To be honest even typing the title of this blog makes me cringe. Such harsh, cruel, negative intentioned words. I have stuffed these words inside of me for too long now. But they have never been accurate and so I am choosing to release them.

It is time to share my story. Not because it's about me but because it is about so many amazing women just like me who have been told this exact message, whether directly or implied. We share the same story and it is time to rewrite the ending.

This is for every woman who feels like they do not have permission to shine for all that they are because they are somehow less deserving than others. Body shaming is at an all time high. Yes we have plus-sized women in the media to look up to, but this is the exception and it needs to become the rule.

We need to move forward from the days where our appearance has any correlation to our deserving happiness. I have been doing yoga for over 12 years. I have done all different kinds of yoga during different times in my life. Times where I was at my thinnest, at my heaviest, and everywhere in between.

Yoga has always been my safe haven. My favorite coping skill. My outlet. I love that I can do yoga anytime and most anywhere, making it a very accessible tool in my self-care toolbox. It has gotten me through life. Which is exactly why I want to share it with others.

And as a therapist specializing in working with women who have experienced all types of trauma, I knew it could help my clients just as much as it has helped me if I applied yoga principles in a therapeutic way within my therapy practice. And so with my clients as my motivators, I finally decided to dive head first into a yoga teacher training.

Of course I couldn't just go to any old teacher training. I wanted the full experience. I wanted to be immersed into the yoga way of life by living on an ashram and studying with a guru from India. And so I saved up thousands of dollars and scheduled out some time to become a "Real yogi."

The first week went well. We meditated for hours daily, practiced multiple classes a day, did karma yoga such as taking care of the crops and chores on the ashram, ate a vegetarian diet, and learned about all the dynamic parts of yoga. I was the first student to get up in front and teach the class. I even got positive feedback from the guru himself about my teaching skills. But then it happened.

In front of the entire class, the guru called me out and told me that I am too fat to be a yoga teacher. That I better lose weight if I want to do well as a yoga teacher and be taken seriously.

Wow that stung. It hit me right in the gut.  And so I did what every "good therapist/ advocate" would do and I confronted his comment directly. I educated him about how harmful his words are. How much they cut deep. How powerful they are and how wrong it is for him to misuse his level of authority. How much he made me feel less than, excluded from the rest of the group as the "bad egg" or the "black sheep". And especially how he minimized the life philosophy of yoga with so many components by dwindling it down to being about appearance. Because yoga is about unity right? About seeking to liberate ourselves from worldly attachments?

And then I went on to explain to him that he is lucky he did this to me, a "well-adjusted" woman who will not let an external opinion damage my idea of myself. Because I could take it but I would never want anyone else to hurt like that. I was proud of myself for standing up to him. This guru whose feet other students kissed with honor. I terminated my work with his ashram and got my money back, which was a fight in itself.

But as time went by, I realized that I have been damaged by this. I let him get in my head. Echoing all the other media that says that only thin women can do yoga and that you must be especially fit and flexible to take any pictures of your poses. But yoga is about so much more than poses of course. It is about the powerful women of all shapes and sizes that can grow, heal and love themselves through yoga.

Just today I read on social media about a beautiful plus-sized woman who was ridiculed in her engagement photos for being heavier than her fiancé. And she was fully dressed and not in a back bend. I feel for her. I hurt for her. People can be mean and can truly cause pain to others. We need to spread love, not hate.

And so here I am, now a yoga teacher after taking a more understanding training, using yoga to help my clients heal. I am a plus-sized yoga teacher and proud of it. I am a therapist. I am a plus-sized woman. I am a healer. I am perfect just the way that I am because my heart is full of love to give, and at the soul level isn't that what matters? I know that my weight will fluctuate over time and I am okay with that as well. Because I want to be that person that inspires others to love themselves just as they are, which is so much more than how they look. Lets spread the message that you can celebrate your accomplishments at any size. Let's spread that by celebrating ourselves and paying it forward.

So post those pictures of you in all your yoga bliss. Be proud of your accomplishments. And let go of the notion that only people of a certain size deserve to be celebrated for anything, especially anything that involves body movement. It is time to break free of the mold, let go of the "ideal" and be genuine.

Having a yoga body is having a body that does yoga after all and we are all capable of that!

Until next time,