I practice yoga in my living room, window shades down, only in the company of my two cats. Why you ask? One: I can't afford to pay $20 a class. Two: My cats don't judge me (well, maybe a little). And three: I don't usually like being one of the only thick girls in the room.
The yoga industry is a $3 trillion dollar industry that is mostly supported by thin, white women. I fit into one of those categories but I definitely don't consider myself thin. My voluptuous figure has kept me far away from anything that could cause sudden embarrassment, like shopping for prom dresses in a group of size 2 friends, or most importantly, attending yoga classes. Although it's something I have been working through and something I try to avoid obsessing over, it's the honest truth. It's a fear that has been brought on by being the odd one out when I walk into the room. And don't even get me started on partner yoga. Some positions are just not compatible with my full body, I'll either end up face down on the floor, or butt up in their air while I'm being suffocated by my own boobs.
And don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to shame any of you ladies who are fearless and are glued to the mat, I just want to discuss a unique perspective. If you think my views are exaggerated or unwarranted, I tried looking for a yoga stock photo for this post and sifted through an endless sea of one body type and one gender and one skin color. It was such a challenge.
In the height of my desire to learn more about yoga as well as the height of my insecurity, I was gifted with the holy and almighty Jessamyn Stanley.
Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga instructor based out of North Carolina who has quickly become my hero. The same day I stumbled upon her instagram, I jumped in my car, sped off to Barnes and Noble and purchased her book. No joke. Her book, Everybody Yoga, acts as both a guide to a variety of poses that can be modified for all, but also tells the story of her yoga journey and what she had to rewire in her brain in order to allow herself to experience the wellness that was right in front of her, on the mat. The visual pose guide features a wide variety of nationalities and genders. I have even caught my Fiancè with his butt up and the air and her book open on the living room floor. One of the huge a-ha moments from her book that have broken some of my barriers is this: Instead of focusing on how I look, focus on how I feel.
Even after soaking in all of the glorious body positivity, I am still not to the point where I am ready to go to the front of the class. I am still not ready to pose naked on instagram as I stand on my head like Jessamyn; what a badass. But, I see myself as a strong body. A big body, but a strong body that is capable of amazing things. I am more focused than ever on wanting to feel energized, wanting to feel self love, and wanting to feel open. Instead of focusing on my slouchy stomach rolls, or cellulite, or arms that jiggle a little more than I would like, I want to feel good. I know now that yoga is to make me feel good, not pretty or wealthy or popular. I want to feel good and feel strong for me.
Follow Jessamyn on Instagram.
Buy Jessamyn's book, Everybody Yoga.
Listen to Jessamyn's podcast.
Don't be scared of your rolls, girl. Watch this video, dust off your mat and try out some poses with Jessamyn.
So I shared my embarrassing workout tea, now you give me the tea and we can laugh it off together. What are your most cringey moments involving exercise? But don't answer that question unless you are also willing to share some of your successes when it comes to self love and fitness. No matter how seemingly small. Also, what is something you wish fitness instructors would keep in mind?