Yoga is the best and the worst thing to happen to my generation of image obsessed girls and women. There are many who, like me, find yoga to be an escape. Though I don’t practice as much yoga as I would like to, yoga is my safe place. It’s the time in the day when I can really slow down the ongoing to-do list in my head, and tune out the negativity in the world. Even though I am surrounded by other people, it is just me and my mat.
However yoga has also become commercialized into a method of exercising to get the “perfect” body. I see countless friends and strangers who have gone from using yoga as an escape to using yoga as part of a strict regimen – yoga 6 times a week, a limited diet, and finding alternate exercise to work off what they eat. Yoga is no longer spiritual, it is a means to an end of fitting into the skinny yogi mold.
This is why, when I saw an article about the Fat Yoga Teacher, I initially took a sigh of relief. Trina Hall started this project with the best of intentions – one of her friends was struggling with her lifelong eating disorder, and Hall wanted to prove that it was possible to be a fat yoga instructor. She wanted to prove that yoga is about what is on the inside, and “empower people to love their bodies, not to fit into society’s mold.” She ended up gaining 40 pounds in four months, going from an incredibly healthy person to allowing herself to eat anything, not exercising, and blogging about what life was like to live in a different body.
Trina Hall was incredibly honest about her experience, and confesses that she discovered just how much her weight and appearance had defined her identity, especially after her looks changed.
Suddenly, my self-worth was proving to be connected to how good I looked wearing spandex – something I completely denied giving a shit about before this experiment – and that pissed me off. Guilt from eating foods I typically considered bad for me were constant companions in my thoughts. Shame did cameo appearances in my mind’s movie reel daily.
All of her latent insecurities came out, and she realized that, in her mind, her beauty was only skin deep. She grappled with judging herself and being judged for her weight, and feared that she would “die alone, probably from choking on a potato chip.”
Many yoga instructors would never dare let themselves be even a pound overweight because there is an expectation of what a yoga instructor should look like. I couldn’t imagine the reaction if there became a new trend of yoga instructors with “real” body types. We are just too judgmental. So I applaud Hall for attempting this experiment, and I hope that, even once Hall loses all of the weight again, she both handles the latent insecurities within herself, and is more sensitive to those around her who do not conform to society’s expectations of weight.