If you read our first fitness issue you’ll know that I am... not into it, cardio makes me nauseous, I don’t have boutique gym money, pilates bores me, idk someday I’ll figure it out. Right now my fave way to stay active is walking my dog for a few miles a day. And while doing that I like to look like I just came from an expensive gym, also I work from home so athleisure is the uniform.
Visibly Plus Yoga Instructor at Jewel City Yoga
1. Describe your relationship with exercise before yoga
My relationship with exercise was always rather conflicted. I never really enjoyed gym class in school because it was always so drill-sergeant-aggressive. It never felt like there was a clear purpose besides 'exercise to be healthy'. But what does that mean? It all seemed so dogmatic, and ‘do or die’. By the conventional standard I was taught, it meant 'run so you don’t get fat, and being fat is bad because...reasons'. I always found it more pleasurable to move by body when I felt really engaged, like when playing a game or going on a hike with a beautiful surrounding, because it gave my heart and mind a motivation behind what my body was doing. There was a purpose, and every cell of my body could get on board with that. It was never about counting steps or calories because, I didn’t care about numbers. I wanted to move because it’s what humans are designed for.
When I was 11, I started horseback riding and it was the first time that I felt fully engaged and excited to move my body. It was like a light switch turned on! Riding is a 360 degree exercise. There was work while on the horse (riding, jumping), and work off the horse (grooming, cleaning stalls) that involved building an intimate relationship with my horse-partner as well as with myself. You’re taught to notice behaviors in your horse, understand where they might come from, and learn how best to respond. It was a sustainable dance of equals. My riding teacher always said "Never go to war with a 2000lb animal, because you won’t win. Just ask again." It was a flow that was all very zen, really, and actually paved the perfect pathway for becoming a yogi later on.
2. What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching yoga?
I love guiding people on a pathway to get to know themselves better. The pathway often incorporates a multisensory approach to soften the hard candy shell most of us learned to build up. The physical challenge of movement, building heat, and testing your boundaries is very humbling to our egos. And our egos are really the challenge. We live in a society that caters to jerking off superficial impulses for the instant rewards our ego wants and those messages can teach us to force ourselves into thoughts/feelings/positions that don’t feel good or that we're not ready for. My work is to safely guide people back to their inner divine intelligence, to a pace and understanding of that dance of equals. Never go to war with your body, because you won’t win. Just try again.
3. How would you characterize your style of teaching the practice?
My style is quite reflective and alignment based. I believe in intentional movement, and even though that headstand looks and sounds pretty rad, I won’t take you there until I can sense you will be kind enough to yourself to do it safely. My star shines the brightest when I incorporate restorative poses and reflective practices like aromatherapy and meditation.
4. How has yoga shaped your relationship with your body and how has your body shaped your yoga philosophy?
My instinct to want to be fully engaged in movement has served me well. Body, heart and mind. My body isn’t ‘perfect’, but nothing ever is. Nature is imperfect and unpredictable, so is our work in learning how to respond. The path of yoga has taught me to trust my instincts more and listen to the cues coming from inside as much as outside.
5. What advice do you have for someone who is trying to get active in a curvy or visibly plus body?
Choose your heroes, and teachers, wisely. Get to know them and get to know you. Honor your edges. Meaning, respect the divine intelligence that you are programed for, and when you feel ready you will be ready to challenge yourself. I believe that when we hand over our agency to an outside source, we need to question how its handled because not everyone is going to be as concerned with your best interests. Its ok to get curious. Its okay to ask why. Nobody will be a better master of you, than you and if something doesn’t feel right, it’s ok to move on.
I started sharing my self-love journey when I was a freshman in college - I’m now a senior - and it has been a crazy ride to see how much progress I have made in the relationship I have with my body. Posting things that I had always been afraid of, or somewhat ashamed of, helped me connect with women around the world and I’m lucky to have the influence I do now and hope to always make my journey an honest and positive one.
I had always been involved in sports and fitness from a young age, I was a gymnast for most of my childhood and played netball and rugby as a pre-teen. When I was in the midst of my eating disorder was when I started aggressively attending a gym daily and believing that it is healthy and normal to keep going until you physically can’t anymore. For many years I associated the gym with guilt; I genuinely believed that it was a place to punish yourself and that enjoyment was never something I would feel after a workout. After taking some much-needed time out, I re-imagined what I could get from exercise and embedded it into my self-love journey. When I realized that wellness means finding a form of exercise that works for you, I changed my perspective. After trying a few different things like pilates and spin, (both not for me) I found weightlifting/ powerlifting. Before this, I believed that exercise was always about making yourself smaller, but weight training has been about growth, strength, overcoming challenges and becoming someone who looks forward to sweating it out and feeling sore.
People tend to be surprised which in genuinely so upsetting, it's crazy to see that women my size and larger still feel uncomfortable working out in gyms and feel like they need to build the courage to do things thin women don't even think about. However, I think the worst thing is the surprise shown by smaller women and the ‘good for you’ mentality. People are still under the impression that fat = lazy which causes people to lose their damn minds when they find out how I train in the gym, and the fitness levels myself and other fat women have. As a whole, my followers know me well and have seen me workout for years but newer followers and people who don't pay much attention will sometimes send me messages along the lines of, don’t lose weight you’re perfect’ and ‘how much weight have you lost/ how much weight do you want to lose.’
Someone once said to me that when you’re privileged, equality feels like oppression. I think a lot of smaller bodies feel as if health and fitness are one of the many areas of life which they naturally dominate, and that is why they respond with so much anger when big sports companies use plus size models and sell workout clothes in larger sizes. With the rise of ‘health trolls’ on the internet over the past couple of years, it seems that it takes away people’s excuse of hiding their anger towards larger bodies behind health concerns because they don't have a leg to stand on now they can’t tell you to ‘get up off your ass.’
Before I fell in love with fitness and lifting, I had a lot of anxiety. Having a place where I can sweat it out and productively distract myself from whatever situation I'm in changed the way I react to them. Fitness helped my self-acceptance journey because it changed my relationship with my body, I learned about my limits and how to move past them, to never be complacent with where I’m at and always strive for more. In terms of current fitness goals - mine are always evolving, along with wanting to lift more, I want to work on my flexibility. It's super easy to become rigid and lose movement in the body from powerlifting so I'm trying to fit a little yoga into my routine, even if it's just a few basic poses.