A couple of years ago I decided to try a yoga class. Some friends of mine were doing yoga and I met a teacher who had lost 100 pounds with yoga, walking and changing her food choices. She convinced me that the time to start was now. Not when I think I am thin enough to do yoga. I took her at her word and it changed my life.
I started with a Restorative Yoga class which is a healing and gentle type of yoga. After almost 20 years of being obese and unfit, I had a long road ahead of me. At the time I started I could not get up off the floor without crawling to a wall and using it for support. I could not raise my right foot up far enough in the shower to wash it because my hips were so locked up.
I had at one time been a thin person and I knew how some people view overweight people, even when they are trying to do better things for themselves by exercising. I quickly learned there were “yoga snobs” who viewed anyone unfit as sad and the use of props as below their “dignity”. So I would come into class keeping my eyes on the ground. I would not look around because I knew I would see someone looking at me like “How dare you come in here with that body! You’ll never be able to do yoga.” Through trial and error and just being determined, I found a teacher that was supportive and a few classes where I could feel safe from the judgments and do my practice in peace.
Surprisingly enough, even in the first class, I realized there were things I could do….maybe not perfectly, but at least I felt like I was getting a stretch and a bit of a workout. I have been sick, fatigued and in pain for years, but the funny thing was I felt better when I finished a class. I went from Restorative to a Chair Yoga class, which has some of the same moves as Basic Yoga only with support from a chair. We don’t just sit and move our arms around in a chair. We really work all parts of the body.
Now yoga is not for everyone, but all of us, especially people with plus size bodies can feel better with exercise. I was thinking the other day about it and wrote down some advice I would give to anyone wanting to start an exercise class.
- Stop calling yourself “fat”. When my yoga teacher said it bothered her that I kept calling myself “fat”, I remembered the power of the spoken word and stopped doing that. I don’t deny the fact that I am overweight, I just don’t need to label myself that way.
- You can’t care what others in a class think of you. If you worry about that, you won’t ever set foot in any exercise class. You know, they might not even be thinking about you at all.
- Don’t skip class because some part of you hurts. If you skip class because of aches or pains, you might never do it. Suck it up and go! Do the poses or exercises as well as you can without injuring yourself. Very often if I go to a class with some pain, I come out feeling a lot better.
- Don’t think too long about how much work is involved in a class. Just go! Some of it is challenging but you will feel so proud of yourself when you accomplish things you didn’t think you could.
- Keep trying those challenging poses that you weren’t able to do last week. One day you might find you are able to do them.
- Don’t use lack of time, money or energy as excuses not to go to class. Of course if you are sick or injured, you should use your common sense as to whether to go or not. Just don’t make excuses. Find a class time that will work with your schedule and reserve your energy for it, making the class your priority. As far as money goes, a lot of instructors will work with you on a fee schedule that you can afford. There are community education classes and classes at the YMCA that are reasonably priced as well. If you save money by avoiding junk food, fast food and over-priced coffee drinks, you can probably figure out a way to afford your classes
- Pay attention to what your body is telling you. I started yoga without the intention to lose weight. I just wanted to feel stronger and fight some of the pain that I always have in my body. As a nice side-effect, I have lost my taste for fast food. After a yoga class, I feel like putting something healthy in my body, so I drive past all of the fast food choices along the way and go home to eat something organic and healthy.
Anyone who has been around me lately knows how I am into my yoga practice. I go now four to five times a week and don’t feel right if I don’t have my “yoga fix”. If you had told me three years ago that I would be a yoga fan, I would have laughed at you, but it has changed my life! It has given me a mind, body and spirit connection and, along the way, I have gained a loving, supportive community in my yoga friends.
I don’t weigh myself but I know I have lost several inches off my body since starting yoga. My clothes are fitting better. My energy level is gradually increasing. I am being kinder to my body, realizing I didn’t get this way in a few weeks and I may never have that 30 year old body again. At least I don’t feel like I am dying every day any more.
Thank you yoga and all the people who encouraged me along the way. I hope I serve as encouragement to others.