Doing Bikram Yoga While Fat

If I try to stand with my toes and heels touching, then I can't lock my knees. I suspect it is because my bone structure has been altered by a lifetime of obesity.

Sep 28, 2012 at 4:00pm | Leave a comment

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Toes and heels touching. Lock your knees. Interlace your fingers. Find your eyes in the mirror and fall in love with whatever you see in the mirror, today. Take a small inhale, then exhale. Now, let's begin pranayama deep breathing.

Wait a second. If I try to stand with my toes and heels touching, then I can't lock my knees. I suspect it is because my bone structure has been altered by a lifetime of obesity. For a hot minute, I slipped out of obesity-land and into the much coveted and simpler overweight-land, but then I foolishly quit smoking and tipped the scale back into doctor's chart approved fattydom. Well, I live here now, so I better listen to my yoga teacher du jour and attempt to stare at myself for 90 minutes in tight clothing while sweating my ass off in a hot room full of people with normal BMIs. But I still can't get my toes and heels to touch without bending my knees, so I will settle on being the only person in the room who can't touch their toes and heels together.

Welcome to what I call my Bikram yoga nooner. I have successfully banked up enough time at my job to slip across the hallway and spend 90 minutes while wearing what essentially looks like a unitard while I bend, stretch and sweat myself into a positive state of mind. How the hell is that possible when I am surrounded by beautiful women with bodies that don't have fat rolls or cellulite? As well as someone on a pulpit yapping nonstop at me and telling me what to do with my fucking body. The nerve.

I have to work really hard at being OK with my fatness. It's a daily mantra for me, like it is for so many of us. I would say that it is pathetic that I have to consciously tell myself that I have worth, that I have a Master's degree (and that means something), that I am good at my job (I work at a rehab, you should hear my Xanax voice), that my husband enjoys having sex with me (even though I was 40 pounds lighter when he married me), and that I am a worthy human being. Fat shaming has really fucked me up.

I am actually embarrassed to see friends and family who have not seen me since I gained back the 40 pounds that now wake me up at night and tell me I am gross. Sadly, 50 pounds that have decidedly fucked off are silent, probably off eating the pizza I am coveting RIGHT NOW. It's clear, I struggle to find value in myself that is not weight related. But I make conscious attempts to love myself in spite of my nagging, shithead brain that tells me I suck 24-7.

But when I am doing Bikram yoga, that stupid voice shuts the hell up. While I am wearing tight clothes. While dreambods are barking yoga directions at me. While I am sweating my ass off and I want to die and I swear my PTSD is going to flare up and I will end up slapping people with my yoga mat until the class is done. When I leave that class, my brain is adjusted. I feel light and happy and free. I even strip and shower with all of my fat hanging out in front of other women in an affluent California city and frankly- do-not-give-a-damn-Scarlet what they think of my fat rolls. Fuck all if I am the daily anthropology exhibit. At least I showed up and did my best.

I started doing Bikram yoga in 2006 when I moved to Florida from New York. I started practicing normal yoga (a.k.a yoga in which you don't have to turn the room into a hot room of helldeath of 105 degrees) in 2002. That combined with other gym activities and an attempt to eat better helped me drop 90 pounds. Ninety pounds! Oh, I had found freedom. I was 5'2" and wearing a size 12, which was a longtime dream of mine. Men paid attention to me! I was complete! And by complete, I mean I did not hate myself ALL the time. Just most of the time. But I loved having a waist. Problem was I still smoked cigarettes, which helped me attain a waist that I could live with but might cause me to die of cancer.

So in 2008, I quit smoking. Now I am back to being a 200-pounder with raging self-esteem issues.

Point is that all this time, I kept doing yoga. My flexibility is awesome. My ability to manage my severely compromised mental health is incredible. I can cope with my own brain simply because I go into that oven and spend 90 minutes pushing myself, in spite of heat and humidity, to reach new goals. I forget my problems. I rise above panic attacks. I actually stop thinking and start doing. 

After class, I chat with my yoga teacher, who is slender. I tell her that recently, I learned that I have been deceiving myself. I told myself that I couldn't do certain postures because my fat is in the way. And then I tell her that I have been lying to myself -- there is no fat in the way. It's just my mind and my self-hate getting in the way. I am perfect in my practice. It is yoga practice and not yoga perfect, right?

She rejoices with me. I am never too fat to be a gorgeous yogini, falling in love with what I see before me, even if it takes heat and hell to do it. At least I know how.

I feel like in those moments I can be grateful to have a body that is even capable of attempting yoga postures. I have a good body, a beautiful body, a body that I sometimes even love, that my husband loves, that keeps me healthy. And because of this yoga, I can stop fat-shaming myself, if only for a hot minute.