When most people think of a modern day yoga teacher, they probably think of someone who is thin, wiry, bendy, flexible, thin, vegan, tree hugging, thin, peace loving, Buddhist…
Did I mention thin?
I’m a yoga teacher, and I don’t fit into the typical yoga teacher mold, just like I don’t fit into Abercrombie & Fitch.
When I first started taking yoga classes I was looking for a way to shed some pounds. By the time I finished teacher training I was fit, strong, and at my ideal weight.
Four years later, I am a joyfully experienced yoga teacher, and I am 25 pounds heavier. When I stepped on the scale at the doctors’s office, he told me I was technically obese.
So there it is, I am a technically obese yoga teacher. I am the elephant in the room.
Although I’m a lot thicker than most yoga teachers I know. I’m not the thickest. I’ve seen much curvier ladies online teaching classes. I love them all for encouraging people of all shapes and sizes to try yoga. But I still hear stories about people who won’t try because they think they’re too big.
Believe me, it really is true (in the case of yoga) that size doesn’t matter. If it did, I wouldn’t be able to do my job every day. If it really mattered I would allow it to keep me from doing things that I love, I would allow it to get in the way of living. But I don’t! So it must not matter.
I don’t wake up every single day thinking I need to lose 20 pounds. Because of yoga, I simply wake up grateful and I think, this is my body today. I will make the best choices that I can make today when it comes to food and drink and exercise. I will be the best me I can be today, with this body of mine.
I try every day to make peace with what is, to accept the truth of this present moment in time and move forward from there.
I do have have fleeting moments of wondering what students are thinking?
Is SHE the teacher? Really?
I imagine the thin fit power yogis thinking: this class is going to be boring. We’re not even going to work up a sweat.
I have also had moments of assuming that the older or thicker ladies are thinking; Ohhhh Good! SHE is the yoga teacher! If she can do it, maybe I can do it too…
Then there are the moments when my waistband rolls down and my shirt rides up, exposing my soft white underbelly. Some days this invokes a brief sense of terror, and other days I breathe and know that no one is watching or caring.
As an instructor I look right past a student’s size. I see hearts and lungs and skeletons. I want their hearts to be open. I want their breath to be deep. I want firmly planted feet, straight spines, safe postures.
I encourage them to suspend self-judgment for just a little while; to stop thinking of themselves as a body, a size, a weight, to be in the moment, to feel the breath and the movement, to be grateful for what they can do. I encourage them to reap all of the benefits of yoga they can reap.
The benefits I have reaped from yoga are immeasurable. I am stronger. I am more flexible. I am calmer and more focused. I haven’t had a depressive episode or a moment of hopelessness in years. I sleep like a baby, and the panic attacks are under control. I am kinder. I have a real sense of personal peace. I am happy with what is.
Sure, I have packed on some pounds, for many reasons, none of which really matter.
What matters is how I am, not how I appear to be. I’m not my ideal weight, but I am my ideal self.
If you come to my yoga class please know that I don’t care if you’re fat. I don’t even care why you’re fat. I’ll just be happy to see you on the mat. If you keep coming, you may shed some pounds along the way. Or you may not.
I don’t know which of yoga’s benefits you will reap, but I do know this: you don’t have to be your ideal weight to be your ideal self.