Confessions of a Fat Yogi
Ok, ok. Perhaps fat is the wrong word. I know I'm not obese, or even close to what would be clinically considered obese, but I’m not skinny either. Maybe curvy? Chubby? Thick? The specific word makes no difference. It seems no matter how I label myself, someone will swoop in and try to save me from it. You see, I know I don’t speak for everyone, but when I call myself a fat/chubby/thick yogi, I’m not being self deprecating. I’m embracing something about myself that has taken me a lifetime to accept.
When I describe myself as short or blonde, there is no chorus of people assuring me that I’m not those things. Why? Well, for one, because they’re true, but more importantly it’s because we don’t associate being short or blonde with intense levels of shame like we do being fat. People don't feel the need to save me from calling myself short, but no one, it seems, wants me to suffer the shame of being fat.
Please, don’t fucking do that. It’s insulting. Also, it only exposes your own bias against fatness. It doesn't actually help the person feel better. Of course, that’s assuming they even felt bad about it in the first place. Maybe the person was fine with acknowledging their fatness until they recognized the intense discomfort it caused you. Chances are, a fat person knows they're fat. You denying it to their face isn’t going to change anything.
The reason I bring this up is because, in the yoga world, being anything but thin puts you in the category of having an “alternative” yoga body. I proudly include myself in that group of badasses! I feel like part of my calling is to bring awareness to the bodily diversity within the yoga community. So when someone insists that I’m not fat, particularly within the context of yoga, I feel like they are denying me entry into a world that defines so much of who I am. I feel they are rejecting the very thing that has empowered me to tell my story and be my true self. I want to let my chub flag fly.
I have never been skinny. Not for a single day in my life. I remember crying to my mom when I was 5 years old because I was fatter than the other girls. I remember, at age 8, being called thunder thighs by a neighborhood boy. I remember when a boy broke up with me in 6th grade because my arms jiggled during my cheerleading routine. I remember being called a fat ass in front of a group of friends at school. I remember in high school when “the love of my life” (***eyes rolling***) wouldn’t tell anyone he loved me back because he was embarrassed of my body. I remember my mother reminding me to watch my weight at every turn.
I used to blame myself for that cruelty. I felt it was the rightful price I paid for being chubby in this world. I suffered from disordered eating, self harm, and mountains of excruciating shame. I loathed my body, fought violently against my own reflection, and denied myself the joy of being comfortable in my own skin for most of my life. You know what finally changed all that? My yoga practice.
Yoga has taught me to experience my body for how it feels and what it can do instead of how it looks. It has given me the gift of gratitude. So what I have jelly rolls? I can breathe and walk and jump and mother fucking fly. What a complete waste of precious life to worry one bit about the flab underneath my arms. Yoga has taught me the philosophy of non-violence, which must begin with your relationship with yourself if it is to ever be real. How can I feel intense hate for myself and expect to relate peacefully with others? Yoga has taught me to accept my struggles. I think I will always cringe when I feel the fat of my belly bulge through my shirt, but because of yoga, I know it is okay to not always feel okay. I can sit in the pain of discomfort and survive. Perhaps even thrive.
So, I guess my point is twofold. First, don’t save people from calling themselves fat. Even if they don't currently feel good about their body, you’re only perpetuating that cycle if you exude discomfort at the mere mention of the word. Check yourself on that. If someones says they’re fat, replace it with the word “blonde” and compare your reactions. Adjust accordingly. Owning my curvy body has taken me 32 years. Don’t dump your insecurities on me if you hear me embrace it.
Secondly, to all you “alternative” bodied humans out there, please try yoga. Please come and sit in your discomfort and get strong as hell. Please post yoga selfies with your thunder thighs in tiny yoga shorts (check my IG feed for lots of examples!). Let the world see that you aren't ashamed. Own your body and empower others to do the same. You just might inspire someone to hate themselves a little less.
Yoga can help. You are so much more than your physical body. You are a spirit worthy of the deepest love and admiration. You are a child of God. A child of the universe. Don’t waste that precious gift with one more second of self hate.
Along with my yoga practice, my experience growing and birthing babies has also totally revolutionized my relationship with my body. So I guess it’s not entirely accurate to give the credit for this transformation exclusively to yoga. But, my yoga practice has been so intimately connected to my experiences as a mother that I’m not sure I could make a delineation even if I tried. Perhaps that’s a post for another day :)