I completed my 200-hour teacher training in July of this year. Also I’m fat, which is not incompatible with the first sentence despite what many might think.
As a fat person, there are a lot of fraught issues surrounding anything involving exercise. And while yoga is so much more than the physical asana, in the Western mindset, that is the most prominent part. This means any time I or another fat person engages in an activity that relates to fitness, there are all kinds of things that might come up — judgment and condescension from people around us, triggers to past traumas, self-consciousness, and so on — that make it even more difficult than it would be for a smaller person. So why in the world would I want to do that to myself?
There are several reasons, but it mainly boils down to this: I want there to be more people who look like me teaching yoga.
The studio I attended in New York — and where I did my YTT — is great, and I’ve never felt unwelcome for being fat, but the teachers and staff are all relatively small. Other students are more diverse in terms of size, so why shouldn’t we be learning from people who represent us?
I used to take classes at a plus-size focused space in New York, and it was wonderful. I had to stop because of the cost, but I loved being in a class full of fat students with a fat instructor. Since then, I’ve taken the first level of their teacher training.
But something annoys me — why should I (or anyone) have to seek out a specialty place that’s more expensive and in a less convenient location just to have a teacher that better understands my body type?
There are things about exercising while fat that you can’t teach to someone who hasn’t experienced it. So, no matter how accepting and understanding a thin instructor is, they will never fully grasp what doing yoga in my body is like. That leads to suggestions to rest during more complex poses when a simple modification would’ve sufficed.
Poses that might seem simple can become complicated in ways you won’t even think of unless you’ve been there. For example, I hate regular child’s pose. My belly gets in the way. This means I can’t lean as far forward and I won’t be comfortable and relaxed. Which kind of defeats the purpose of child’s pose.
Fortunately, that one has a fairly easy modification. I widen my legs to let my stomach hang through and I can go deeper and let go more. But I had to figure that one out myself. An instructor who has a belly like my own might think to mention mods like that to a class. Or to suggest mods for other poses.
I firmly believe that every body is a yoga body. There are modifications to work with different sizes, physical disabilities, and so forth. I decided to do teacher training because I want to make more people feel comfortable in classes who otherwise might not.