It’s Curvy Seven time — yippee! For other interviews with fabulous curvy yogis, please click here.
1. What’s your yoga origin story?
Yoga initially served as a way for me to manage the pain associated with ovarian cysts, which can be quite severe, but it quickly became a way for me to exercise regularly in spite of the pain. Now yoga helps me live with it without relying on medicine. With continued yoga practice, I have grown stronger, and I’ve started doing things I never thought I would be able to do—like run…long distances…without someone trying to kill me (though my husband swears I’m ready for the zombie apocalypse).
2. What pose do you love? Loathe?
I LOVE reclining saddle pose right now because I’ve been running a lot lately. Reclining saddle stretches from the tops of my feet through my hip flexors, and even through my stomach if I tuck my tailbone the right way. With all the tension and soreness that accumulates from running, reclining saddle is the perfect way for me to recover.
I HATE child’s pose. Physically, I feel too bunched up, and I do not get any low-back decompression, so I do not feel any restoration from it. Typically, I can get over the physical obstacles of poses with modifications or props, but that has not seemed to work with child’s pose. On the flip side, it’s been one of the best poses for teaching me that there’s more going on with yoga than just physical stuff; and I think child’s pose presents a different kind of obstacle for me. I’m confident one day I’ll conquer all the challenges of child’s pose, but it’s definitely not for me right now.
3. What advice would you share with other curvy yogis?
The single most helpful thing I have encountered in practicing yoga is mindful breathing. Regardless of what type of yoga you practice, if you can’t get a good, deep breath in a pose, you need to come out and do something different. Maybe just coming out of the pose and going back into it more gently is all you need. Maybe you need a prop. Maybe you need to move parts of yourself to do it. Do whatever you have to do to breathe fully because it’s the most relaxing and rewarding part of practicing yoga.
4. Who’s your favorite curvy icon?
This was one of the most difficult but also most fun questions for me! Hagrid from Harry Potter and Hurley from Lost are my favorite curvy icons. I think both of these characters, though fictional, show some of the very best qualities of humanity. Both Hagrid and Hurley teach me how to love others (people and critters alike), and they have an inspiring hope for humanity in spite of the adversity and discrimination they’ve faced just because of their appearance. I admire Hagrid and Hurley because of who they are as opposed to how they appear.
In “real life,” my favorite curvy icons are my friends who shine brightly in a world that tells them they should be ashamed just because of something as arbitrary as size, or age, or race, or sexual orientation, etc. My friends, curvy and not, inspire me to live outside of superficiality. They challenge me to be more authentic and more substantive than my pants size. They encourage me to not look for my self-worth in my size; but they still celebrate with me as I reach fitness goals because they know it helps me to be my best self.
I bet you were expecting some famous person, huh? In that case, it’s Glenn Close because, of course, she’s beautiful, but she’s also a tremendously talented actor, and she uses her fame to support erasing the stigma against those who live with mental illness with Bring Change 2 Mind, which she founded on behalf of her own family members. If ever a celebrity deserved more attention, it is Glenn Close and the work she is doing to teach our society to be more accepting of others.
5. What’s your favorite yoga resource?
My favorite yoga resource is my teacher, Judson Nichols. He enjoys answering questions, regardless of how random or uncomfortable they may be, which is quite helpful and makes him a good teacher. But he is a great teacher because he instructs with a sense of mindfulness and compassion, both of which have motivated me to rethink how I treat myself as well as how I treat others. Because my teacher has challenged me to be mindful and compassionate to myself, he has changed my life in amazing, inspirational ways.
Consider the “Golden Rule.” How many of you actually treat YOURSELF as you treat others? For the longest time, I put myself at the bottom of my own list, and I suffered for it. Would I let my spouse consistently work himself to exhaustion? Would I speak to him (or anyone else) the way my inner voice speaks to me? Would I let my future children compare themselves to all the images of “Western beauty?” The truth is, I wouldn’t stand for any of that when it comes to someone else, but in my case, I have been my own worst enemy. Practicing mindfulness and compassion along with practicing yoga has been the chief catalyst for learning to love myself.
6. What quote inspires you?
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” ~Buddha
7. Wild card: anything else you’d like to share?
I started studying and practicing Buddhism shortly after I started doing yoga. It began as something completely separate and unrelated, but now the two are so closely intertwined that it’s hard for me to see one apart from the other. I begin my home yoga practice with a Buddhist meditation practice called metta, which means lovingkindness (yes that’s all one word), and it’s done as much for me as yoga has.
The purpose of metta meditation is to cultivate compassion and equanimity for yourself and eventually for everyone and everything. If you’re already meditating, consider adding this to your practice. If you’re not, this is a great way to start.
John Blackburn, a Buddhist teacher here in Knoxville has put together several variations of metta meditations, and I derive my practice from his. You begin by making yourself the object of your meditation. Then you add a benefactor; for me it’s my dog Moose. Then you add a neutral person—someone you don’t have either positive or negative feelings toward. Then you add an adversary. Then you add all sentient beings. Here’s how it goes:
May I be free from fear.
May I have mental happiness.
May I embody my love and understanding.
May I dwell in peace.
May Moose be free from fear.
May Moose have mental happiness.
May Moose embody my love and understanding.
May Moose dwell in peace.
…and so on and so forth.
Carrie Mayes San Angelo, from Carrie’s Cultural Commentary, is a professional writer in Knoxville, Tennessee. She is living proof that a good education is life-changing, and she hopes to inspire you to pursue all that life has to teach you with infinite passion.