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. Shan says:


  2. Beverly says:

    Love this. Thank you.

  3. ZaftigDiva says:

    Oh, yes, I am the only one. But me, I keep coming back. Since I was never slender enough to pass as yogish, I just kept training, teaching, and attending yoga in my big fat body. Sadly, yoga instructors/demonstrators were amazed that I actually followed their cuing. That’s the sad state of affairs that passes for yoga these days. Rather than offering a sense of mind/body/breath union, we are treated to a discourse on the latest acrobatic feats or left on the sidelines to peer at others who may be as lost as we are. Fat, old, sick, tired, new, inexperienced, or any way outside of the “yogic” standard participants are neglected, ostracized, and at times scolded for even daring to show up.

    While I know my practice is on my mat, the corners of my mouth shift upward and my heart skips a tiny beat when I share space, breath and energy with those who have been left out – fat people, people of color, poor people, young people, old people, those of different abilities, and those who just don’t bend.

    We all have a right to breathe.

    Namaste …

  4. yogi tobye says:

    I wonder how we would all feel about ourselves if there were no mirrors in the world…

  5. Leila says:

    We'd all love ourselves… even more… completely… without comparison.

  6. kcyogachick says:

    No mirrors at my studio so folks CAN focus on breath and movement. Funny…people ask all the time why I didn't put up mirrors. Really? We do a good enough job at picking ourselves apart the other 75% of the time. We're not doing that in my class 🙂

  7. Kristin says:

    Beautiful. Yoga is meant for all. You're welcome in my class anytime. 🙂 You keep at it woman! <3

  8. Noelle says:

    Wow. I can't even articulate how much I LOVE this tiny letter.

  9. DKNY says:

    Absolutely stupid article. What makes you think that so called other "fat girl" considers herself fat, or anything less than perfect? Yoga is NOT working for you.

  10. lindsay says:

    I love how genuine and real this letter is. Many of us, including myself look at other people in yoga. Sometimes you can't get your mind off something so you focus on someone in class…. Cute letter.

  11. Greg Eckard says:

    I found this article both humorous and heartwarming. Yoga (and most other forms of exercise) devolve so frequently into ego contests.

  12. AnnaBaldwin says:

    Not only is it important to not feel judged for your weight in yoga, but it's also important to not feel judged by the brand of yoga gear that you're wearing. Nice letter!

  13. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I perversely judge the old age of and definite pilling, lint-sticking and signs of wear on the Lululemon/Lucy/PrAna as being the only good things about upscale yoga wear to the classes I attend. Preferring the look of pajamas, old tee shirts and track suits in the yoga class. That's bad, too … but I think it's a "better" bad.

  14. yogi tobye says:

    I do like a mirror to check my allignment but, once checked and the muscle memory kicks in it's back to the breath.

  15. lightwright says:

    This is a heart felt thread… Judgement of others is always a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. There are fat disorders that the general population does not know about in general which effect between 6-11% of all obese people. The name of the disease is called Lipedema in english and has been known to exist since 1940. For those people diet and excercise simply do not work. Some of their fat is abnormally stored and resistant to diet. For more visit Fat Disorders Research Society or the website of Doctor Karen Herbst. Doctors and society have harshly dealt with and judged many fat people who are actually anorexic to a large degree. Just take one minute, or 15 seconds to think that that would feel like. Love is good.

  16. catnipkiss says:

    Love this!! I am sometimes amazed at how much bend some of the bigger gals (bigger than me usually) get in hot yoga half moon pose. Why IS that? However, I have recently learned to balance in crow, working on going past ten seconds…. and there is a lot of me to balance on those lovely strong arms! We should all celebrate who we are and what we can do. And sooner or later, if we are lucky, we get to be one of those other maligned breeds, the "old girls" of yoga. I'm headed that direction myself! Thanks for writing this! – Alexa Maxwell

  17. This sounds like judgment. Perhaps yoga is also not working for you?

  18. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I'm already getting old … and maybe it shows.

    Good for you on that crow. When I had been "barely socially acceptably" thinner (after having lost dozens of pounds), I'd had very little strength in my wrists for anything like that (despite working out with weights). Women should choose strength and health over slimness, because many times there *does* have to be a trade-off …

  19. elizabeth says:

    I never have been to a yoga studio with mirrors- sounds like such a strange idea. I would really be uncomfortable with mirrors everywhere. Talk about distracting!

  20. Kenia Cris says:

    Love it. <3

  21. Caitlin J says:

    I could totally see how that would be distracting to someone not used to it! I've been doing hot yoga (with mirrors) for about 2 yrs now and I'm starting to come up with different strategies of not looking at myself during class, because it gets your mind wandering looking at yourself! haha

  22. meganromo says:

    This is great. It's great because it applies to all bodies. Even if we're not "fat," so to speak, we all seem to scope out the others like us in those [rare? hah!] moments of distraction. Yesterday in class I couldn't keep my eyes of the girl who had my same hair cut. It wasn't a competitive thing. It felt like I was looking in a different mirror than the one that I usually see. We learn about ourselves in yoga. It's morbid and refreshing.

  23. yogabear says:

    i am a fat guy doing yoga. We come in all sizes and self acceptance is something that I have had to learn.

  24. Kat says:

    Ahh this article makes me so happy :). I refused to take classes for literally years because I didn't want to be the fat kid in a skinny club, until a few weeks ago, when I got the opportunity to see the line of people who were waiting to enter a Zumba class. That moment changed my understanding of the kinds of people who take classes. There were fat people, skinny people, young, old, male, female, tall, short, beautiful, average, and everything in between. That was when I realized what I've been missing out on because of an insecurity, and I suddenly felt quite a bit of love for all of those people waiting in line, for just not giving a big damn about what anyone else thinks and doing something great for themselves. And guess who's taking Zumba tonight? This commenter, right here :).

  25. Todd Gray | Bold Interventions says:

    Life and understanding are truly about perspective, aren't they? Somebody else always looks better than us… Somebody always looks worse… Somebody else looks about the same. I am so thankful for people like you who see the humor in every situation and make everything more enjoyable.

  26. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Well, Kat, you actually see the cultural panoply for what it is.

    Dance-based movement, in its all levels interpretation, is size- and age-forgiving (and face it–we ALL age..even the yoga pretzels and showoffs, and the spinning class flywheel demons …) ..
    All Levels yoga, in its current incarnation, not so much …

    I am practicing yoga very regularly at home.

    But the world will see me on the dance floor–in a 5 Rhythms class … some of the other students are just over 1/3 my age … and they cut a dance floor with passion and energy … some tumbling and breakdance moves going on …

    All levels of physical ability in the same class … nobody feeling "left out" … didn't yoga classes used to be like that circa 1985? I used to (after a while, anyway) take only All Levels classes of yoga, just because … (even if I have to now do it online – I've practiced yoga regularly for 5 years now)

    The conscious dance community, which includes Nia, Zumba, 5 Rhythms, JourneyDance, etc. embraces all …

    I, Vision_Quest2, am neither a former yogini, nor a "recovered" yogini … but a panoramic one …

  27. Annie Ory says:

    There is no way that posting this did your heart any good. Peace.

  28. […] on It’s All Yoga, Baby. And while we’re on the topic, Elephant Journal’s An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga both warmed my heart and made me […]

  29. starsnspikes says:

    In response to lightwright – I find your response interesting. You say that doctors have judged fat people 'who are actually anorexic to a large degree'. What interests me is that being 'anorexic' in behaviour would somehow be seen as okay, and that if only people knew that really, you didn't overeat and the fat was a medical condition as opposed to just the result of overeating, it would somehow be morally acceptable.

    It's like, as a society, if we can find a medical reason for overweight/obesity, then it becomes okay to be fat. Because you can't help it. So people might pity those who are overweight, but they won't judge them because it's not their fault. But what about people who ARE at 'fault' because they simply eat a lot? They like food, and they eat a little more than their body needs and so they store some as fat? No pathological reason why, no medical explanation, just a simple, unashamed love of food?

    That's what people can't handle. If someone is overweight they need to be seen as either doing something about it or unable to do so because it's 'medical'. There doesn't seem to be any room for people to just be fat and content with it. Society likes to see fat people striving to improve themselves (hence the influx of Biggest-Loser-esque weight loss/self-improvement shows). Society can't handle someone being fat and *gasp* not trying to do anything about it.

    This isn't an attack on what you said by any means, and I apologise that what was an innocent comment from you has sparked such a rant from me! It certainly isn't aimed at you. It just got me thinking… it's insane that people who are overweight have to justify their size to others. It's insane that anorexia isn't viewed with the same disdain as fatness. Why isn't it? Being anorexic is more unhealthy than being overweight. There is just as much of an epidemic of eating disorders as there is of obesity. Yet people don't get all riled up about those who undereat, because it comes down to the same issue of morality – fat is seen as immoral, as a result of an individual being unable to control their desires. And anorexia is the ultimate control – to deny such an essential, basic need. Of course anorexia is a signal that someone is very much out of control, but from a societal perspective that doesn't matter. People aren't comfortable with human need and desire and pleasure, and fat has become synonymous with an inability to control those things.

    People who are overweight should be free to be completely happy and proud of themselves exactly how they are, irrespective of WHY they're overweight. The reason why should require no explanation. If it's a medical thing, fine. If not, that's fine too.You don't get people walking around feeling guilty for being tall and having to guiltily explain that 'it's hormonal"!

    Jumping off my soapbox now. This was a great letter to read anyway.

  30. Lynda,On a recommendation for your son, there are several books I can suggest based on his situation…- Primal Body Primal Mind (Lora Gedbaudas) is a big book covering many topics and is a little technical, but very enlightening and as I mentioned, really got my daughter’s attention. She has, as a result, gone off of sugar and grains and added saturated fat to her family’s diet and is very please with the results.- Why We Get Fat (Gary Taubes) is also a Great Book addressing why the carbs and sugar in our diet is killing us, driving the increase in overweight adults and children and obesity. It has a very good explanation of the clinical studies that prove this. It will also address the issue of tiredness and sugar highs and lows very well.- Wheat Belly (William Davis MD) explains why we (or most of us) should seriously consider getting off of wheat. This would be a good idea if your son has problems with his digestive tract.- Sugar Nation is also a good book for folks who need to get off of sugar because they are, or soon will be, pre-diabetic or diabetic. MOst people who are overweight are likely to become diabetic.

  31. Kat says:

    You're awesome, and I love what you said! I completely agree!

  32. May the Reid family and Eagles organization find comfort from within their family and in what ever God they serve and believe be with each of them in this tragic time.

  33. MsJamie says:

    Love <3

  34. La Sirena says:

    You are obviously not a fat yoga girl. And using the word stupid like that followed by "yoga is not working for you"? Really?

  35. La Sirena says:

    Agreed! We don't shame binge drinkers or shopaholics like this, so why fat??? And in my experience, even when I explain the medical reasons (side effect of meds – my doc said "do you want to be fat and alive or skinny and dead? You choose.", people STILL try to give me advice on how to lose weight, unsolicited, of course.

  36. la sirena says:

    I was always the only fat girl in my hot yoga class, and I can't tell you how it felt to have to put up with teachers and fellow students who saw me there for the first time, coming up to congratulate me on "my first class", with all their condescencion masked as admiration, telling me to "stick with it" without even bothering to talk to me to find out that I was actually a regularly practicing yogi. Then there was the guy who kept grinning at me via the mirror every time we did a pose that showed off my cleavage and made it look even bigger. And there were also the snide glances because I wear Chinatown leggings and t-shirts, not a single logo *gasp*, not that I'd wear lululemon or any other designer even if they did come in anything larger than "skinny" and "dead". If I had a dollar for every smug, self-satisfied smirk I saw on a skinny girl's face as she compared her 'perfect' posture to my modified or struggling version… North Americans have turned yoga into a competitive sport, devoid of any spirituality in most of the classes I attended over the years.

    Now I lead a sangha in my adopted home of Ecuador, and when my members tell others that I teach them yoga, the look on most people's faces in sometimes disbelief, but near as rude or aghast as when I tell gringos. One of my members loves telling people "You would think with that body that she can't do it, but she's more flexible than all of us, she's incredible." And we take time for the spiritual in every single class. When we have a new visitor to our group, the first thing I explain is the meaning of the word yoga, stressing that yoga is not exercise, that the asanas are just one part of a spiritual practice. How many of the lululemon clones in a North American class could even tell you what yoga means in sanskrit??? I never once heard it mentioned.

  37. La Sirena says:

    *never* as rude

    Ps… I have never seen a swami wear designer clothes or compare themselves to those practicing around them. Just sayin'… (and yes, I have practiced in the presence of swamis)

  38. JessBee says:

    love this. make that hot girl at fat yoga please!

  39. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Even better: that hot AND fat girl … at all sizes and stripes yoga …

  40. Dax says:

    Love it. This is hilariously written and makes a great point. Especially love the line further down the article from the original page that reads… "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. "

  41. MSY says:

    Says the flamingo in the room …

  42. Cheryl Anne Harper says:


  43. Shyflamingo says:

    I am glad to know the author of this article is actively working with her relationship to her body, so much so that she is willing to publicly speak about her frustrations with illness and medications. I am also inspired by how she is reaching to feel and embody things that she feels are positives about her physical form. The thing I find really interesting though, is the assumption that the 'flamingos' are somehow more comfortable with themselves than the 'fat girls'. The reality is, we ALL have challenges, struggles, places where we are confuses into thinking we somehow don't measure up. I hope that the author can soon feel that sense of compassion towards ALL the other students in her class and not just the ne she identifies with based on shape.

  44. shutit says:

    it's not mirrors that judge – it's other people

  45. Mindy says:

    Love, love, love, love, love.
    Thank you,
    A Fat Woman who is learning to love her body through hot yoga (and other stuff 🙂

  46. MichelleQuinlan says:

    glorious article! my heart swells from your sweet honesty. beautiful, kind, helpful. thank you.

  47. Serena says:

    If fat people spent half as much time exercising as they did whining and complaining about doctors and the evil society judging them, they would probably be less fat. But that would require actually doing something other than whining, so you will continue to be fat and then whine more when people judge you. And by "exercise" I mean try some cardio, not this yoga bullshit which is just stretching in $100 Lululemon pants.

  48. amphibi1yogini says:

    No truer words have been said, though it could have been said with compassion, both for the fat and for the Lululemon wearers. Cardio is so important for managing weight, cholesterol, blood sugars, triglycerides and high blood pressure. Bad heredity on my part, but I have two of the comorbidities and had to branch out from yoga to preserve my very life (also formerly obese, but it had been many years since I'd lost a great deal of weight into normal BMI.)

    We are talking about a spiritual modality STILL AS TRENDY AS EVER (just see Google Trends re: Yoga and compare it to cardio dance or even Zumba or NIA-cardo movement modalities–NIA being the more spiritual and more trendy, by far … or NIA Just not as consistently trendy since 2005 as yoga.

    Yoga, by and large, promoted by Pitta-Vata showbiz personalities– generally not Kaphas–TO Kaphas, and to everybody else?!? Why should the curly haired girl always wish for straight hair, and vice versa? Working against gravity with speed and agility may be a deterrent at first, but we Kaphas (and Kapha-Vatas) literally "hit our stride" with cardio! [The best kept secret of personally having lived through the '80s and the aerobics era.]