I'm a fat Yogini. Zaftig. Rubenesque. Pleasantly plump. Goddess-like.
In the "normal" world, I'm actually below average. On my best days I'm a large size 8 and on my worst, a small size 12. The average American woman is a 14, or so the media tells us. But in the world of Yoga, I'm huge. I look like one of Ruben's models for 'Venus at the Mirror' or Boticelli's goddess emerging from the clam shell.
My struggle with weight has never been a secret to my Yoga students. (see "How It All Began") In fact, many times I am the largest person in the room and I'm the teacher. Most of my students can relate to my weight struggle as well as all of the body image emotional baggage that comes with it. So I think one of the reasons they come to my class is because I understand them and they can relate to me.
Being comfortable with my weight is kind of new. I lost a great deal of weight 7 years ago after beginning Yoga and receiving Shaktipat from my teacher. And even though I lost a lot of weight, I'm still round. It took me a while to gain an appreciation for my new body. Once I did, I started buying new clothes that fit my new shape and had to get rid of my fat clothes. I vividly remember calling my best friend from college crying hysterically because I needed her to talk me into actually taking the Goodwill bag out of the trunk that was full of fat clothes and putting it into the bin. The fear of losing part of myself by getting rid of those clothes scared the hell out of me. She said to me, "When my son is a teenager and his friends come over I want them to say, 'That's your mom?!'" That one statement was my impetus to throw the bag in the bin.
For the most part I have maintained my current weight and Yoga has shaped and toned what I've got. I'm in love with my shape and embrace it, most days. If there wasn't a constant barrage from the media telling me that I'm fat, then I'd probably love it all the time. But on days when I'm feeling good, I'm amazing. Humbly amazing, but amazing none-the-less.
I've learned to love my womanly curves. Women were created to be round and soft. We give life and we nurture life. We couldn't do that without these curves. Why not embrace this in myself? I mean, I'm healthy and consider myself fit. It's really not my business what other people think about how I look. It is my business to be my personal best and that includes taking care of what I have and loving what I have.
There is a Yoga center where I take class when we go on our regular family vacation. This little place is run by a woman that I completely admire and consider a role model. She is a beautiful, full-figured Yogini. She is successful, confident and strong. I learn something everytime I take her class. Often, when I have been in moments of self doubt, my husband will refer to this teacher to shake me out of my slump. And it works. Everytime.
A few years ago when we were on vacation, I went to her Level 2 class. This is a pretty vigorous class and you had better know what you're doing. I was sore and loving it! A couple of days later I went again. This particular morning, she was running a few minutes late. A bunch of us were waiting outside in the beautiful summer morning sun. There were a few women in front of me. I had totally judged them and was wrong as usual. They were thin and wearing $100 Yoga pants. I figured they were experienced New York Yoginis. When the teacher showed up, one of these women said to the others, "I thought Yoga was supposed to make you skinny." Are you f$%#ing kidding me? I totally had to bite my tongue.
We all went in and set up, and I was steaming mad. But I was trying to put this in a Yogic perspective, so I sat down and let Shiva do His work. And the thing about Shiva is that He sometimes takes years or lifetimes to transform you and sometimes He likes an instant karmic response. This was one of those times. hehehe...
Before class started, the teacher asked if everyone knew this was a Level 2 class and was there anyone who had never practiced before. These three women raised their hands. I had a nice little chuckle to myself and we proceeded to have a vigorous Level 2 practice. Oh, Sweet Shiva!
After class was over, I drove past these three women talking in the parking lot. Oh boy, was I tempted to say something, but I bit my tongue again. Let Shiva do this job for me. I'm quite sure they were sore for the next few days and I'm sure that everytime their muscles burned they were reminded that fit does not equal skinny. I've wondered about these strangers from time to time. Wondering if that experience had an impact on how they perceive size? Again, leave it to Shiva.
Your body is your "Soul Vehicle". It's job is to drive your soul around this lifetime. You may not have had your pick on the lot but this is the vehicle Shiva gave you. Take care of it and love it.
And if you're curvy, learn to embrace it. If you have a round woman in your life, appreciate her. You never know the strength that lies beneath those curves. And, for crying out loud, STOP JUDGING! Just leave it to Shiva.