Maintaining positive body image in a sea of slim women can be a astronomically difficult task. Not all “clubs” and “cliques” are as accepting as others. However I have found growing support, acceptance, and inspiration in the yoga community regarding more bodascious girls participating. I first became interested in yoga and Pilates after my first daughter was born. I wanted to tone my midsection and lose weight and so I joined a local gym. While I was one of the larger women in the class I never felt out of place or “less than” anyone else. In yoga, I have found that many serious practitioners are more impressed by what you can physically do and what personality changes you accomplish than your general physical appearance. When I first joined my first yoga class I definitely looked different than many of the other bodies in the group. There were also people who were thinner, but far less flexible than I. This gave me the courage and strength to keep working on improving myself – regardless of my size and fitness level.
As I matured in my practice I found many other inspirational women on my journey. Women like Jessamyn Stanley, practicing and teaching yoga in South Carolina, around the US, and even internationally. Not only is she not afraid to do yoga, she accomplishes some of the more difficult poses with a bit of “junk in the trunk”. It’s even more impressive to me, as a big girl, to know that she is contorting herself into positions that few beginners can even dream of mastering –all while getting suffocated by her boobs in the process – just like the rest of us – and she doesn’t let that hold her back, or become an excuse to quit.
Anna Guest-Jelley of curvy yoga in Nashville, Tennessee is another inspiring example. She’s a woman who offers the kinds of classes and trainings that many of us normal-sized people crave, but are still learning how to seek out. We usually end up creating new niches and making our own spaces – which is what Anna is doing with her teacher trainings for Curvy Yoga. Yoga should be accessible to all physical and mental abilities – not just the most agile and fit amongst us. It’s humbling and inspiring to have role models speaking out for our right and responsibility to follow our heart and engage in our passions – regardless of what others may think of us. Inspirational role models also help break down stereotypes and show us that whatever perceptions we hold of what our bodies can do is often the result of our own self-limiting beliefs.
Role models like Anna and Jessamyn are narrowing the gap between what classes should look like, and how they actually are – aiming to make more of us feel comfortable to go out and practice in public and learning to love our bodies for what they can do in the process. Whether we’re wearing a baggy t-shirt and sweatpants, or a tight tops and workout leggings, these women give us confidence to just be ourselves, and work on being the best version of ourselves we can be each and every day.
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