I Am (Fat) Yoga. ~ Jessica Williams

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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

Jessica is a twenty something writer artist dreamer, future doctor, professional breather. She is a big picture thinker and can often be heard damning the fairy tale of coincidence.  She currently lives in San Diego where the sun is too bright and the nights are too cold. She practices yoga to keep from drowning in the Pacific.

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anonymous Nov 30, 2013 9:02am

Thank you so much for this article!

    anonymous Dec 2, 2013 4:59pm

    Thank you so much for READING this article 🙂

anonymous Nov 28, 2013 8:52am

Thank you!

anonymous Nov 27, 2013 4:19pm

I really, really like this. Thank you~

anonymous Nov 27, 2013 12:32pm

Thank you Jessica! Such a gorgeous piece of sentiment, captured. The experience, the practice of just being yoga is truly the whole point of it all, isn't it? I hope more yogis and yoginis will adopt this way of being rather than turning yoga into an athletic, competitive sport (which is where it appears to be headed). You are such a beautiful woman!

    anonymous Nov 27, 2013 9:47pm

    Thank you for your kind words. It's funny I recently told a friend, "it's hard to mess up in yoga, but if you're worried about everyone around you, you're messing up."

anonymous Nov 27, 2013 12:14pm

Lovely and inspiring.

anonymous Nov 27, 2013 12:00pm

I think you are a true yogi…yogini (whatever) Jessica. That was a really inspiring and beautiful article. Thank you for your honesty and sharing.

    anonymous Nov 27, 2013 3:21pm

    Hmm…it is an interesting consideration; though I wonder what the criteria are to be a "yogi" or a "yogini". Thank you for something to think about!

anonymous Nov 27, 2013 7:26am

Beautiful, Jessica. Will come back to this time and time again. You've put words to an image in my heart. <3

    anonymous Nov 27, 2013 3:18pm

    I am always deeply grateful when others do that for me, so I am happy I could give what I have received time and time again from others..

anonymous Nov 27, 2013 6:41am

This is a remarkable work of soul poetry, both original and universal.

I'm afraid to do/be yoga because I'm afraid of my limitations. Your imagery makes it possible for me to think about what it means to inhabit my body, as it is now–fat and out of shape, yes, but also as home, as a means for expression, as mine.

Wish you would blog or submit pieces regularly.

Thank you, Jess! xxx

    anonymous Nov 27, 2013 8:15am

    Please try. Your soul will rejoice, it is amazing what the body can do despite the "physical limitations" we believe we have due to size. Yoga will WORK you, don't stop trying. You will feel out of breath and you will fall out of poses, gather yourself and return to the mat. That's all it takes, silent commitment to always return. I write on my blog (jessj.wordpress.com) but I will definitely be submitting more posts to EJ if they're willing to have me. Thank you for reading!

anonymous Nov 27, 2013 4:44am

Jessica, so much beauty here, your selfie, your writing, your really getting down to the nitty gritty of yoga, yet you look so young. It took me a decade of yoga to reach these truths. You go girl, be a doctor, a yogini and keep writing!

    anonymous Nov 27, 2013 8:10am

    Haha! I always get that…one day maybe when I'm a thirty something maybe I'll look 25, but I'll probably"be" 50. A friend of mine says to measure life in miles not years, yoga (and school) and I have many many miles together.

anonymous Nov 27, 2013 4:18am

THis is a beautiful piece of writing

    anonymous Nov 27, 2013 8:08am

    Thank you so much for your kind words!

anonymous Nov 26, 2013 9:52pm

What a beautiful soul you are! A definite inspiration!

    anonymous Nov 26, 2013 10:17pm

    Thank you so much! You must be as well, if you can see it in others. I think life is one big hall of mirrors.

anonymous Nov 26, 2013 9:46pm

Beautifully written, wonderful sentiment. I love how you experience fish. Thank you for sharing your truth.

    anonymous Nov 26, 2013 10:16pm

    Fish came at such an interesting time in my life…I was really really open. Look up the sculpture "Expansion" by Paige Bradley. That is how I felt, EXACTLY.

anonymous Nov 26, 2013 9:18pm

This is wonderful, thank you.The image of standing on the beach & standing your ground is perfect and the part about the "my yoga self only knows my practice" almost made me cry. It's why I go to the mat.

    anonymous Nov 26, 2013 10:14pm

    Isn't it just….idk I really mean it as an aspiration when I say I am Yoga. I want to live and breathe as I do on the mat. Knowing only my practice, and letting go of all the ways I put myself in boxes.

anonymous Nov 26, 2013 9:14pm

Your post is beautiful – thank you for sharing!!

    anonymous Nov 26, 2013 10:12pm

    Thank YOU for reading, and commenting. I hadn't checked at all since this afternoon. I'm thrilled that my words and my story resonated with people.

anonymous Nov 26, 2013 8:21pm

This was so beautiful, thank you! x

    anonymous Nov 26, 2013 10:09pm

    Thank you so much for reading!

anonymous Nov 26, 2013 11:24am

I think you’ve gotten at the commonality of the human experience here.

    anonymous Nov 26, 2013 12:27pm

    Honestly, I think that is always my mission. Thank you for your kind words.