I'm Bigger Than Everyone In Yoga, And I'm The Teacher
A few months ago, I had to attend an event that required me to trade in my daily attire of my beloved, stretchy, comfy yoga pants, for a pair of stiff, dressy-yet-classy, blue jeans. I grabbed my favorite pair of curvy jeans from the closet and soon realized with horror that I could not pull them over my hips. My size 29s no longer fit.
I started doing CrossFit and lifting heavy weights, which was surely what contributed to my bigger caboose. While I was happy to have a more muscular posterior, I was also bummed that I’d have to buy new pants.
Begrudgingly, I marched to the first denim wall I could find in the mall, grabbed a size 10, and headed to the fitting room. The jeans slid right over my hips and buttoned easily. I opened the door for the fitting room attendant who was waiting for me, prepared to grab a smaller size in the event that this was all a huge mistake.
His response was one word: "Wow," he said. Not a creepy, I-want-to-be-in-those-jeans kind of wow, but more like a genuine You-work-out-and-it-shows kind of wow.
His response made my new jeans a lot easier to purchase, but as I left the store, all I could think was, I’m a size 10 yoga teacher, with a hint of shame.
When most people think of yoga teachers, they do not visualize a 5'10", full-figured woman with breasts, hips, and butt to spare. They see the (equally beautiful) lean, streamlined figures of women who have likely spent their lives as dancers or gymnasts.
My self-consciousness about being a size 10 followed me onto the mat, as my confidence plummeted in my normally-easy arm balances and other intermediate poses. My shame was imposing upon my asanas as I freely admitted to my classes, “I just can’t do that right now.” I felt sad as I wondered what it was going to take for me to get back to a size 8 (and ideally a size 6), so I’d be able to hold my handstands longer and jump back into my chaturangas with ease.
Fast-forward a few months: I’m still a size 10 and I’m still bigger than everyone in yoga class. But I was sitting in meditation this morning and it hit me: I am embodying and living all of those ideas that MindBodyGreen and other great blogs warn us about. I have been judging my self-worth, my ability to teach yoga, and my personal practice, on an incredibly silly, meaningless number. How could it be?! How could I have lost so much of my personal connection to my Highest Self that I deemed myself unworthy of love, greatness, or success all because I had to buy bigger jeans?
I started to cry as the programming rippled through my mind. You know, the programming of societal expectations, cultural norms, media exploitation, and alas, the trickery of PhotoShop. I thought about men I had dated who suggested I lose a little weight, the text I received from my ex, “Sometimes I’m just not attracted to you..” and the years of struggle and 14-day fasts I’d undergo in order to be a size 6. How incredibly unkind I’ve been to myself. But ... how incredibly redeeming that I can forgive myself and choose to love myself today, regardless of how big my pants are.
I read a lot of articles by teachers and coaches who have beat this, who have seemingly overcome these struggles, and who seem “arrived.” I’m writing this article because although I am a coach, and a yoga teacher, I still have to remind myself daily that being the biggest person in my yoga class is okay.
I’m writing this article for all of the women who need to know that yes, even a teacher has these self-conscious feelings. And finally, I’m writing this article for the women who have NOT arrived, and need to hear that it is OK (is there really ever an “arrival”?) and we're all in this journey together, whether you face a similar battle or not.
Pattabhi Jois sums it up in reminding us, “Yoga is an internal practice; the rest is just a circus.” So whether you are a size 2 or a size 16, the real practice is inside of you—in learning to accept yourself unconditionally, and choosing to love and honor yourself, no matter what size jeans you find yourself in.
Namaste, my beautiful people, and thank you for allowing me to share so freely.