People ask me a lot if yoga leads to weight loss. Or they say (either with their words, or their gestures, or their eyes) that they can’t do yoga because they don’t have a “yoga body.” Like many tricky-to-talk-about-conversation topics, this one is fertile ground for personal and communal growth and I. have. opinions. to get things started.
There are a lot of ways to address the ever present question of yoga and weight loss (they are all on google. i promise. i googled it). I can say “that’s not what yoga is about at all!”and try to change the topic to talk about other aspects of yoga. It’s a tempting route. And it’s true. And it’s also incomplete. Many people assume a correlation between body size and health, and that answer ignores the many real physical/health benefits of yoga. It also ignores the real discrimination larger bodied people have, unfortunately, experienced in the yoga world.
I suppose the reason I flinch with when people (great people! people who are interested in health and yoga and things I care about and love talking about!) bring up the topic of yoga and weight loss is that the question is based on the premise that big is bad and thin is good. It assumes that losing weight should be a goal and that thinner is automatically healthier. And these judgements and assumptions are harmful to all of us.
Around the same time I began practicing yoga regularly, I realized I had a lot to learn in terms of promoting a truly body positive culture. I realized that I had unconsciously fallen into some of the fatphobic traps so common in our culture – assuming that larger bodied individuals are lazy, assuming overweight people are unhealthy, not exercising, eating unhealthy foods, and assuming that any of that is my damn business anyway. Marilyn Wann’s accessible and hilarious book Fat?So! was my wake up call. Reading her book helped me to compassionately check myself and my assumptions about body size. I also realized how much of my judgements at the time were based my own body dissatisfaction and fear and how letting go of that self-judgement could make my life 13489023409848 times better.
I’ve been heartened to hear thoughtful dialogue on how individuals of all body sizes and shapes can enjoy the benefits of yoga and how a culture of fatphobia harms us as yoga practitioners and as people. I enjoyed and learned from these posts/blogs/articles.
Here in Chicago we’re lucky enough to have EveryBODY yoga at Chi-Town Shakti in Rogers Park – “a class for plus size and curvy yogis to celebrate their bodies through yoga!”
If that class isn’t accessible, try CurvyYoga for more resources.
I welcome all bodies to all my classes.