Body image and yoga

As it may be noted from my post about my bottom I do have some “issues” when it comes to body image and yoga. I don’t tend to want to blog about body issues because in terms of BIG ISSUES in my life it rates pretty low.

Now I have never had an eating disorder, of any kind. I am not overweight (my BMI is about 24) and I am not particularly large. When I am with my family and friends it is accepted that I am the “thin, healthy one who does lots of exercise”.

But in my yoga class I have labelled myself “the fat one who can do backbends”.

I am not joking! In my yoga class I am huge! There’s full length mirrors down one end of the studio and once I’d got over the fact that I could watch myself doing yoga and my asanas looked pretty damn good, if I do say so myself… I thought “I am the fattest person in the room, I have the biggest legs and ass in this room”. How skewed is this?

This is not helped by the pronouncements of people, women who are 40-odd who can fit into 10 year old’s shorts, that their bums are “too heavy” to lift into purvottanasana. As I can easily lift into this pose I know the problem is not that their bums are “too heavy”, it’s that they are too weak! How do you think it feels for me, who has already assessed the bodies of everyone in the room and realised I am the biggest yet again, to hear thin people proclaim that they are fat?

I had a terrible realisation that if I hadn’t done all that home practice when I started, I would not have got very far in these classes. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to be in a room with all those thin women and do yoga. I only have the confidence now because I know that everyone can do yoga, because I spent a couple of years on my own learning as much as I could. If those classes had been my only experience, I wouldn’t have got past the first one.

The strange thing is also realising that a lot of these women who come to yoga do it because it’s right for their “type”. I don’t think that a lot of them struggled with the stiffness that I had when I started yoga, for example. Also society would have us believe that the women with the thinner legs have “earned” their thinness, through hard work. But those of us who know better realise that those women would have been that size anyway! I would probably be this size if I didn’t do any exercise at all. So where does that leave us?

My teacher said that I would be good at teaching beginners. I think she said this because I am quite a gentle, sensitive person but part of me thinks that the way my body looks would be an advantage too. I don’t look like no yoga superstar, I look like a regular, non-threatening person. I would not intimidate anyone with my rock hard body! I comfort myself by hoping that in my classes in the future no one will be excluded, or think they have the “wrong body” for yoga. There will be no fat talk tolerated in my classes!

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One thought on “Body image and yoga

  1. I love this post and your honesty. I get all shapes and sizes in my class and I am always inspired by the non-stereotypical yoga shaped yogis who can get into and then hold a pose with much more ease than the “in-shape, skinny, toned and fit” types. This goes to tell you that yoga is not about the outside at all!

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