How’d you find yoga?
I was a junior in college, who had just gotten back from studying abroad for a semester. I felt lost and needed something on which to concentrate. My roommate had been going to yoga classes at the Jivamukti Yoga School in the East Village, NYC and suggested that I give them a try. I took a free intro class and almost fainted from exertion, but something made me come back, and then come back again.
Once I started taking open classes, I was hooked. I came home one day and said to my parents, this is it, this is what I have been waiting for my entire life.
Eventually, I found a studio in Brooklyn that I loved, practiced all the time, did an month long apprenticeship and contemplated teacher training. Then I move moved to DC and everything fell apart.
I couldn’t find a studio I liked, my body changed drastically, and I felt my practice slipping away. I was angry for a long time, sure I couldn’t pursue teacher training with my larger body and my changed practice. But my teachers kept encouraging me, and, in 2010, I finally took a leap and started teacher training.
Teacher Training was an amazing experience – I fell in love with the practice all over again and started teaching in 2011. Now I realize that becoming a yoga teacher as a larger woman is the best thing that could have happened to me – I can relate to my students in so many ways and I can show the world that yoga teachers come in all different shapes and sizes.
How have you overcome fear?
I don’t know if I will ever really feel comfortable calling myself brave. But on the other hand, I do try very hard to do the things that scare me whether it’s an inversion or arm balance in my yoga practice or diving into a new situation in life or taking a risk.
I think my journey has been more about being ok about sometimes failing or falling down. I don’t handle failure well – I never have. I’ve always prided myself on being good at things.
But throughout my ten plus years of yoga practice, there have been many times where I’ve had to face failure head on, sometimes at things that used to be easy for me, and that has translated into my life off the mat. I do think that I’ve found courage in living an important part of my life, my yoga life, on the internet through my website.
I post pictures of myself on the internet and I’m a large woman. I do this despite the horror I know others have encountered due to fat stigma, I do this despite everyone trying to define my experience for me. I refuse to believe that I am a unicorn – fat and healthy – and my goal is to make this aspect of myself as visible as possible so that others might do the same.
What are the benefits of your yoga practice?
I struggle a lot with anxiety and yoga definitely helps mitigate my symptoms. The anxiety doesn’t really go away but my yoga practice gives me better tools to deal with it than anything else.
I love the physical practice.
I feel strong, limber and steady. While I don’t consider yoga to be a religion (rather I think it complements religious and spiritual practices), I do think that it helped fill the void when I moved away from the religion of my youth.
Practicing yoga is a huge part of my life and it pervades all of my practices, physical, mental and spiritual – it’s wonderful to see how everything is connected.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I truly believe that asanas are completely customizable for everyone. I adore props – they can be used to modify poses, but they can also be used to enhance them.
If you feel unsteady, try your practice against a wall – it can be transformative. I particularly like Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) against the wall. If you practice with your back against a wall, this pose can relieve nausea. I also love practicing with my lifted foot against the wall.
Find a good teacher, try a class more than once before you decide it’s not for you and above all believe that you have a right to practice yoga no matter who you are or what you look like.