So excited for you to meet this month’s yogi! To see everyone who has been interviewed, please click here.
1. What’s your yoga origin story?
Oh, wow. So, this is going to shed light on the path I took to become who I am today but I’m going share it because I feel like our journeys are important. As some of you may know, I’m a feminist body-positive coach and activist, and I work particularly hard to help fat women know that they have as much right to cultural acceptance, respect and love as anyone else. That said, I began practicing yoga about 15 years ago when I was living at Structure House, which is a weight-loss facility for adults. In those days I was a disordered eater, chronic dieter and a woman desperate to achieve a thinner body type.
Weight-loss facilities are odd places because they are communities of only fat people, so the everyday stigma of being fat is removed. In this context exercising can be easier because the trauma of gym-based fat-shaming disappears. Structure House was one of the first places I realized that I was athletic and liked using my body. As a life-long fat person, my interaction with athletics was linked to embarrassing or hurtful experiences like being picked last for teams or sweating more than seemed feminine to me.
I don’t remember the instructor’s name or much about the practice, but the yoga class at structure house was extraordinary for me because it granted my fat body access to flexibility and grace, which I believed were completely off limits to one of my girth. When I think back to it, there was more rolling on the floor and wall poses than anything else, but it was a space of recognition. It was where I learned yoga could help redefine how I related to my body.
The rest is – as they say – history. Since then I have taken all kinds of yoga, some positive some negative, but that’s all part of the journey.
2. What pose do you love? Loathe?
I love Tree Pose – that’s the pose I’m doing in the picture attached to this interview. (I’m feel like this pose must have a fancier name, but to me it’s tree pose.) I like this pose because it feels super glamazon to me. Loving a pose for this reason might seem more superficial than metaphysical, but it’s not. When I balance in front of the mirror and view my body in this position I know that I am strong, graceful, feminine and full of love. I feel the beauty that radiates from my mind, body and spirit. It’s gorgeous, grand and gargantuan. Powerful stuff.
I loathe downward dog. (Who doesn’t? Why do instructors always want to hold DD forever??) I’m not saying that there aren’t times when I understand that DD is good for me, and I am thankful for the warm stretch and release it gifts my hamstrings, but let’s face it, finding meditative comfort inverted isn’t my first love.
3. What advice would you share with other curvy yogis?
There is no body size, body type or level of ability that is incapable of practicing yoga. Recently, I heard someone say that she never tried yoga because she felt her boobs were too big to comfortably do asanas. I have huge boobs. It doesn’t stop me. There are some positions where “my girls” get in the way. (Picture: Self-suffocation) When I find myself in this situation, I talk to my instructor about accommodations and adjustments I can make to comfortably incorporate the pose into my practice. Sometimes the pose is just not for me and that’s okay. You never have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. (That’s a life rule, people.)
On some level what I’m saying here is that yoga is about communication. It’s about listening to your body, and while you’re learning, it’s about voicing your questions and concerns. It’s about being conscious, and honest with your self. It’s not about competition or achievement. It’s about finding the sweet spot – your delight. Wait, am I talking about sex or yoga??? Both maybe? Both definitely :).
4. Who’s your favorite curvy icon?
Again, wow. This is like asking me what movie I like or who my favorite musicians are? So many to choose from. Marilyn Wann and Virgie Tovar come to mind. Marilyn is fat activist, the author of Fat? So! and the creator of the Yay! Scale. Virgie edited Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life Love and Fashion. I also really admire Sonya Renee Taylor of “Your Body Is Not an Apology”, Jes Baker, aka The Militant Baker, Amanda Levitt of Fat Body Politics and the oh so glamorous Amber Riley – I have a celebrity crush on her right now. Have you seen this performance from dancing with the stars? Listen to what she says when they announce her win. LOVE HER.
5. What’s your favorite yoga resource?
6. What quote inspires you?
As usual I am deliciously gluttonous and cannot choose – so, these:
I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And it has nothing to do with what I look like really, it is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I could do that, maybe there is hope for them too. And the great divide between the beautiful and the ugly will cease to be. Because we are all what we choose.” – Margaret Cho
“I support the radically simple idea that people should not be discriminated against, made fun of, restricted, or oppressed because of the size and shape of their bodies. Moreover, I believe that everyone has a right to dignity, respect, and self-love, and that jokes that denigrate fat people are just as offensive as those that denigrate women or ethnic groups.” – Marty Hale Evans
7. Wild card: anything else you’d like to share?
Learn to love your body. Give yourself permission to be you. It is an amazing place to live.
Lindsey Averill teaches at the Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality at Florida Atlantic University and in the English Department at Palm Beach State College. She is a fat feminist activist and the author of Feminist Cupcake, a blog that looks at how representations in popular culture perpetuate negative stereotypes about race, gender, sexuality and body type. Lindsey also founded Extraordinary Being, an organization that facilitates life affirming, feminist, body-positive workshops and provides one-on-one feminist and body-positive coaching to clients nationwide. It is Lindsey’s mission in life to help women overcome their endless battle with food and body hatred. Lindsey is also the director/producer of a documentary called Fattitude. Check it out.
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