My Weight Loss Effect: Self-Consciousness. ~ Kathrine Speaker

Via Kathrine Speakeron Sep 27, 2013
Source: via Jenna on Pinterest
Source: via Jenna on Pinterest

In many ways, I feel more self-conscious now than I did 20 pounds ago.

After my first year of law school, I ended up in the hospital with various health issues. I was pretty familiar with yoga from DVDs I had been doing and I decided that it was time to get more serious about my health and develop my yoga practice.

I fell in love with yoga in a big way. (No pun intended.) I found that, no matter what else was going on, yoga was one of the few things that could make me forget about it all, if only for an hour or so. I was better able to manage my stress. My health began to improve. I lost weight.

I had become healthier and stronger.

Then, I felt the urge to share this amazing practice with others and spread the healing I had experienced. I did my teacher training at that same studio and it changed my life. I’m aware of how cliché that sounds, but things become cliché for a reason!

Many people have praised me for having the courage to drag my much heavier self into a yoga studio for that first time. “It must have been scary,” people often comment, thinking I’ll nod in agreement and laugh and recall a story about how nervous I was that first time. Frankly, I didn’t know enough to be intimidated. Before that first class, I had never read yoga magazines or shopped yoga gear at certain retailers that don’t sell clothing larger than a size 12.

It didn’t even occur to me to be self-conscious.

I had done yoga on DVD sporadically for years, so I thought that first time going to a studio would be no big deal. And it wasn’t. I went to a lovely studio that had yogis of all shapes and sizes, young and old, of all abilities. The teachers there were knowledgeable, tolerant and compassionate without being condescending. I felt accepted and nurtured. I also remained blissfully unaware that this was not how it is at many studios.

I have lost weight, but I, like most people, still do not look like the yoga models that are so frequently pictured in advertisements. Since losing weight, I’ve read countless yoga-related articles and seen countless advertisements featuring models that don’t look anything like me. I’ve been to stores that specialize in yoga merchandise where I didn’t feel very welcome. In my search for a new studio after recently relocating to a new city, I’ve been to yoga studios where I didn’t feel very welcome—not because of any lack of ability, but purely because of my size.

When taking classes as a student, I’ve had fellow students and teachers prejudge me, assuming I’m a beginner because I do not have the physique of a prepubescent boy. I’ve felt their eyes on me, evaluating.

The deeper I have delved into yoga, the more moments of self-consciousness and feelings of unworthiness I have had.

I don’t fit the mold of the size 00, extra, extra small yoga teacher. At the beginning, I didn’t know there was such mold and fortunately, by the time I figured it out, I had fallen too deep in love with yoga to let anything or anyone make me feel like I should stop.

I felt a strong need to share my experience to encourage to try yoga other people who might not otherwise do it, as well as to remind other yogis that yoga is about tolerance and compassion.

It seems almost silly to say, but treat yogis who are larger than you as you would any other yogi. Be nice, say hello, but resist the urge to assume they are a beginner (even though they might be) or to make a condescending comment about how great it is that someone their size is doing yoga.

Nobody should be made to feel that they are unworthy of yoga.

Everybody is worthy of yoga, because everyone can benefit from yoga. Yoga changed my health and every other aspect of my life, and I wonder what my life would be like had I read an issue of a yoga magazine and changed my mind about heading to a studio for the first time or if I had chosen a studio with a less welcoming, tolerant atmosphere. I feel sad for other people who did not have a great experience the first time they went to a studio, and decided yoga “wasn’t for them.”

Yoga is for everybody, silly.

Kathrine Speaker in wheel pose
See? Big girls can wheel, too.

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Assistant Ed: Gabriela Magana / Ed: Cat Beekmans

About Kathrine Speaker

Kathrine Speaker is a firm believer in the healing power of yoga, having experienced it herself and believes that, when properly instructed, everyone is capable of experiencing these benefits. Kathrine combines positive energy and compassion to tailor instruction to all levels. Connect with Kathrine on Facebook.

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11 Responses to “My Weight Loss Effect: Self-Consciousness. ~ Kathrine Speaker”

  1. @chazyorick says:

    I've never thought of myself as the "type" of person for yoga. That's probably why I haven't tried it yet. I know so many people who do it. Perhaps I shouldn't limit myself and give it a try.

  2. Deandra says:

    I think we are doing a disservice to all women when we categorize ourselves as skinny, fat, small or big. The real issue at hand in the yoga word and society in general is this dichotomy between fat and skinny. By no means is the author of this article big or large, in fact the picture included shows that she is a beautiful strong woman. Yoga should be accessible to all! Lets break down the barriers together by being mindful of the language we use and how we discuss our bodies. All love!

    • Kathrine Speaker says:

      I’m so appreciative of the compliment, Deanna. Generally, I consider myself a strong, beautiful woman. Compared to the average yoga teacher, however, I feel like I am on the larger side. I use the word “big” to describe myself and how I feel compared to much smaller yogis. I think most women, no matter how thin, have felt moments of poor body image, and I am hoping to use this sense of feeling “bigger” to encourage people who might not otherwise try it to do yoga. I mean no disrespect to people who are bigger or smaller than I am by applying this label to myself throughout this article. I want everyone to try yoga, ASAP.

  3. Adrienne says:

    I totally see where you're coming from, as the mass media portrays (for the most part) only one single body type in women, which is very slender … however, describing this body type on women as a "prepubescent boy" is as equally hurtful. Nobody should be criticized for their body type no matter what their dress or pant size is.

    • Kathrine Speaker says:

      You are absolutely right! I was trying to comment in a humorous way about the conspicuous lack of breasts on many yoga and fitness models in contrast to, for example, lingerie models who are also thin but fairly well-endowed. It suggests that fit=masculine. I hope the readers recognize the broader message of body acceptance and forgive this off-hand comment. I didn’t intend to make anyone feel bad about their body type.

  4. Erica Leibrandt Erica says:

    Im a teacher lucky enough to work at a studio like the one where you first practiced. I've worked in plenty of others that were filled with judgmental competitive people too, which is OBVIOUSLY the antithesis of Yoga. Keep trying to spread the compassionate word..that is the heart of the practice and what we teachers should really be teaching :)

    • Kathrine Speaker says:

      Beautiful, Erica! There’s a special place in my heart for the compassionate teachers like you. You have probably helped many people like myself and may not even know it!

  5. Jonny says:

    This is very inspiring Katherine. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve also walked into a yoga studio before and had eyes and judgement right before me. Wasn’t very comfortable for me so I decided to find a new studio. As yoga becomes more mainstream, a certain physique becomes common which I think is completely wrong and against what yoga is truly about. Great wheel pic!

    • Kathrine Speaker says:

      Thank you for the compliments, Jonny. I’m so happy you find my story inspiring! and the picture is one of my favorite yoga pictures of myself! lol. It’s very unfortunate that there are studios like that our there. That’s what inspired me to write this article: if I am a yoga teacher and I felt uncomfortable there , what about first timers? It might turn them off from yoga forever, thinking all studios are like that! And what a shame that would be.

  6. Simona Rich says:

    It's sad that the practice of Yoga, which is the philosophy of spirituality, is made into something so judgmental. Yoga is not for perfect body, it's for getting in touch with the Divine. Shame on those who judge you.

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