Dear Fat-Shaming Yoga Teacher, Here’s What Yoga Is Really About

You might be sick to death of me writing about yoga. If you are, my apologies. But there’s one last thing I have to cover before I go back to resting in child’s pose. The other day I saw a friend’s Facebook status and it disheartened me so much that I could not remain silent. It said:

“This dude just told me how much he is into yoga and how he is starting to teach and that I should start practicing so I can ‘lose some weight.'”

As a yoga instructor and long-time practitioner, my first response to this story is: Fuck. That. Noise. First of all, it’s never OK to tell someone to lose weight or comment on someone’s body. Yoga teacher or not, this comment was painfully out of line and completely classless. Beyond the obvious issues with telling someone you barely know to lose weight, using yoga as an excuse to body-shame someone makes absolutely no sense. Yoga never has been and never will be about weight loss. Here are a few things I’d like to remind this fat-shaming “yoga teacher,” along with anyone, at any shape or size, who wants to know what yoga is really about:

Yoga is about the integration of your mind, body and spirit.

Yoga is about accepting your body where it is today.

Yoga is about learning to quiet your mind through movement and prepare for meditation.

Yoga is about inclusiveness and acceptance.

Yoga is about not comparing yourself to others.

Yoga is about awareness.

Yoga is about breathing.

Yoga is about staying present.

These truths are the reasons I love yoga, and they are what made me want to continue practicing for years and eventually become a teacher. I love that no matter how many new styles of yoga are invented, no matter how many scandals erupt surrounding yoga pants, no matter how many gyms and celebrities try to market it as the secret to weight loss, yoga has always retained the core seed of its meaning. While you might find yourself tightening and toning, or even shedding pounds, as a result of your yoga practice, that is not the goal and never has been. There is no goal, really, other than to breathe and stay present and prepare your mind for meditation. That’s a powerful thing.

I feel really passionately about this, because when I started doing yoga at age 17, I was out of shape, had barely set foot in a gym, and was a few pounds overweight myself. What I found was something that I could actually participate in without feeling like I wasn’t good enough.Yoga was not a repeat of gym class where I hid in the corner and tried to dodge volleyballs flying at my face or forged notes to get out of running a mile so I wouldn’t finish last. It was a place where I could just be me, however I was and whatever I looked like. Yoga class is where I learned to accept my body. And honestly, if you have any interest in losing weight, that’s where you have to start. Not with harsh diets and CrossFit type cardio regimes. You have to start with building up enough self-love to put yourself and your health first.

Not to knock more body-centric types of work outs, because I’ve done them all — running, spinning, weigh training, boot camp — and enjoyed them. They certainly have their benefits. But we need a safe haven in this crazy, weight-obsessed world. We need a place where people of all shapes and sizes can go to move and breathe and foster self-love and acceptance. I will fight tooth and nail for yoga studios to be those safe spaces, and I won’t let fucked up messages from so-called “yoga teachers” go unchallenged. We don’t need more zealots or body shamers in the fitness world or the real world. What we need is more people willing to calm their minds, love their bodies, and breathe. And on the yoga mat is where we can learn to do that.

[Photo from Shutterstock]