November 26, 2013

I Am (Fat) Yoga. ~ Jessica Williams

I heard a writer say today that in America we do yoga and in India they are yoga.

They live it, they embody it. It courses through the bloodstream of an entire people, it is not 90 minutes with a mat fit in between a conference call and making dinner. It is the first morning inhale of sticky hot sunshine and spicy air, and it is the exhale night air hum over tents, mansions, temples, mosques—the affluent and even the untouchables.

So maybe, I thought, in another life I was Indian. Because for me, it changes.

It used to be Warrior II, something about being absolutely rooted. Then it was fish, I think at that time I was opening. I was cracked and I felt the light seeping out and fish was what made me feel closer to source; it was like gaining access to the portal. Now, however, it’s Dancer’s Pose. What’s funny about it is that I cannot do it unless my breath is…

You know when you stand on the beach and each time the water crashes into you, if you just stand your ground you sink further and further into the earth? That is how I feel.

I am sunken into the sand and really, sunken into my Self. My ego washes away and I think not about the ebb and flow of the tide nor the fickle ground on which I stand all thought escapes me as I surrender to the connection and the overwhelming sentiment that I am home.

As I settle into the pose and my Self, I look around the corridors of me, I wonder where to even begin.

Some corners get good light, some walls have beautiful artwork though they lurk in shadows and are covered in cobwebs. There is the faint smell of old, and what I really want to do is throw open the curtains and let all the light in. I pull myself down into my rooted leg and at the same time breathe my back leg to the heavens. I am extended, just as the moon and the ocean waxes and wanes, as do I in Dancer.

My body has been the source of much contention for me. It is the place that holds the evidence for my inability to cope with loss. Though it is tricky because as much as it sometimes feels like a prison, it is also where so much of my safety is.

I know things here first, despite the layers of flesh, my body is sensitive and attuned. I quite literally dwell here. In the past I have tried to use yoga to change my body much to my dismay and frustration. Yet, what I gained was much more useful.

I gained the understanding of life, and it was not in a smaller jeans size. It was in the movement, the movements I could only get to with my breath.

Yoga, running, dance—they have been the forms of movement that I have always been drawn to, regardless of my practice (or lack there of). In these forms I realized that in doing them much of the “doing” is reliant on breath first.

If you do not breathe, you cannot move in yoga. If you do not focus your breathing in running, you cannot get very far. And in dance, well…I suppose in any form of exercise it begins and ends with breath.

I know that with these three in particular it beckons an almost meditative state of breathing and it is like something else takes over all together. Something gentle and powerful, something that knows no limits has no rules and is guided only by two things: inhale and exhale.

What I have learned, so far, about being fat and being yoga: my Yoga self doesn’t acknowledge all the stigma associated with my fat self.

My Yoga Self only knows my practice. My diligence. My humility. My connection. My tenacity. My breath. And none of those things feel shame over not being able to squeeze into Lululemon capris.

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Assistant Editor: Melissa Petty/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: courtesy of the author

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Jessica Williams