Yoga, btw.)”
I’ve experienced the lack of understanding in yoga class when the instructor could not understand what I meant when I explained that my body had flesh in the way and asked for a modification of some poses…I’d love to go to Fat Yoga!
I think this is great. I am not fat at all but I am older and I hope that yoga will be inclusive to me as I get older and older.
I don’t think I’d go to this studio simply because I am small. I’d just allow these plus size people their own space to feel good and at home and normal for a change.
I don’t think the rising trend to obesity is something to celebrate. It’s actually pretty horrifying. As is the tendency to refer to overweight women as “real”. I also don’t think that if you’re BMI is in the obesity range that you can call yourself “fit”. I don’t really understand people who practice yoga and then eat junk. Yoga isn’t just about working your body on the outside, it’s honoring it in the inside. If you eat naturally and are not mindless about how many calories you’re actually consuming, weight loss will happen without much effort.
I’m a dietitian/nutritionist and I say this in all kindness: that is just not true for a of LOT people. I work with many desperately frustrated people who are killing themselves doing everything “right”, and have tried and tried and tried…and they are still over-weight. They likely always will weigh far more than the charts and guidelines say they should.
There are an increasing number of factors that contribute to weight gain/retention that the science/health community is only beginning to realize and understand–effects of hormones & antibiotics in our food, effects of household chemicals acting as endocrine suppressors, etc…there are very likely many many people who will always carry around more fat mass on their bodies than others, even though they eat well and exercise. There have always been bodies like this, just as there have always been bodies that gain zero weight, no matter what. And just because we are beginning to understand that modern causes of weight/fat may be far more complicated than they have been historically…well, that does not present an automatic solution for a lot of people. In the mean time, many people still experience discrimination against their weight, just as many people still experience under-the-radar race-discrimination. The onus for the discrimintation is upon the person who holds those thoughts and feelings.
I am not fat , not am I especially thin, but I would go to this studio in a heart beat.
To buddha body yoga from New York.
Is happy to see the community of yoga schools for large people come alive more schools more class.
My name is Michael Hayes and I run the school in New York City Buddha body yoga
Where Large people go to find a center. I’m so excited to hear about your Studio fat yoga
I hope one day we will do a conference with all of the large yoga school community pulling together. Showing that size does matter& Any size can do yoga
With the proper support & Willingness to work differently
Not to say that being fat is “ok,” but at least this gives those who are overweight a comfortable place to go and not feel overwhelmed by all the skinny people around them. It will be interesting to see if more of these types of “Fat Yoga” places open up in other areas across the country.
Or in Canada. 😉 I hope to open a space in a year or so in the greater Vancouver area, actually.
Take a look at Lucy, Lululemon, or the other yoga clothing retailers. You are lucky to find a piece of clothing for the “average” size 14 woman. They obviously don’t want to market to us, either because fat people don’t do yoga or they want me to come to class naked.