Fat girls do yoga too

Published on April 21, 2015   ·   No Comments

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‘I live in east London, which is much more diverse than EastEnders would have you believe – and yet the yoga studios are vanilla: yummy mummies with plenty of money,’ says Deborah Coughlin, above left. Photograph: David Yeo for the Guardian

Like a scene from Heathers (or Mean Girls, if you’re under 30), they cocked their heads to one side and gave me the smiley pity wince. “Sorry, babe. I don’t think you’ll feel comfortable. It’s full of skinny yoga bunnies. Even I feel fat in there.” I instantly regretted inquiring about hot yoga. For the next 20 minutes, as I ate my roast dinner, they attempted to convince me to have a colonic, to boost me towards slimness. After being told you’re too fat for yoga, there is nothing quite like demolishing a gravy-soaked yorkshire pud.

That was four years ago and I’d just turned 30. Until this point, I had always been very sneery about the health-conscious. Eye-rolling at decaf coffee. Laughing out loud at alcohol-free beer. Shaking my head at passing joggers. It wasn’t until I hit my third decade, with its robust facial hair and horrific hangovers, that I realised there wasn’t anything funny about choosing not to be healthy. Just like a chubby kid who becomes the bully, I had felt jealous. I had felt left out and as if I wouldn’t fit into being fit. I realised that it’s one thing being unfit in your 20s but it’s way harder in your 30s. Something had to be done. But how?

A graduate of the Oprah school of yo-yoing, at age 14 I was size 14, age 19 a size 20, age 22 a size 8. Over the past decade, I’ve been an 18, 12, 22 and 14. Now, at 34, I’m back up there again at a mighty 18 (top) and 22 (bottom). I have never been eating-gateaux-for-breakfast fat, or “I’ll have a pizza with cheeseburgers in the crust” fat – I am not a fool, and most fat people aren’t. Overweight people wear their issues on their arse and, being easily spottable, are often treated like idiots with no willpower. And yet they are invisible when it comes to images of sport, fitness and health.

Nowhere more so than when it comes to yoga and its marketing. “We found that yoga users are more likely to be white, female, young and college educated,” concluded a 2008 Characteristics of Yoga Users study. They are also above averagely wealthy and healthy, another survey published in 2013 by Kantar Media found.

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An image search for yoga confirms the stats: yoga is white, wealthy, female and really skinny; the Goop-reading,Hilaria Baldwins of this world. I live in east London, which is much more diverse than EastEnders would have you believe – and yet the yoga studios are vanilla: yummy mummies with plenty of money. But there is a revolution coming. We’ve had baby yoga, hot yoga, naked yoga and swinging yoga. Now, fat yoga is on its way.

Dianne Bondy is the founder of yogasteya.com, an online studio for all sizes and abilities, and a founding board member of the newly formed Yoga And Body Image Coalition. “I call myself the accidental activist,” she tells me, over Skype from her home in Canada. “I went to a yoga teacher training class and I was the only brown person, the only person past a size 14: I felt like this big brown spot in a sea of white faces. I thought, there’s got to be some other people who feel this way. So I got mad and wrote a blog: Yoga: Not Just For Young, Skinny, White Girls. It had 10,000 reads and the movement started from there.”

read more: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/oct/11/fat-girls-do-yoga-too

 

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