Instagram user @mynameisJessamyn — who regularly will grace your Instagram feed with a photo displaying her strength, flexibility, and grace as a yogi moving through her asanas (poses) — recently did a quick interview with New York Magazine’s The Cut, and dropped a valuable little quote worth reading twice… or three times, or more:
I just got a Groupon pass to our local Bikram studio when I was in graduate school and I loved it. I was always one of the bigger people in the classroom, but I think that Bikram is great because the size discrimination is very minimal. The teachers stick to a script and there’s less immediate communication with the instructor than there is in other styles of yoga.
Whenever I would go to other kinds of classes besides Bikram I always felt like I was spending $15 or $20 for a class to have teachers who think that I’m a beginner. When I moved I couldn’t afford to practice in studios anymore. As soon as I started practicing at home, this whole other world opened up for me, because when you’re in the classroom it’s really less about the instructors and more about the other students.
When asked to explain what she meant…
I get emails from people all the time and they say, “I’m worried that people are going to be staring at me,” and I’m always like, “They ARE going to be staring at you.” That’s just the reality of it. We live in a society where we are trained to think that being overweight is wrong so people are going to stare at you. They’re going to have ideas about you. The only thing that you can control is your reaction to that.
I think that the best way to really get comfortable in practice is to just start practicing at home. And to build that happiness that will be with you regardless of what studio you go to.
What makes me the saddest is that, in many of these cases, it is the people for whom a Yoga Practice (TM) is a status symbol who ruin it for the people who could get the most benefit.'we are trained to think that being overweight is wrong so people are going to stare at you. The only thing you can control is your reaction to that.' Click To Tweet
Jessamyn gives a great interview, and it’s worth checking out here. And, because I was close to 300lbs when I first started practicing yoga, and will be a curvy yogi once again once I give birth to The Sproutly One, I can relate to what she’s saying – I’ve been there before, and I’ll be there again soon.
My early introduction to yoga wasn’t a class – it was a TV show that encouraged me to explore the different ways my body could move, even at a time (and size, for that matter) when I didn’t have much faith in my abilities. My practice taught me so much about how to move my body – through yoga I could practice my strength, balance, flexibility, agility, and endurance – that I felt more confident in trying other activities… like the other ones that resulted in my weight loss success. When I finally started taking classes, I went to a facility in Manhattan, where the instructors were as cold as ice and the room was always obnoxiously packed. I was the largest person in the room, but – like she said – I didn’t realize that until long after the class was over, and people kept marveling at my ability to keep up. (I’d been practicing for three years diligently for an hour and a half each day… why wouldn’t I be able to keep up?) When I look at Jessamyn’s advice, I realize – in hindsight, mind you – that this is how I built the confidence to be “active in public.” I learned to appreciate the value of being “active in private,” which then made the rest easy: my need to be active in public began to override my fear of being mocked or shamed in public, and I quickly developed a thicker skin for handling the outdoors. I benefit too much from being active to let a naysayer mess with my head.
Luckily, I never encountered one.
Jessamyn talks a lot about “typical yoga bodies,” and this is something I became more aware of the more I looked for yoga outside of my book collection. It does become more aspirational than inspirational, because we so desperately want to believe that “yoga is how she got that body” as opposed to “wow, it’s incredible what the human body – my human body – can do.” But your yoga mat – or your spin bike, or your exercise class – isn’t really the place to covet what someone else has. If anything, this should be the space where you shed away these feelings and emotions and focus on who you are at your core and what your goals are beyond a body type.
She also talks about the shortcomings of teachers who are only capable of teaching students who “look like them,” physically speaking. It’s worth noting that I would question these folks being “teachers” or “instructors” at all – a part of learning what it means to instruct bodies means including all sizes and accommodating for all physical challenges (because they all present in all sizes), and teachers who don’t invest in that aren’t much of teachers to me at all.
The most important lesson from her interview? None of this is specific to yoga, and all of us have self-conscious moments. The beauty of success, however, lies deep within our persistence and, in the face of fear, resilience. How dope is that?
You can check out Jessamyn’s interview here, and follow her on Instagram at @mynameisjessamyn.
What did you think? Do you have a yoga story?
Oh, and PS: If you’re interested in trying yoga at home, check out YogaGlo.com – 7 day free trial, and you can just watch the videos and try them at your leisure to see if it’s for you! (No affiliate link, no paid endorsement, I just use it regularly and think it’s a great resource!)
I love Jessamyn! I found her IG randomly and I’ve followed her ever since. She inspires me, because often I do feel like I’m “too big” for yoga practice but she lets me know that I can do it.
I’ve never been to a yoga studio before partially because I imagine there is a fair amount of size discrimination and I don’t have time for it. I have practiced yoga at home and at the local Y and I’ve had some great instructors.
You know what I find helpful in situations like this, where I want to try a new studio but am unsure about the instructors or the environment? YELP. People go ALL IN on Yelp reviews when they’ve been maligned or treated poorly – and when it comes to yoga studios, It isn’t uncommon to see people say, “This isn’t quite the size-friendly studio, and the instructor packs so many people in the class that they’re unable to actually provide modifications where they’re necessary.”
I’ve purchased yoga videos and tried to do some using a WII yoga program, but it is just one of those things that I don’t get and feel really awkward doing, even in the privacy of my home. I also didn’t feel like it added anything to my fitness or mindfulness goals, and yet people rave about yoga. Is it just about being (or becoming) flexible?
I think the awkwardness you might feel could be overshadowing any actual benefits you could receive from the program; also worth noting, that apprehension you feel (often brought on by the awkwardness) about going all in on it might be hindering your ability to benefit from any consistent practice. And it’s not just in yoga that this happens – it’s in ANYthing, really.
It’s definitely flexibility, but it’s strength and agility, as well. It’s calisthenics – it’s training your body using your own body weight – and a good practice can get your heart rate going AND get your body flowing.
If you’re going to take on something new, you have to be ready to give it your all, otherwise you shortchange yourself. If you’re in the privacy of your own home, don’t be afraid to do something that might make you look or feel ridiculous! That feeling comes with all new things for virtually everyone – no one’s laughing at you, and you should be gentle enough with yourself that you shouldn’t be laughing at you, either! Give it a rest, then come back to it later down the line. You might find that you have a completely different outlook on it the second go’round. 🙂
I was wondering about the best way of fitting yoga into my daily workout routine. I currently workout 6 days/week (3 days cardio and 3 days weight-training circuit) – 45 mins. each session. I have a max. of 1 hour per day that I can dedicate to the gym (luckily, I have a decent gym in my apartment building)because I work a minimum of 12 hours per day. There is nothing I can do about my working hours because I am on an overseas contract (and those are the hours I signed up for…). I was wondering whether it would be better to add in 15 minutes of yoga daily or replace one of my cardio/weights sessions with yoga? I am really looking for ways, other than food, to calm my stress/anxiety at the end of the day.
Also just wanted to say how much this website has inspired me. In the past few months, I have started cooking all my meals from scratch, incorporating all of your solid advice on nutrition and have started feeling so much better physically. Still struggling with the emotional eating but trying to look for more effective coping mechanisms.
I think, because of the calisthenic nature of a yoga practice, that it’s okay to do a 20 minute practice and cut into your strength training and cardio time. If you switch up your training exercises so that they’re more compound and cover more body parts at a time, you should be fine. 🙂
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