Earlier this week, in a stunning display of both online narcissism and fat-shaming foolishness, xoJane writer Jen Polachek wrote about the pain she experienced when a “young, fairly heavy black woman” placed her mat behind Polachek’s during yoga class. The young woman couldn’t do the poses, Polachek wrote; instead, in her “despair,” she stared with “resentment and then contempt” at Polachek’s “skinny white girl body.” Polachek left the class in tears. She had been “unable to focus on [her] practice.”
Amid the essay’s many problems (amply catalogued elsewhere), one that’s particularly striking is Polachek’s own failure to understand yoga. In describing her sense that yoga “seemed unable to accommodate [this woman’s] body,” Polachek made it clear that her knowledge of yoga was limited to the cult of yoga and not its culture. The culture of yoga, since its origins, has always been about uplift – of not only yourself, but also the world and its people around you. The cult of yoga has developed as it’s grown in popularity and begun to be treated like a sport, the original principles of peace and simplicity replaced by competition and one-upmanship.
The day I first started practicing yoga, I was close to 300 pounds and working to end my emotional eating habit. As a single parent in need of breathing room to de-stress, yoga felt like a perfect opportunity to get my head together. I didn’t have a mat, I didn’t have blocks or straps, and I didn’t even have “yoga clothes.” I did have a half-hour a day and a genuine curiosity. I was that “young, heavyset” yoga student, and what I learned from yoga — patience, forgiveness, humility, trust — saved my life. Continue reading >> thecut