Why do I keep harping on about body positivity, body image and diversity training for yoga teachers? Because people keep having experiences like this, as described by Lindsay Averill on her blog, Feminist Cupcake. Read on.
Recently, I took a private yoga class with my family – mom, uncle, husband, father – we were all there. I haven’t taken a whole lot of private yoga instruction in my life but I have been practicing yoga on and off for a number of year, so private instruction sounded like a good time. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Basically, this yoga dude showed up to our hotel room, stripped down to his skivvies and proceeded to tell us that most people practice yoga for all the wrong reasons – which in all honestly is probably true – but his presentation of these ideas was off putting and a little pretentious – mostly because he presented himself as a yoga genius and treated us like idiots. Because of his belief in a universally flawed perception of yoga – this dude would not lead us through a series of asanas. Instead, we had to start from scratch and re-learn the poses we already knew with him as our guide. Fine.
After a few rounds of sun salutations, which honestly felt the same as all the other times I’ve preformed sun salutations, we moved on to warrior pose and the yoga dude explained that the first sign of aging is the flabby wings that we get under our arms (<— not true), and that obviously, we all fear this flab (<— not true x 2). His “solution” for this flab was flexing one’s palms towards the floor so as to tighten the triceps – he explained that he practiced by pressing against the shower soap dish for years and now his arms aren’t flabby. In response to this explanation he asked us all to flex our arms and he went around touching our triceps, proving that “horrible flab” was easily eliminated.
Eliminating the flab under my arms, which by the way is unnecessary, cannot be accomplished by flexing my triceps. In my family – I am the fattest; I am also the most fit. I work out all the time – I train three times a week for an hour and I do cardio on the other days. I am super strong and while they are covered in fat I have huge bulging triceps, which regularly sling stuff around. When the jerk-faced yoga dude got to my tricep – he pinched the fat under my arm and said “I don’t think there is a tricep in here.” Fat-shaming douchebag.
News flash: Fat people work out too. Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I lack muscle tone or that I don’t go to the gym to work on my health. (Check out these awesome images of fit fatties!) My health is mine to define. Fat can be fit or maybe it isn’t but either way another person’s arm flab or level of fitness clearly none of yo’ business. Furthermore, shaming me in from of my family or shaming others wherever isn’t doing any good. It’s clinically proven that fat-shaming does not encourage this fat person to become less fat.
Clearly, this yoga dude is just one jerk but this is not the first person to give me a hard time about being fat and wanting to exercise my body. Regularly at my gym strangers come up to me to express their joy that I’m working out. “Good For you,” they say – which really means “Good Job Fattie – proud to see you trying to overcome your fat.” Another comment I hear frequently, is “You really work hard” expressed with a startled awe. Whether they know it or not these beasties are expressing their hard held beliefs that if your fat you must be a lazy, un-fit slob who sits around and stuff your face all day. This is fat-hate and their comments are fat-shaming because they believe that a fat person is only valuable when trying to get thin. To be clear – I’m not trying to get thin. I’m trying to stay fit. I go to the gym because it makes me feel good. I go because I know that pursuing fitness will help me live the life I want to live. Despite this choice that I make for myself – no one should tell you how to care for your fat body. It’s yours to do with as you please.