An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City. ~ Joshilyn Jackson

Via elephant journal
on Jan 17, 2012
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Let’s hear it for body acceptance. Let’s hear it for collective support, rather than competitive acrobatics in yoga class. Let’s hear it for humor. ~ ed.

Excerpted with personal permission of the author.


An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City

Dear Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City,

Perhaps I should call you other fat girl at Hot Yoga, as I was there too, easing back into my Fat Down Dog, forward to Fat Plank, then melting and pushing up to Fat Cobra, etc etc, all the way through my big fat hot Vinyasa flow. (This should be a movie—My Big Fat Hot Vinyasa Flow—I would SO go to see that.)

Is it wrong that I am half in love with you? For being fat and at Hot Yoga? For shaving your legs and getting a GOOD pedicure and putting your big ol’ ass into yoga pants ? For unrolling your mat and claiming your space, a rounded duck standing defiantly on one squatty leg among flamingos.

Were you as happy to see me as I was to see you? I think you were. You kept peeking at me, under your armpit and between your thighs, when you should have had been looking at your Drishti, only to find I had abandoned my Drishti and was misaligning my spine to peek at you.

We both tipped over out of tree because of it. But it was okay. We were a secret club of Fat Girls at Hot Yoga. We understood each other.

I miss you, now that I am back home in Georgia. I am ALWAYS the only fat girl at Hot Yoga. I am sure it is exactly the same for you—-You might think there would be more of us fat girls here in Quasi-Rural Georgia than in New York City.

Well, okay. There are, actually, but I am the only one in CLASS. We sometimes have one girl who THINKS she is another Fat Girl at Hot Yoga. She is not, God bless her. She is only mentally ill. At my Hot Yoga here, all the regulars are very beautiful and sleek, like otter puppies.

Yoga people. Honestly. They are long and loopy and bendable and glorious. I wish I was one, but I froth and churn and fail at cleanses.

They seem so at peace with their physicalness, living inside bodies that look like loops of strong ribbon. Meanwhile, I am at war. I am at war with my body.

Oh Fat Girl at Hot Yoga in New York City, are you at war with yours, too? Has it let you down? Are you angry with it? I am. Righteously furious, actually.

This stupid body has failed me in so many ways these last two years. It has been endlessly sick. It has required surgery and bed rest and vicious medication that got me well, but made me feel sicker.

I AM VERY ANGRY WITH IT for being sick, for getting fat, for not doing what I SAY.

But I am nice to it anyway, three times a week, at Hot Yoga.

Fat Girl, I saw you in New York, and I thought, GOOD FOR YOU. You are trying to find a way to be stronger, to live in yourself, to like your body enough to give it that seventy-five minutes of movement and acceptance. To just take care of the damn thing, even if you ARE mad at it. To treat it like an exasperating, ugly, ill-tempered little child—one you secretly adore.

At the start? Every time? I set my intention and it is this: For the next 75 minutes, don’t look around, don’t compare, don’t list all the ways you are not good enough to be here, and don’t hate yourself. Just Breathe. Just Breathe. Just Breathe. Just be in your body and remember how good a place it is to be, really.

For the first half of class, I remind myself that this body is not some shabby rental. It is home. No matter how mad I am, it is home.

By the second half, I always come to understand that it is more than home. It is more than where I live.

It is me.

I am it.

I remember my husband likes it. A lot. I remember it twice performed a function that was nothing short of miraculous, growing two exceptional babies entirely from scratch. My brain is a piece of it, and my brain is where the stories come from.

This is what I get from Hot Yoga, Fat Girl. I am not sure what you get. I hope the same thing. I wish ALL the Fat Girls would come to Hot Yoga and get this, get these minutes where we forget —if only for a little while— that our value as people doesn’t go down when our pants sizes go up.

And also? Selfishly? I DO wish at least one more would come, so I would have someone to peek at under my armpit, to give that little tip of the chin, that little nod.

Fat Girl at Hot Yoga Solidarity, baby. We aren’t perfect, but we are HERE, busting out of our yoga pants, ducks among flamingos, trying to take care of ourselves.

Namaste fricken DAY,

The Fat Girl You Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City

…Read the original at Joshilyn’s site, and leave a comment.



When Fat People Do Yoga.


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118 Responses to “An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City. ~ Joshilyn Jackson”

  1. HollyQc says:

    A few years ago a was having many body pains, was eventually diagnost with fibromyalgia and because of this condition became less active which led to a gain in weight. Last year I decided to get some information regarding yoga, I spoke with the teacher that assured me that yoga was for everyone and that positions were adaptable. I decided to give it a try…After 3 classes of twitching, shaking, and much pain (she never showed me any opitional positions) I decided to try another teacher…just to experience the same thing. I then deceided to try to learn on my own and bought a serie of DVDs…which don't show any optional positions either. It just seems as if all the teachers I have come to know expect you to already be flexible and strong. I don't know if I have just been unlucky or if I have the wrong impression about the meaning and practice of yoga, but I must admit that I always feel a little envious when I read about how great they feel about yoga…I would even be happy to be the only Fat girl in the class if I could only keep up!

    • cosmicmom says:

      Holly, check to see if there is a Kripalu yoga teacher near you. Kripalu yoga is all about being compassionate with oneself and those teachers trained in Kripalu yoga emphasize modifications and will work with you. Pain is not acceptable in Kripalu yoga.

      I'm turning 63 in December as I'm in the midst of Kripalu 200 hour YTT.

  2. @scargosun says:

    I was going to skip yoga tonight since I have a pile of work but instead, I am going to leave my desk, go to yoga and try to wake up early and get in the office early. This made me happy. I also need that little figurine. 🙂

  3. Laura says:

    Joshilyn Jackson, I love you a little bit!

  4. onesadhaka says:

    That was really nice. I'm guessing that if you stick with yoga, all that is not genuinely 'you' will fall away. Your body may remain the same (doubtful), but it will be ALL YOU! You go, girl! You inspire us all…

  5. Ami Flammini says:

    The world needs you to teach yoga!

  6. Lexi says:

    I don't have the balls to go … but I'm working on it

  7. lizziebess says:

    I helped in my son's fifth grade class yesterday, we were looking at slides of cheek and plant cells under microscopes. They were so amazed that the insides of their cheeks could look like this. Right before they left, I told them that I wanted them to think about something. That when they look at other people, we all look different on the outside, but on the inside we all look the same – we all are made up of the same stuff. The same bones, blood, tissues, organs; we can't tell one from another. I saw a few lightbulbs go off, and I hope it stays with them…
    a chubby yogi

  8. ana says:

    Yoga is for everyone! Stop hating your body, let's give ourselves a break!
    The body changes but we are not the body we are infinite beings.
    Time to let go of old fears and open to the transformation of our body and minds thanks to the power of yoga.

  9. LGPG says:

    An Open Letter from Another Fat Girl to the Author: Ummmm, there are more than one fat girl in yoga class…. I am one of them. And, while I appreciate that you are acknowledging that we are very able bodies that can do ANYTHING, I am not sure that I love that have singled out the other person who you "identify" with to "applaud them"… doesn't that then become the same behavior fat or bigger folks have been trying to fight FOREVER? I kinda get what you are saying and the awe, the intrigued, the excitement is worth the merit, but really…. Anyhow, I AM FAT. I love yoga… I work out..actually I've even ran half-marathons & will continue to do so (imagine that)! I have fun… I love food… and most importantly, I LOVE ME! Now, stop staring at me…LOL

  10. Lisa says:

    Well, I must say there may be more of us "fat" girls surrounding you than you realize. Some of us used to be overweight and have a great sense of sisterhood with you. We will always be on the same team. We love you exactly as you are and sadly wish we could have been more loving with ourselves over the years. We are filled with joy to see you alongside all the other yoga queens, exactly where you belong. Keep kicking ass, my friend, and be filled with joy!!!

  11. I love this! GO YOU!! I did yoga, that stuff is HARD!! I should go again… I was the fat girl there too. The ONLY fat girl. Whateves. Thank you for sharing this, it made my day! xo

  12. Ron says:

    Listen, flamingos are overrated. I LOVE ducks. Who doesn't? Ducks are loveable. Flamingos never get anywhere, just standing around on one leg…

    • Mel says:

      Aaaaaaaand we have the inevitable man who thinks he's being noble when he puts some women down in order to supposedly build other women up. Ron, you're being a jerk. Here's a thought. Thin women don't deserve to be put down for being thin.

  13. Tanya says:

    I'm not a fat yogi, but I have the same size light in me as someone fatter than me. A lot of the posts here sadden me a little, can you look for my light instead of assuming it doesn't exist?

  14. Lorraine says:

    This is an absolutely joyous article, and I loved it. Many of the comments point out again why I drive 14 miles to Yoga Pura in Phoenix for class when there is a studio on every corner in my neighborhood. At YP, we are guided to free our minds and grow our hearts on our mats and in the whole world while asana practice tones our bodies. Yep, I'm one of the fat girls, To honor my practice, my teacher and the other participants, I try to keep my breath steady, my eyes where I'm told to keep them, and my heart open.

  15. Tracy says:

    Funny I came across this site. Just the other day I went to dinner with some girlfriends on mine and it was across from a hot yoga studio. I said to them too bad all the people are so fit and skinny that go cause I would love to attend but would be so discouraged and feel too self conscious being 350+ pounds. We thought we could come up with a plus size hot yoga studio. I wish I had better self esteem and was more confident. I am not. I do not know if I will ever get the confidence but this was a good read that gets me thinking.

  16. Liz says:

    This is beautiful and honest. Just chiming in to say that the people "living inside bodies that look like loops of strong ribbon" might also be at war…

  17. liana zimmer says:

    Well…what it's worth – many of us struggle with body image. Baggage is baggage and it can weigh us down mentally. Personally, I love to see the variations of body size, type, and flexibility in class and have gained a greater appreciation for my strengths and my weaknesses. Perhaps Fat Girl in Hot Yoga should think about toning down the defiance a little, and trying to enjoy more than the asana part of the practice.

  18. alb says:

    Just perusing Elephant yesterday for something juicy to read. When I saw a few articles under FAT GIRL YOGA I hoped, prayed it would be written satirically from a skinny yoga person's changed perceptions or be perhaps a love letter from a typical seeming yoga dude in the back row who is secretly more in love with the more ass he sees in a forward fold–more folds of EVERYthing in that one. But, Ms Jackson this honest bold and in the face tribute was from you: a yoga practitioner who 'dares' to practice the beauty of yoga within our I N S A N E Western mind-field and I, wait, I stand and applaud you for your courageous words above. (I literally stood up and applauded you, careful not to knock over my smoothie glass onto the laptop).
    squinched face.
    another breath.
    I had a yoga practice about 9 years ago. Ten maybe. I was very proud of it. I grew up chunky in a chunky Russian Jewish family that did not value exercise for exercise's sake but we did value trips to the pool to enjoy summer, hikes in the mountains because it was a beautiful way to have lunch and be together, and long walks while on vacation because there's a ton of stuff you don't see from the old family toyota. Anyways, my point is I didn't grow up sedentary at all but I also didn't grow up with a physical discipline that seemed so widely valued among the white Boulder Protestants AND their parents.
    I was chunky enough to be teased my whole life, but just by boys. I had to realize in 5th grade that the guys I felt perfectly reasonable about 'going for' were not going to like me back (even in 1978!) because 'fat' was actually a derailment in defining social class or the male's prowess and desirability. Time after time after time the guys who were smart, cute,well-bred enough, and with a command of humor would always and with absolutely no exclusion reject me for dances, dates or anything other than being friends because I was smart and funny enough for them but they were going for (the yoga girls).
    For a zillion reasons, least not being a primal desire to mate and copulate in the second year of my mostly monastic 30's (and 10's, 20's..), I decided to lose some weight. I clung to Bikram yoga four and five times a week. (I only worked part time, a requirement I think to have a daily Bikrams practice). I did Atkins and went on 45 carbs a day. I did cardio. I did weights and the pounds fell OFF! I was high. I though, I'M GONNA GET A GUY!! And I did! I had a good pick of em too as I was in Boulder and the packaging was slender and organic and getting prime cut enough for them. I thought at the time this was great for my self esteem. In yoga rooms I was flaunting a bikini and ALWAYS in the front so I could compete with the bad form skinny girls, stay in step with the good form skinny girls and boast my moves to any teacher who would finally now see that I was a worthy (and not obese) student of yoga! It was working for me! See! See!

  19. alb says:

    cont. (alb)

    As a result of getting a guy which I had never 'achieved' growing up in this town, I fell in love with this guy even though his heart was not open, he was my first shot at a boyfriend and my second brass rung in our established societal acceptance. Normal sized and IN A RELATIONSHIP. Then I realized, um, how would I rather spend a Sunday morning? In bed with a warm hormonally healthy big Minnesotan guy or bent on a plastic mat feeling winter air seeping into the studio? No brainer. Then pancakes. I finally found the intoxicating thing that everyone else had–love, or something that looked and felt kinda like it.

    My practice decreased. Then disappeared. I got depressed. I also started gaining weight. I swear to God, I have no idea what quitting heroin is like (blessed be) but starting an exercise regime again from a total standstill and weight gain, tears and a puffy muffin-moving-into-cake-top has got to be comparable with the discipline for opiate withdrawal. It just really took a long time. I lost the guy. He got a head injury, I had none of my charming self-confidence or sexual charisma that WAS the best by-product of my transformation and we both knew that I was the one who had kept the whole thing alive in the first place because I really did need a first boyfriend. He packed his U-haul and left.

    Seven years later, I'm heavier than I have ever been minus 20 pounds. Over the course of the seven years I gained about 60 lbs (the conversion is 499 pounds in Boulder, Co). A year ago I began a serious almost daily gym or walking ritual and after each workout I do a few yoga moves. I like where things are heading. Its a slow weight loss that maybe in God's infinite will has me having to validate mySELF for my 'hotness' before the ultimate 'deciders' (men) can weigh in on my value, so to speak. Though I have lost 20 lbs in the last 13 months, my waist has remained at 42". So, I now again see myself as a fat person. Though I'm a size ten 'going', I'm a 14 comin' at you with the majority of my fat mass being in my belly. I miss my yoga practice. But I am afraid of suffocating from a plow. Afraid of my shame in seeing the folks who saw me 40 lbs less with a lovely practice.

  20. alb says:

    Oh well. I read your article complete with your lovely photo in a very difficult posture. What it made me remember most about my own practice, Ms Jackson was the spark that I felt when I decided from a place very very deep inside myself to just…TRY….yoga. I studied with two gals that turned out to be two of Bikrams first students and they were WONDERFUL and non-judgemental women who saluted just this…my bulldog commitment to JUST TRY. Each posture is a class itself they said. You must master each posture in time and let them all flow in sequence. Find grace in entering each posture and just as much if not more grace in the posture's exit. Eyes on your own mat. Never too old to fat too poor too crazy too out of shape. Yoga loves us as we are. Yoga loves you for your beautiful self Ms Jackson and yoga loves me too. Yoga is bigger, FATTER, HUGER than all of us. Yoga is probably a gift from a very chubby God who just wants us to have some fun experiencing some different shapes to put our flesh in so we can smile more and be more limber of heart and mind. Thank you for your article. It means a lot to me to hear a "FAT" voice in the sea out there. They don't understand the shaming, pathologizing, discrimination, and the romantic loneliness we experience out in the world. I know this intimately now from the inside and the outside.

    You may not see me in your Georgia classes, Ms Jackson, but I'll remember to peek at you from under my armpit from now on and be willing to lose my 'drishtil' happily to smile on another who knows the discipline it takes to show up in leotards to just be part of this chubby God's physical gift to ALL bodies forever. No matter what shape,color, size, ability, income, or age. Those early days when I just showed up and TRIED with no expectation but to wobble less on one leg, those are the days that I 'got it'. I pray that I have such humility again.

    Blessings be to all those that suffer so unnecessarily in and out of yoga rooms based on bodily hatred.

  21. Shauna says:

    Fat… It’s a judgement. I am a yogi,, i try hard to follow my Yamas & Niyamas… So, i do not judge… i celebrate… I have a beautiful body.., Some would say I am built like a brick shit house. It took me a while to accept my different frame and body shape, but as I entered deeper into the science of yoga; beyond Asana, I began to realize that yoga is really the gift of acceptance and understanding of self, others and the universe. I am at complete peace with self both my physical body and more importantly my mind and my soul. Please, whatever your size, I encourage you to experience yoga, hot or otherwise… Peace , love & light to all. Xo

  22. Trin says:

    Loved this honest from the heart piece of writing. Hoping for more authentic pieces from Elephant Journal.

  23. KatrinaPoms says:

    Forgive me, but as a fat girl who does yoga, this "open letter" is obnoxious in the extreme. If I were the intended recipient of this letter, repeatedly addressed as "Fat Girl," I would likely return one that addressed the writer as "Dumb Bitch."

    "Hey, Dumb Bitch, good to see you in class again, but just because I weigh too much does not mean we have anything more than that in common.

    Hey, Dumb Bitch … instead of looking at me every time you come to class as being something of an anomaly, why not consider that just because "one of these things is not like the others" it doesn't mean it has no place in the grouping?

    Hey, Dumb Bitch – has it occurred to you to actually talk to me, or does it make you happier to imagine that I spend my life trapped in my body like a prisoner in a cell, just because I (clearly) don't match your own personal standards of what constitutes beauty or fitness?

    Hey, Dumb Bitch! Why do you assume I'm angry with my body, just because you are with yours? Why do you think I fight and struggle with it every day, like a teenage girl in her first pair of high heels? Why do you assume I hate it or myself?

    Hey, Dumb Bitch! Sadly, I live in the south, where, admittedly, there are a lot more dumb bitches – I just don't come into contact with them much …

    Do you get my drift? Do you understand why this "open letter" is so stunningly, amazingly, unbelievably offensive? It is written (covertly) in the same smug tone that southern women use to cut each other to ribbons – "Poor thing."

  24. Tom Leykis says:

    You know, it's not that difficult for fat/obese people to lose weight. You're not "genetically" fat. You're not "big boned" (that's a scientific fallacy and a myth), You're eating too much. It's simple math, physics, chemistry and the application of the Laws of Thermodynamics. You eat fewer quality calories than you expend, ergo you WILL lose weight. Fat people are sneak eaters. Fat people grossly underestimate their caloric/food intake. Fat people overestimate the amount of activity/exercise they engage in. Fat people have a myriad of excuses. It's IMPOSSIBLE to be "HAES" because, medically and scientifically, you can't be. Only 1 of every 4200 people per the CDC and NIH have legitimate thyroid issues leading to moderate weight gain which is easily controlled through steroids, so that excuse is out. You will have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gout, limb loss, heart disease, stroke, cancer……..etc. It's costs more in terms of healthcare dollars and related than smoking does.

  25. Sam says:

    As another fat Yogi I really LOVED this. Sometimes I attend senior yoga classes. Because they tend to be less judgemental, more welcoming. They still manage feats that I can not. But I love it, and it makes me feel so much better.

  26. Raziya says:

    I'm usually the only fat girl in the class AND I live in Savannah, Ga. Once I saw a fat girl and told her how beautiful she is and to keep it up. Because of money I haven't been back. I hope didn't insult her. I wanted to let her know she's on the right path. I'm not as big as her but i am big and if a yoga instructor doesn't tell her that she is okay where she is and everybody is where they are supposed to be and their path to better health then it's a good thing they didn't accept her openly. She shouldn't be in a class that will shame her. I'm actually responding to a previous comment that I can't find. It's okay.

    To all the fat girls out there doing yoga. Keep going. You have more of a right to be there than anybody. okay, Off to the park to do yoga.

  27. Cris says:

    Unfortunately, in the country I come from, being FAT is synonymous to being alone, untouchable. And I am not blaming the other side, it is my own fault that I let my body slip right into morbid obesity. I have reacted and am losing weight but i do recognise that the damage has been done. No man wants a damaged body, no matter how “elevated” his spirity might be. So accepting the fact that I will most certainly BE alone the rest of my life is not easy. Very difficult especially when now (that I am 60) I realise I AM interested in love and in having a relationship, a hot romance, with someone before I die. How does one deal with this?

  28. Karen says:

    To say I love this article is an understatement. What a lovely, compassionate validation that yoga is for *everyone*, that we all deserve our place on the mat, and that we all deserve kindness, especially from ourselves. How blessed I am to practice with an amazing instructor, who is courageous, strong, and also a big girl. I celebrate my duckness and am thrilled to be entering my 3rd year of consistent practice…moving from 2 times to 3 times a week. My yoga helps me in all ways and brings an awareness to my life that I never had before. Thank you, Veronica…and thank you to all my fellow ducks who practice in spite of feeling self-conscious. If we only keep present and breathing, we’ll get there!

  29. Freedalida says:

    Over the course of 9 years doing yoga and taking other steps I SLOWLY went from 200 lbs to 140. I did a lot of adaptive yoga and restorative yoga and inner work. Without rushing or pushing, be easy on yourself. All in all I don't really love hot yoga. Go places where you feel accepted not challenged or judged or judgey. It was a cute letter but speaks as much to the work still left to do as the progress you make showing up for yourself and others.

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