November 26, 2013

My Journey as an Overweight Yoga Practitioner. ~ Frank de la Cruz

My lifelong battle with obesity has never stopped me from being social.

Pulling from a deep well of various experiences, jobs, and interests I can engage in just about any topic. But in 2008, after a complete evisceration of everything I held dear, I retreated in to a cave. This cave was not only emotional, but also physical and sociological. I gave up. Spending hours on the computer between four walls and eating, drinking and smoking myself into an early grave.

The thought of rebuilding my life was too much to bear.

After several years and giving into the pleas of my family, I underwent weight loss surgery and began the long, hard road back from 558 pounds.

That’s not a misprint: I weighed roughly one quarter of a ton.

Along the road, I found yoga. I can’t tell you the effort it took to even seek out a yoga studio, let alone take a class. Within 10 minutes, I fell in love. I knew yoga had to be part of the rest of my life—though I didn’t know to what extent. Over the last two and a half years I have been reconstructing. Putting back together the physical awareness that lay dormant for so many years, the road has been wrought with many obstacles.

Socially, I began making connections again, finding any excuse to reach out to the members in the yoga community. For the most part, most extensions of friendliness have been received in kind. Very few exemptions have been let go of.

Even after the loss of 240 pounds, I still don’t display the “typical” characteristics of a yoga practitioner. This became abundantly clear on my first visit to a Yoga journal Conference in Hollywood, Florida.

Being obese for a good part of my life, I have grown accustomed to the “double-take.” You can almost see the mental gears grinding to a halt trying to process and fathom the presence of someone with my physical attributes at such a place. For the most part, its a subtle processing that takes place. I took three asana based classes during that weekend. These classes included ‘yoga-world’ renowned teachers like Richard Freeman, Kino MacGregor, and Kathryn Budig.

Each one of these teachers were amazingly open-minded, gracious and phenomenal. Even during partner work, they had their assistants work with me since other students tended to be a bit awkward in my presence. As I walked into these rooms, the eyes of other students—wide with bewilderment—gave way to the processing going on in their mind.

What they see is hard to describe: the excessive weight loss has left considerable loose skin and I still have quite a bit to lose.

What they don’t see is the nearly two and a half years of dedicated yoga practice that has taken me through Anusara, Kundalini, Kripalu, Integral, Yin, and Ashtanga.

They don’t see the getting up at 4:30 am to get to the Shala for 6:00 am Mysore. They don’t see the five classes per week that I teach and the Yoga Teacher Training program that I assist in. They don’t see the tears in the eyes of my students, that it was my story that gave them the courage to get on the mat and begin reconciling their body and breath.

Despite feeling separation from the physical attributes of the other yoga practitioners at the conference, I secretly felt happy and fulfilled because I know it’s not about me or what I look like. It’s about sharing the transformative power of this practice with people who would otherwise have never given yoga the chance to flow through them.

Hello, my name is Frank and I practice yoga.


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Editor: Renée Picard

{Photo: Tiffany Assman at Flickr}

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