December 2, 2013

When Fat People Do Yoga. ~ Jessamyn Stanley

Jessamyn Stanley Mermaid Pose

When a fat person walks into yoga class, rolls out their mat next to us, and lays down for a preparatory savasana, what is our first impression?

And yes, I did say fat. Not thick. Not hefty. Fat—the dirtiest piece of non-profanity in the English language.

Anyway, it is likely that our first impression might be something along the lines of, “Look at that person! They are trying to lose weight and get healthy! They are not going to let their size hold them back from getting fit!”

Pardon my French, but what in the hell makes us think someone can’t be both fit and fat?

Ok, I’m not an idiot—I know that the media paints all fat people as couch hogging pizza addicts. I mean, that’s the dagger most fat-phobic people draw first, right? That eating is more important to us than breathing, let alone exercise?

However, this is not reality. Truth is, there are just as many thin couch hogging pizza addicts as there are fat. And, regardless of size, an unhealthy lifestyle can be a difficult hurdle for anyone to cross. With that in mind, wouldn’t it stand to reason that if we all have the same general skeletal makeup that our ability to achieve personal success in a yoga class is equal?

At this point in history, the face of Western yoga is not particularly inviting to the fat practitioner. However, I have a dream—a world where a fat person can walk into a yoga studio filled with smaller sized classmates, roll out their mat, sink into savasana and not feel intimidated by the glances of their classmates. Because yes, non-fat students will probably always glance at the chunky person who is rocking out a camel pose or a tree pose.

However (and I’m being completely honest here), who cares? Who cares if the smaller person is staring at the fat person during yoga class? Should it make the fat person feel guilty about their size? I think the only person who should feel guilty is the ass hat who is projecting their personal body issues onto the yoga practice of another person.

That’s the beauty of yoga—it knows no maximum size, no weight limits and it does not require anything but personal determination and satisfaction. When we assume that the fat person practicing next to us is primarily focused on losing weight, we are belittling their practice. Weight loss, while a totally respectable goal, is not what should draw the fat person to yoga. Unlike other physical exercise, yoga is almost entirely the product of internal development and reflection. It doesn’t require extensive sporting equipment or even other people. It is pure personal growth, plain and simple. It is personal growth that is so deliriously self-satisfying that every breathing creature on this planet deserves to feel it at least once.

To summarize all of that delicious self-satisfaction into a weight-loss attempt is short sighted and, to be frank, dumb.

When I first started practicing yoga, I would mentally document all of the calories I was burning and carefully examine my body for subtle changes in shape and tone. Eventually I realized that the real development I was undergoing wasn’t immediately visible in a mirror—the changes to my attitude, spirit and self-esteem may not have been visual indicators, but they spoke much louder than weight loss ever could.

If you want to lose weight and yoga is the best way for you to do it, please feel free to ignore me. But if you seek inner peace and personal satisfaction, don’t let the prejudices of others cloud your judgment.

Revel in your size, whether big or small.

Let your practice be a wild journey toward self-acceptance and truly radical self-love.

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 Assistant Editor: Daniel Garcia/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Image: Provided by Jessamyn Stanley


Relephant reads:

I Am (Fat) Yoga.

An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City. 

“Fat Girl.”

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