Yoga Made Me Fat.

Via Candice Garrett
on Oct 15, 2010
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Well, sort of.

I recently taught a workshop on arm balances that went horribly askew. I’m not sure what the missing ingredient was…perhaps the studio just wasn’t a good fit for my teaching style. Although the students were all happy at the end, having had mini-breakthroughs in their quest to balance on their hands, I distinctly got the feeling that the studio owner wasn’t engaged by  my approach.

This happens sometimes when you teach and part of the journey is learning to roll with the punches. My teacher Leslie Howard once said to me, ” You’ll lose more students than you keep. Don’t take it personally.” I have since found that sentiment to be true. So I won’t take offense if my teaching style doesn’t resonate with you. In fact, I always encourage new students, particularly if they are taking my class as their first taste of yoga, to try many teachers and styles until they find the right flavor.

But never have I had a student comment that they didn’t like the way I looked. Until this workshop.

Looking back on my experience and trying to figure out how I failed to engage this person, I remembered a comment I had almost missed. And it was this: “I thought you had to be skinny to do arm balances.” Looking at the super-thin studio owner, I didn’t, at first, understand what she was saying. Embarrassingly, it took me a while to understand she meant me. I smiled and shrugged, at a loss for words.

I’ve always stood on the understanding that yoga was for everybody. For every body. I’ve seen yogis of all shapes and sizes do poses I can only hope to someday experience. I never thought there was a weight limit (or an age limit for that matter). Now, I’ve admitedly gained a few pounds over the years, perhaps this is due to my extraordinary happiness. I blame the yoga. At some point learning to touch my toes made me a better person. It happened sneakily, while I wasn’t paying attention to the snarky voice in my head, with its lists of my inequities.  I blame the practice that has made me focus on what’s really important: who I am and how I live in this world. Radical self acceptance is a profound practice. It tells you that you’re perfect, extra pounds and all. And oddly when that happens, it calls us to let go of what we tell ourselves we are: young, old, skinny, attractive, smart, funny…and redirects our focus to really start asking: if who I am doesn’t consist of labels, then who am I? And more importantly: what am I capable of? How have I been limiting my own potential?

Self inquiry doesn’t always lead to weight gain, and anyway, since when is a size six fat? If who I am is not summed up in the size of my pants (or the size of my bank account, or the car that I drive, or my job title) then who am I? Asking that question can be quite intimidating at first. If we’re not who we think we are, who we tell ourselves we are, then who and what are we? Get deep enough into that idea and you’ll find freedom and possibility where fear and limitation used to lay.

As students and teachers of yoga, we need to remember that the practice is more than just the poses. It’s about opening up to possibility.  The next time you tell yourself you can’t, ask yourself why not? What’s holding you back? Is it fear? Judgement? Breaking social norms? Yoga has a bad reputation of being for only skinny beautiful people.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I can’t do yoga because I’m too ______  (insert age/ability/weight here). But I know the truth. Standing in front of my own classes, I see students of all ages and abilities. They may put their bodies into all kinds of shapes, fancy and mundane, but the real yoga is happening in their minds. Just stepping into class means they’ve opened up to the possibility that yoga is for them too.

So yoga didn’t really make me fat. But it did open me up to the idea that being curvy doesn’t hold me back from reaching for what I want, be it a handstand or my wildest dreams in this life.

And for the record, I like my curves. I’m keeping them.


About Candice Garrett

Candice Garrett is a yoga teacher, writer, foodie and mother of three from Monterey, California. She is author of "Prenatal Yoga: Finding Movement in Fullness," assistant to Female Pelvic Floor Goddess Leslie Howard and director of the Nine Moons Prenatal Yoga teacher training program. Candice teaches yoga, prenatal yoga and pelvic health with workshops nationally. You can find her teaching schedule at Candice Garrett Yoga or her love of food at The Yogic Kitchen


49 Responses to “Yoga Made Me Fat.”

  1. "if who I am doesn’t consist of labels, then who am I?" – wow!

    This is one of the most profoundly beautiful articles I've read on EJ, ever….

  2. holly troy says:

    Hey Mama, "Holy Shit! What are people thinking (or not)?"

    OK, more comments later! My head is spinning . . .

  3. ARCreated says:

    OH good lord if your curvy I'm postiviely ginormous 🙂 I'm with you though…although I lost some weight when I started doing yoga at some point I found this equilibrium both mentally and physically and now it just doesn't seem all that important.I really only care about my health and happiness OH and being an activity 🙂 .. I do plenty of arm balance with all the junk in my trunk 🙂 although I do believe my top half is the bigger detterent (darn boobs)

  4. ARCreated says:

    I suppose this was their own insecurity and fear talking but still ewwww….I remember when I started teaching I was worried that my "less than svelt" frame would be a deterrant that somehow people wouldn't want to learn from a "fat' teacher…Well I suppose those that are there to get "skinny" might feel that way; but they have plenty of choices so I don't worry about it. (too much, hey it's a journey)
    You know what i love most about being "older" and "bigger"??? I have ALL types in my classes; it's like my size, shape etc let's people know it's OK to be them…so I too will keep my curves and hopefully inspire everyone to feel good about themselves just as they are….
    PS…Candice you are so stunningly beautifully…and I think I have told you that before 🙂 Lots of love and light dear one!!

  5. April Ritchey says:

    II have lots of words not appropriate for prime time about the Hollywoodization of yoga…However not bite the hand that feeds this not so idealic, no where near 30 yogini, will hold space for the opening up of conversation about the purpose of yoga. What's at stake is not how skinny or fat or old your yoga teacher is but how they make you feel at the end of the class. How your life perspective changes as you live off the mat. Are you happier? Healthier? More loving? More compassionate to yourself and others? These are some essential qualities of yoga. Overcoming the preconception of the prepackaged, polished and over produced images of an ideal that many of us will not achieve on the outside is difficult given our culture for living in fantasy and narcissism. It is only through reminding, who ever sits before us, that yoga is an act of yoking yourself to your essential self and not to your mirror. Great on Candice!! Yoga is for every body, mind and spirit.

  6. emdub says:

    I find studios that do a lot of prenatal yoga are a lot friendlier to different body shapes. The moms come back and do baby and me yoga, then stay to work on their abs. I go to a studio like this in my neighborhood. It's wonderful- people of all types- men and women from ages 20-60 and sizes 0-16+

  7. emdub says:

    Oh yeah- I also agree that size 6 is not fat! Geez. I am trying to do handstands and I am almost there. I just have to build up the strength to heft my size 12 butt in the air. I will get there and I will not lose the weight to do it!!

  8. ARCreated says:

    amen April…and what you said about how you feel at the end of class AMENT

  9. Rebecca says:

    Wow, how true, how true. I have gained a few pounds these past few years as well (also a size six now), and I am the healthiest I have ever been. Thank you for posting this and being so open.

  10. candicegarrett says:

    I'm blushing!

    Thank you for your always supportive comments. I find your words are always full of wisdom!

  11. candicegarrett says:

    Well you would know something about it Mrs. Maehl! Remember when you punched that kid in the face for making fun of my feet? Was that first grade? I can't remember. My hero.. 😉

  12. candicegarrett says:

    via facebook:

    Laura McKinnon: Beautifully written article Candice – great message! xo

    Camella Nair: Well said Candice! Thank goodness enlightenment does not only come to skinny people. We all have a weight that is comfortable to be with and should not try to look like a false concept of what is correct for us. It causes unnecessary anxiety. I agree, curves are good.Look at the matriarchal curvy women of ancient times.If all teachers were skinny …..and young, yoga would not be as popular as it is today.

  13. candicegarrett says:

    via facebook:

    Jennifer Korsten: Insightful, wonderful…thank you!

    Holly Vanidevi Troy : Lots of thoughts on this one. Like I said, "Yoga is like the music business . . . "

    Doug Thomas: Wow! How very rude. My boyhood dance teacher, one Anne Davelin, took the occassional trip to study yoga in India, trained with the Royal Ballet in London, and finally got a master's in Jungian psychology, in order to better understand how …to teach dance. She believed that teaching dance was not about teaching dance, it was about creativity, poise, balance, and starting little kids on their first steps to enlightenment. The entire time I knew her she was well over 60, past her prima ballerina years, and was at best pudgy, if not round, and still one of the most graceful people, every morning practicing ballet in her garden and singing to birds.See More

  14. candicegarrett says:

    via facebook:

    Aminda R Courtwright: doug…you know that's how i remember my dance teacher madam warner…she walked with a cane by the time I knew her…she wasn't "fat" but definitely lot ballet thin…but wow she was all grace and an amazing teacher…somehow in yoga though we have this view that the teacher is there to show off and do everything and be skinny. Although I walk the talk with my yoga practice whether I am a size 2 or can put my legs behind my head has little to do with my ability to teach yoga.

  15. "Radical self acceptance is a profound practice." Love that! I think that's the whole practice. Beautiful article–from one curvy yogini to another. 🙂

  16. julialeeyoga says:

    Lovely, lovely article Candice…an inspiring and gorgeous message from an undoubtedly equally inspiring and gorgeous yoga teacher and human being.

  17. AMO says:

    Candice you are so beautiful, so sexy, so perfect. I love women with curves, with an ass, my biggest fear when I started yoga was that my ass would go away, that I'd become one of those uber skinny chicks. Luckily not so, my ass is rounder, firmer, higher, STRONGER and for me and my way of looking at women's bodies, hotter.

    You can count me among those who would follow you in class, and follow you down the street to see if you're single…

  18. Jane Norton says:

    Beautiful article Candice. When I was contemplating becoming a yoga teacher at age 40 my boyfriend at the time was skeptical – after hemming and hawing a few times he said “do you think you have the right body type?” (meaning – you’re not skinny enough to be a yoga teacher). Needless to say, he had to go.

    At 46 I’m actually a few pounds lighter and relatively okay with my kaphaesque body. I love having all body types in my class, and especially love it when one of my goddess-bodied students demos a rocking arm balance or backbend in front of the class – it’s not only about strength or muscle mass vs. BMI – it’s about lining YOUR heart, body, and mind up with the transformative power of the practice. It’s about waiting for the breath, drawing into the unique beauty of one’s self and expressing that through the pose. Students who practice from that place allow the shakti to guide them and the sky, not their size, becomes the limit.

    PS – I hope that studio owner read this!

  19. Yogini# says:

    I already did. You would be surprised which relatively high-profile studio it is, hah, hah! Plus I currently go to a (different) really retro place that is a non-profit (real Himalayan masters) and where the master teacher teaches with some compassion. A mild hatha style, it fell out of fashion probably somewhere around 2004 …

  20. Yogini# says:

    I had gone to my first yoga studio in 17 years, expecting to be listened to. Instead, I was met with judgment from the first look by the owner, who is now active in ashtanga circles. They are young enough to be my sons and daughters – I made allowance for that – but it only got worse. It resulted in a greedy little shakedown from them, and I had to leave, people local to me are trying to defend that they don't actually run a scam. The bottom line is, if they were eager to take on new students (of a certain type – unless they were temperamentally extremely hyperactive), it was not apparent to me. I also have worn orthopedic shoes since childhood.

  21. Danielle Hogan says:

    Hell I'm a size 12/14 so I'd be run out of town on a rail!! I think you're beautiful & the studio owner is obviously an ass that needs to go to a retreat or somewhere to re-enlighten herself & remember what the practice of yoga is really all about. If she isn't willing to do that, she needs to move to LA where that mindset is the norm & everyone (ok, I know not EVERYONE but we all know the type that I'm referring to) thinks that if you're larger than a size 2 you need to go to the nearest fat farm for a overhaul. Jeez, what are people thinking. Sorry, got on my soapbox there for a second. I simply meant to say that, EVERYONE IS BEAUTIFUL no matter their size, shape, color, religion, or sexual preference. I think that everyone needs to be a little more tolerant of the differences between us. Keep up the great work, &….you go girl! My grandaddy always said he liked a woman with a little meat on her bones & said that no one except a dog wanted to love on a bone. (hee hee hee waaaay ahead of his time!)

  22. candicegarrett says:

    Danielle you're awesome. It's easy to get distracted by our culturally skewed perceptions of body images. And your grandad sounds like an amazing, grounded man as well!

  23. Yogini# says:

    The saying is, "Only a dog loves a bone, and in fact, he buries it …"

  24. E Egan says:

    Such a wonderful article. I looked at Candice's website and one thought kept running through my mind: She is beautiful – not only does her body look strong, fluid but you can also see the calm inner beauty she carries in her everyday life.

  25. Ben_Ralston says:

    My hero too now. Kids that punch bullies in the face rock. Go Maehl Go!

  26. Ben Ralston says:

    Nice one Candice! You rock 😉

    I think the people that say stuff like “thought you had to be skinny” are just deeply, subconsciously jealous of your inner peace, glowing beauty, and shining awareness. It threatens them, and in their sleepy state they lash out… I love that you hardly reacted 🙂

  27. Leslie says:

    Love this, Candice!
    Thank you for sharing your beauty.

  28. candicegarrett says:

    the funny (or not) thing about it is: guess which one got suspended from school?

  29. elephantjournal says:

    Mary: Candice, a size 6 certainly isn't fat. I was teaching to a group class at a local college when I was 9 months pregnant, having gained 60 pounds (to my normally size 8-10 frame). I waddled in, gasped for breath, and still did my arm balances, crow, etc. The sorority girls could not help their jaws from dropping.

  30. elephantjournal says:

    Amen, brother.

  31. Yogini# says:

    You still had the muscularity in the basic body composition. As a postmenopausal, apple shaped, hippy woman (not currently overweight but keeping off over 80 pounds lost), I trust no advice on taming my core (or midsection) in certain challenges from the pregnant. My arm balance ability is holding crow for two semi-short breaths–and it took me years to get even there … but it's great that you did that, elephantjournal, and you probably bore a nice healthy baby …

  32. Katrina says:

    Have you heard the starfish story? One of my professors tells it… A man is standing on a beach and all these starfish have washed up and he's throwing them back into the water. Another man comes up to him and says, "Why are you bothering? You'll never save all these starfish before they dry up in the sun?" And he replies by holding the starfish in his hand up and saying, "I can save this one."
    You can't save them all. But you can change the world by just teaching one.

  33. McKenna Rowe says:

    I’ve been “haunted” by this post for days. Clearly you are slim and healthy–I looked up photos of you to confirm! I’m wondering if the comment was meant more innocently…perhaps the student truly thought it takes amazing strength to do an arm balance, so you either need to be a man or have a tiny body of minimal weight?

  34. Yogini# says:

    I AM built for a mean baddha parsvakonasana … and I can out-meditate many (years of practice) … but I get the impression that that stuff doesn't count because it doesn't qualify for being a circus sideshow or a photo opportunity. That kind of hype is what absolutely loses me, anyhow. Less $$ from my wallet to your coffers as teachers. If the market is that saturated that sensation rules, why not go for the subtle elements instead? You might even nab members of YOUR generation …

  35. Yogini# says:

    But Bex, please consider that she is from California. Just like in downtown New York City (which can and does influence those who would take yoga to the rest of New York), we inbetweeners – whether by bone structure, a little extra, body proportions, or just plain genetics … we may as well be on another planet (at first impression, which dies hard). Say you were a yoga teacher: If you'd once coached and adjusted Mary-Kate Olsen through an advanced backbend in your studio in Union Square (NYC), then you touched a Star, and have become star-struck; and everything else pales in comparison, and your teacher trainees have to cleanse and self-mortify and become waiflike in order to keep up with that … celestial … vision ….

  36. candicegarrett says:

    Bex, I had originally meant to write this article on our skewed body images in this yoga community and instead it evolved into an article about self acceptance. I apologize if you got mixed messages there.

  37. candicegarrett says:

    Bettina, one can only hope for that future of yoga, for one that moves away from divisive behavior to become more introspective and not so outwardly concerned with image. It will happen, I am sure of it.

  38. YogiOne says:

    Maybe you would have connected beter if you had taught the class in this "tasteful" manner:

  39. candicegarrett says:

    ha! I doubt it!

  40. YogiOne says:

    Perhaps you would be willing to tell Waylon why this doesn't work for you then?

  41. candicegarrett says:

    Oh Waylon knows how I feel about these things already. (we columnists are allowed to disagree with each other and with elephant) I am not against these kinds of postings, necessarily, but I don't find them titillating either.

  42. candicegarrett says:

    love that!

  43. candicegarrett says:

    Priscilla, thank you thank you for your comment, with your openness and compassion for yourself and for your mother. What a wonderful, touching and wisdom-filled story to share!

  44. […] found a deep, dark pit of lack that has arisen from my own inner comparison with other teachers: I’m not skinny enough. I’m not young enough. I don’t wear the right clothes or have enough students, I […]

  45. tmc says:

    why insult "shinny chicks"??

  46. tmc says:

    so.. let me get this straight.. all "those" people who insult anyone "over size 2" are WRONG and MEAN.. YET.. it's ok for YOU and YOUR GRANDFATHER to insult small women?? hmmm, something doesnt add up here.. why is one ok and the other not?? is it because one size women (bigger) is more "insulted" mainstream than the other (smaller)? and you feel you need to make it "even"?? I agreed with most everything you said.. "everyone needs to be a little more tolerant of the differences…" and then you completely contradicted yourself with the "my granddaddy always said" crap.

  47. tmc says:

    if it doesnt matter (which it doesnt) why are so many comments so quick to insult the smaller size?? do you think insulting "skinny" people makes it better and less insulting for larger women?? if it doesnt matter.. then why not leave it at that??

  48. Nichole says:

    I love this article. I am a morbidly obese woman who really loves yoga. There are limits to some poses due to the sheer girth of my body and lack of practice, but I have gotten the sense that yoga isn't just about the positions. The message I take from it, and this article, is that it is about self acceptance and showing compassion towards your body, yourself, and the world. And, I firmly believe, that it is only with compassion and love to yourself where you is the only way to make healthy choices to take care of yourself.

    I really enjoyed this article and get what you are saying. I'm sorry to see people getting so wrapped up in the semantics of your size.

  49. catnipkiss says:

    Glad they reposted this, and no, you don't look fat in your pictures or even "big boned", etc. I don't think of myself as fat (others might!) but I am a big, curvy chick and always have been – always WILL be. Yoga has changed my shape but I'm still curvy. This works to my advantage as I am teaching seniors and they don't trust the young lithe yoga teachers as much as they trust someone like me (age 49). When I work on poses in a studio with a mirror, I inevitably think "Wow, I have a big butt!" But now, thanks to a lot of self work through yoga, I think it with a smile. Keep rocking the curves!! – Alexa Maxwell