I’ve been a yoga teacher for about 15 years. I got into it as an overweight 30 year old.
Yoga helped me reclaim my health and zest for living. It also helped me lose 100 pounds. I was so inspired by my experience that I started a—now successful—yoga weight loss program.
Through my own experience and that of my clients I have witnessed and heard hundreds of stories. Many of these stories involve teachers and fellow students saying crazy sh*t to people they see as overweight. As a public service, I am writing this list of the top things you should avoid saying to your fellow yogis.
Please accept it as an offering. If you’ve said or done one or more of these things, don’t fret—you are not alone. Let’s just take this as an opportunity to think about this subject and hopefully change the way we approach it and speak in the future.
It’s amazing that you are here!
It’s not—there’s nothing amazing about it. You are basically saying that the person is fat. And it’s amazing that they have the guts to parade their fatness in your yoga studio. Now unless you’re saying this to each student walking through the door, refrain from this statement.
It’s surprising that you can do (insert your favorite asana here), i.e., headstand.
Being overweight does not make it harder to do most physical activities. Just to make my point—have you ever seen sumo wrestling? Those guys are in amazing shape. What about NFL linemen? There’s a commotion about how bigger bodies are more amazing when they do asana.
Just do the best you can.
So patronizing. Why are we saying this? By saying this you are responding to the statement: “I don’t think I can do this,” except our theoretical overweight person didn’t say this. You are transferring your (possibly incorrect) assessment onto them before you have any information about their physical needs.
Is this okay for you?
Similar to above, but I’ve seen teachers do this too many times. Don’t ask someone if a pose is okay for them just because they are overweight. Are you asking the skinny person if the twist is okay? No you are not and your overweight person knows it.
Are you new to yoga?
This translates as: “No one that does yoga regularly could be as fat as you.” How about: “How much yoga have you done?” Or, “What’s your yoga experience?”
Being obsessed with “the core.”
My wife (who was heavy at the time) had a teacher who was obsessed with her core. No one else’s core. Just her core—a.k.a., her gut. It probably came from a kind place. That theoretical place when one does a million sit ups and planks and their belly fat goes away. That is not how fat burning works.
Feel free to modify.
Don’t say this specifically to your overweight student. It’s a general instruction that is true for everyone. Saying this to an overweight person is the same as saying: “I expect you not to be able to keep up.”
Singling out with too many/too little adjustments.
Like everyone, overweight people want to fit in. I’ve seen/experienced way too many adjustments compared to the rest of the class. This translates as: You need help. And when none are offered while everyone else gets adjusted, the translation is: You’re a lost cause. As a side note, many people are a touch adverse to overweight people. Maybe it’s time to practice equanimity.
I hope these examples get us all thinking about how we unconsciously cause harm to overweight people who in the end just want to get their yoga on. Since two-thirds of the United States population is overweight it isn’t just morally wrong, it’s horribly non-inclusive. Not to mention a terrible business move!
When it comes to practicing yoga, we are all the same. We all bring different bodies and minds to the mat. But we all arrive at class to better ourselves in some way. It’s important we remember this. Moving the mind towards non-dual thinking in this way will benefit all of us.
Isn’t this why we signed up for yoga in the first place?
Author: Brandt Passalacqua
Apprentice Editor: Angeline Leow / Editor: Travis May