April 14, 2013

Lessons From a Curvy Yoga Teacher. ~ Thea Pueschel

My curvy sisters and brothers are coming to yoga for what you more than likely came for as well: mindfulness and body awareness.

Imagine sitting at the front of your yoga studio, getting ready to teach a class. You pinch the extra skin on your flat and toned belly through your cute Lululemon “Practice Freely Tank.” You’re talking about how “fat” you are to a student/friend/colleague and how the extra weight just won’t go away no matter how much you run, jump and do yoga.

Seconds later, a fat girl walks in, rolls out her mat and gives you a smile.


A) Panic, and assume it is her first class.

B) Avoid eye contact and ignore her existence, making sure to skip over her in any adjustments.

C) Treat her with respect and consideration.

D) Tell her how yoga and a specific diet are great for weight loss.

I have heard or witnessed all of the aforementioned scenarios. Hopefully you chose C…

The other day I was having a conversation with a dear friend and yoga teacher. Curious about my Curvy Yoga class she asked me, “So are your students coming to you for weight loss?” When I told her no, she was surprised.

To me weight loss and yoga have never been synonymous.

When I first started doing yoga almost a decade ago, I did so in order to turn off the mental mice. And of course, as anyone with hardcore mental mice does, I started with Bikram Yoga.

I didn’t even realize the size difference or lack thereof in the class. All I saw was rippling muscles and clothing that was a bit too small, revealing nether bits. I was there to sweat and burn my inner demonic mice away.

When I had calmed down, I turned to other forms of yoga, meditation and hypnotherapy. If it hadn’t been for that hot and sweaty room, the seeds of the inner revolution would have never been planted.

My passions for my personal practice led me to practically proselytizing about yoga. But friends and acquaintances pointed out the rift and discomfort they experienced in some classes.

I realized that there’s a large size chasm of which I wasn’t even aware until I started my 200-hr teacher training last year. And still I did not fully conceptualize it until I started teaching Curvy Yoga.

There, I heard complaints of feeling invisible, as well as the opposite—where students felt singled out, sometimes to the point of feeling publicly shamed.

If you teach a class called “Yoga for Weight Loss” then this article may not apply to you. But feel free to keep reading.

Whether a person considers himself or herself curvy, fat or full-bodied doesn’t matter. My curvy sisters and brothers are coming to yoga for what you more than likely came for as well: mindfulness and body awareness.

What drew you to yoga? Did it work for you? If so, sharing the gift of breath, movement and mindfulness brings much joy.

You’ve done hundreds to thousands of hours of trainings. You’ve learned the philosophy, the eight limbs, the physical, the spiritual, the anatomy. You have a strong foundation, but I will bet you dollars to donuts (and I hate donuts) that in all of this personal evolution and education, you did not become a mind reader, nor can you psychically channel a person’s past.

Unless you consider yourself psychic, don’t assume someone is coming to your class for weight loss.

In your profession as a yoga teacher:

>> You wouldn’t expect to make an elderly person young (though yoga could help improve mobility and stamina).

>> You wouldn’t expect to make an underweight person gain weight.

>> You wouldn’t expect to make a tall person shorter (however with the help of unsafe headstands and shoulderstands you could probably achieve it).

>> You wouldn’t expect to make a short person taller (though their posture will get better and they may look taller).

So don’t expect to make a curvy, fat or full-bodied person thin. Let them experience the pleasure of movement and breath, the realization and growth that occurs from the mat.

Let the changes be organic and intuitive to their body.

What may appear to be an unhealthy body to you may be a body in mint condition with excellent interiors and health.

People who are fat are aware that they are not thin. Those who are morbidly obese are aware because doctors, family members and complete strangers on the street make them aware. We won’t even get into the inner chatter.

I leave you with these thoughts as you teach:

>> Don’t be a jerky-shmo

>> Be open to grace

>> Practice decorum

>> Create a safe space for transformation

Then watch as your students blossom into their potential … in whatever shape that takes.


Thea Pueschel is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, Sports Mind Coach and Certified Curvy Yoga Teacher. Yoga was her gateway into the world of balance and stillness. When she isn’t lulling people with her gentle maternal patter through personalized metaphor or teaching Curvy Yoga, she engages in multimedia arts and writing. To find more about Thea visit her hypnotherapy website www.hypnotiqsolutions.net or living arts website www.hazelbluestudios.com. Connect with her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/hazelbluestudios and Twitter https://twitter.com/HypSolutions.



Assistant Ed: Stephanie V.

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Apr 17, 2013 9:19am

NotPerfect/NotGuilty, I think it is awesome that you hold space for your students. Thank you for being present. I've had a lot of yoga instructors that fit the cover of yoga journal that were amazing, and still are. This isn't meant to be a thin vs. not thin statement. Just a be mindful and kind statement. A lot, of times when people do not show up to class it has nothing to do with the teacher, but has to do with permission. One of my acquaintances that teaches spin and kickboxing once said "The people who love the class, and gush generally never show up again." Some people are studio butterflies such as myself, I live in an area with so many amazing yoga teachers and studios I flitter around. I perhaps have had 3 or 4 negative experiences, but I knew that it wasn't a me issue and opted to never go to that those teachers classes again (3 of those experiences were injury related). I studied with Anna Guest-Jelley, and think she is a great space holder. We all say or do things that are not the wisest from time to time, but sometimes we are not aware of how our statements or actions can effect others. I think most if not all yoga instructors teach to offer guidance and share their love of yoga. I don't believe it is a innocent vs. guilt situation, more of a call to action for mindfulness. Thank you for your comment, and feedback.

NotPerfect/NotGuilty Apr 17, 2013 8:29am

I love this too. I am a yoga teacher, and a "thin" (or whatever) one at that, but that doesn't mean I don't have my own chatter about the places on my own body that I deem "unfit". I think sometimes we all assume that because one might be 'skinny' that "we" (as if separate) don't struggle from the exact same self abuse as those who are, or might be seen as 'fat'. We may not be approached in the same un-courteous ways that were described above, but it doesn't mean it's non-existent. Just so you know. 😉
Plus! ~I adore the moment when a curvy person walks in to my class. It's rare. I can't say why. But I'll have you know that I treat everyone who comes in to my class with the respect that you hope for. (Again, just so you know we're out there!) In fact, my experience has been that those who are curvy that do show up, frickin SHOW UP. They're strong willed, determined, and much more regular as a student than those who aren't as curvy, until a day comes when they decide they can't show up any more. Again, I can't say why, but I can almost guarantee it's not because I have treated them in a disrespectful manner. It could very well be that they are treating themselves disrespectfully and they (like us ALL) deem it difficult to continue to go in, and in, and in, and therefore find all the reasons in the world to not come back.
The dear hearted Anna Guest Jelley (I think that's how you spell it) reminded us once in an article, how important it is for there to be communication between student and teacher. If a student feels shamed or uncomfortable because of something the teacher said, it's a courageous and very respectful thing to do for yourself to say something in a non-reactive kind of way. The teacher may be quite oblivious to their silly, uneducated "disposition".
I love the discussions about it all. It helps me as a teacher and it helps me as a student of yoga too. Be well. With love, and keep rockin the curves with pleasantness and an attitude that assumes we are all innocent until proven guilty! 😉

Apr 16, 2013 5:59pm

Thank you Christy for your feedback and you are welcome. Trust that you will find your way and give yourself permission to get back on the mat :).

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