May 28, 2016

From the Rink to the Mat: A Curvy Girl’s Path to Yoga.

I am a curvy girl. Always have been.

I remember having to start buying clothes in the Womens’ section while my friends were still shopping at Abercrombie Kids (it was the early 2000s, so this was the place to shop).

My body type never stopped me from being extremely active in my youth, however. I fell in love with figure skating at three, and my parents and coaches quickly discovered that I was a natural on the ice. Olympic aspirations soon followed.

I never worried about my size until an extremely well-known (and old-fashioned) choreographer told me to “lay off the french fries,” because my body wasn’t made for figure skating. I was maybe 10 or 11. And while I loved fries (still do), I certainly wasn’t eating them every day.

You can imagine how hearing this impacts a young child and while I was still focused on making the Olympic team in the next few years, I began to fall out of love with the sport.

The parts that always called to me—moving my body, trying new things, closing my eyes and just feeling—fell away to dieting, countless hours in the gym, early mornings and late nights at the rink and a general feeling of constant competition. My body finally caught up with my mind, and I ended up leaving the rink (heartbroken, despite my complicated feelings) around 16 with a severe spinal injury.

I spent many years feeling sorry for myself before finally deciding that I needed to start moving my body again for the sake of my health. I tried going to the gym, doing interval training and swimming, but always left feeling frustrated that none of these activities felt the same as my much-loved time on the ice. So I just stopped trying.

Several years later, around the time that all of the video stores were closing, I wandered into a Blockbuster and ended up picking out a discounted Yoga DVD.

I knew of yoga—many of my friends had the occasional practice, and it was a required part of my skating training (that I ironically loathed)—but had probably put in only a handful of voluntary hours on the mat. Heck, I didn’t even have a mat, but that didn’t stop me. It was time to start moving again.

I promptly went home and started my 60-minute practice on the living room floor. I huffed and puffed and needed to take several breaks, but I did it! And I felt absolutely incredible. So I practiced following the same DVD again and again and again, and when that got old, I went on YouTube and found thousands of free at-home practices from several different teachers. I eventually bought myself a nothing-special mat from Canadian Tire and made time for it every single day.

All of the aspects of figure skating that I so dearly loved and left behind years ago, I had found on my mat. Not only was this a safe space to move and breathe and feel, but there was no one to tell me that I wasn’t good enough or that I needed to “lay off the fries” to succeed.

It was love.

This passion led me to finally (finally!) join a studio where I found myself eager to try new asana, learn about all the different aspects of yoga outside of physical practice, join a new community and meet new people.

The one thing I was nervous about was fitting into this idea of a “yoga body.” I wasn’t six feet tall, tanned and doing yoga on a beach in a bikini, so how would I fit into a studio class? This may seem like a silly question, but you have to remember that so many of us have been fed this “ideal” body, and I had already been called out for not having the proper body type for another active community.

Little did I know, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. There is a truly empowering saying going around the internet, “If you want a bikini body, put a bikini on your body.”

The same goes for yoga, “If you want to have a yoga body, do yoga in your body.”

Yoga will change your life. It will change your mindset. I had always been aware of my curves and had always felt that they were a disservice to me—that somehow my body had betrayed me and my dreams by looking the way that it does. But my body hadn’t done anything to me; my mind had betrayed me by convincing me that my value was determined by my Lulu’s size.

Yoga completely shifted this perspective. Instead of bullying my body, I ended up constantly praising it for everything amazing it can do and the improvements I see in my practice every time I show up on my mat.

My love for yoga and this shift in my mental state led me to ask some questions.

“How is yoga different that any other physical activity? Why am I feeling so damn good and so different? Why am I calmer? Why didn’t I feel this way when I was skating, going to the gym or swimming?”

It is because yoga is so much more than just a physical practice.

Sure, we typically think of asana (or postures) in our Western culture, but in reality, yoga is a several-thousand-year-old tradition that includes breath work, meditation and ethical and moral codes that can transform our life. The practice unites our physical, mental and spiritual bodies. We learn to sit with discomfort; we learn to sit with ourselves, and that is where the transformation comes.

Yoga isn’t about perfection. It isn’t about everyone in the classroom competing against one another to do the “perfect” asana (which doesn’t exist).

It is about learning to love yourself and everything that you have to offer exactly as you are.

Curvy or thin. Tall or short. Quiet or loud. Strong or flexible—or neither.

There is room for every single one of us. Yoga does not discriminate.

Join me on the mat. Join me in this revolution. Love yourself exactly as you are, and eat as many french fries as you want!


Relephant Read:

Lessons From a Curvy Yoga Teacher. ~ Thea Pueschel


Author: Kaitlyn Warne

Editor: Toby Israel

Image: Kaitlyn Warne on Instagram 


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