"Really?! YOU are a yoga teacher?"
I would like to share something with you.
A personal and vulnerable story.
We live in a time where it seems like everything that needs healing comes up to the surface and into the light. It feels like the right moment to talk about this, too.
And just to be very clear:
I don’t want to compare my little story to the big and ugly story of a whole part of humanity that has an unbearably long history of suffering because of their skin color. I’m a white, blonde, middle-class European girl with two ‘golden’ passports that half of the planet would kill for; I have never ever experienced racism in my life and I have no idea what it must feel like to be judged for your origin or color.
But I do have an idea what it feels like to be judged for the shape of your body.
Especially as a yoga teacher.
And if we’re talking about blind spots these days, this is definitely still a blind spot in yoga land.
When I started teaching around ten years ago, it was still before the whole body positivity movement. All models were skinny, all yogis were skinny. But I was not. I’m a curvy Kapha woman, I have been like this all my life and all the yoga I did hasn’t drastically changed my (outer…) shape. So I was actually really surprised when I was asked to come and teach at a very popular studio in town. All the teachers I knew there were skinny and ridiculously pretty; it seemed to me that this place was only for the young, hip, and beautiful. I hadn’t even dared to take a class at that studio before I was teaching there myself, because I thought I would literally not ‘fit in’. But even though I was very intimidated, I decided to give it a try.
“Really?! YOU are a yoga teacher?”
And obviously, it was a situation we all had to get used to:
In the beginning, it happened several times that a host, colleague teacher or even a student would look at me with a frown, asking ‘So YOU are the teacher of this class?!’, not feeling bothered to give me a short top-to-toe-scan. I was constantly a bit ashamed of my body and I felt as if I had to teach a class that was at least twice as good as the others to justify my spot on the schedule. Of course, I saw everything through the eyes of my insecurity back then, so I’m really not blaming anyone. This is just how it felt for me for quite a while.
And it was also around this time that I heard it through the ‘yoga grapevine’ that “that studio also had a fat teacher now”. Which was me, obviously. ‘The other one’ back then was my teacher Anat Geiger, who I consider maybe the best in town, but that just aside.
It took a long time for me to finally relax at the studio; actually, it’s only for the last two years or so that I no longer feel like slightly holding my belly in when I enter the room. And of course, this is due to both my own personal development (aka ‘getting older’ ;-)) and the way the world is finally slowly changing its attitude towards different body shapes. I found my place in the studio and I feel accepted the way I am, for which I’m really grateful. But after all this time, I’m still the only ‘fat’ teacher there…
As I said, I really don’t want to blame anybody with these words, and of course, this is not about that studio in particular, but about the whole yoga scene. Something went terribly wrong when yoga seems to be only accessible for white, wealthy, skinny intellectuals, wearing expensive and slightly hysterical leggings. When people that don’t fit in the image of a ‘yoga person’ actually don’t dare to come to a class. Don’t you think?
I don’t share this because I think my story is so very special. I share it because I think it should NOT be special at all to have teachers and students in all shapes and sizes and colors. Because yoga is for Every Body! Skinny, round, weak, strong, old, young, black, white… Let’s scream that from the roofs of Amsterdam!
And as Anat once said:
“Don’t worry so much about the shape of your body. Invest your energy in the shape of your life.”