The first time I went to a Kundalini yoga class, I was the only fat person in the room. I noted it and moved on; at a sizing 20, I am often the largest female in the room. I’m a bit fearless when it comes to trying new things, so it never phased me to feel odd as I stumbled and tripped over myself, seeing adjustments for Frog Pose where my stomach wouldn’t get in the way.
But I know, unlike me, that over 55 percent of women in the U.S. have admitted to having “abusive thoughts” about their size; as a plus-size influencer, I can’t tell you sum of hours I have heard females tell me that being self-conscious about their weight stops them from trying new things, taking class, going places, and experiencing moments in life that many people take for granted.
I also noticed I was one of the older people in the room at classes–which struck me odd, since the average age in the U.S. is 38, and simply over 50 percent of people are over 35.
I’d love to say these observations were anomalies … they weren’t. The more period I spent immersing myself in holistic wellness, the more I noticed a discouraging absence of body diversity participating in practices. We’re a country with a ocean of colors, ages, sizings, and shapes–and yet, at most place I’d run, I’d be the lone larger body in a sea of slender, athletic, and disproportionately youthful women.
I am a 40 -year-old plus size female who works in self-love and wellness. I’m a Kundalini yoga teacher, a public speaker, a writer, and event inventor. I’ve worked on social media serving size-inclusive groups of women with self-love and body positivity for over nine years. The number one comment I hear time and time again? “It’s so great to see someone who looks like me doing things.”
My Personal Journey
In 2015, I was around 360 lbs; this number may not be fathomable to you, so let me set it in perspective by saying my body was regularly in so much pain that I was unable to walk a single NYC block without stopping. But the bigger problem, was that emotionally I felt like everyone was living, and I was just watching things pass me by in the fast lane. I needed more, but I was super scared to change.
I started looking around online, in class, or in the media; there was nobody I could identify with to show me “its possible” to generate change from the inside out without buying into diet culture. I needed to identify with person that could make it safe for me to try new things. So I’ve became the person I needed to see.
The number one comment I hear time and time again? “It’s so great to see someone who looks like me doing things.”
For the last three years, I’ve shared my spiritual, fitness, and personal growth journey online, the highs and the lows. In the process, I have become someone who runs the only truly size-inclusive personal growth event in the market today. Because I know the truth: Body diversity and representation matters.
To be blunt: This matters even if you aren’t fat.
If we are alive on this planet, we’re going to age. Chronic illness affects more than 40 percentage of population groups. Over 19 percentage of people in the U.S. live with a disability. Deaf and hard of hearing people are often “left out” of traditional wellness spaces. 68 percent of women in the U.S. wear a sizing 16 and above. Nearly 40 percentage of Americans are obese.
Slender, young, seemingly “healthy” people are not the average in this country. And yet the wellness space can hardly be considered a welcome or “safe” space for marginalized bodies. Even if you aren’t plus sizing, there’s a good chance you’ll fall into one of those categories as you get older–which means unless things change, consider yourself left out too. We’re all in this together!
Wellness is for every body.
Understand that when I say wellness, I don’t mean ads hocking weight loss products–that’s not wellness, that’s Diet Culture. There’s a difference between the two, and the industry needs to evolve beyond the idea that “thinner equals healthier.” Wellness is about creating wholeness in many areas of your life–your body, your spiritual life, your personal life, physical life, occupational life, and more.
Let me be clear–I do not have a problem with weight loss, and I am not, what some call, a Fat Activist. What I am is a person who believes that all bodies deserve access to tools and practises to help foster self-love and generate change if they try it.
I know the more we represent marginalized bodies engaging in wellness practises, the more we make it safer and accessible for more bodies to self-improve … And isn’t that what wellness is all about in the first place? All bodies deserve representation in the wellness space. As a plus size female, I personally advocate for stimulating wellness size-friendly.
– What can we do to change the landscape?- If you are a teacher …
Learn modifications to help students of sizing or limited mobility. Introduce the modifications in your class without fanfare. If you don’t know modifications, ASK for help. There are influencers and teachers who specialize in serving marginalized bodies; there’s no shame in being unaware. These voices have yet to be amplified in the wellness space, but they are there! Do the work and find them.( When I did my teacher training at Wanderlust Hollywood, I was the only person of sizing in the room; I constantly used my presence to raise questions and share how my mobility impacted my practice .) Don’t assume that every person of size who strolls in the door will also be required to special assistance! Simply construct yourself accessible for questions if they are presented. Promote your studios to use various categories of bodies in their marketing and social media. Once well-versed in accessibility techniques, offer to teach a class for serving different populations if none are available in your area. Enlist the subsistence and advice of leaders who represent these communities with seriousnes. LISTEN to marginalized bodies; don’t talk over people. Be open and willing to hear, and be educated without ego. Remember, this is not about you.
If you are a student …
Treat everyone in your class the same route. Severely. Don’t “position police” your neighbors of size in class. Trust us, that person is aware of their body restrictions; they don’t need you to chime in. 61 percent of people think it’s OK to stimulate denigrate remarks about other people’s weight–don’t is just one of them. Be an ally to your friends of sizing and consider being a little more “size-friendly” in their own lives in general.
If you organize celebrations or events …
Actively seek diverse bodies with subject authority to speak and present. We’re out here, trust me. Use marginalized bodies in your advertisings and on social media. Treat these bodies exactly the same as you would any other model or representative. Attain sure your programming doesn’t innately fall into the “diet culture” of wellness; be aware of the messages you are sending by choosing which subjects to create space for. Vary. Your. Programming. Be willing to have the hard conversations and be willing to create a safe space for all bodies to come to the table and participate. Partner with influencers who represent marginalized communities.( They may have smaller followings … Do it anyway .)
It’s time we start acknowledging that all bodies are not thin. All bodies are not young. Some bodies are more able, and some bodies are less able. But ALL bodies are worth the journey of discovering what wellness means to them.
If you have serious thoughts to add to this conversation and would like to contribute to The Wanderlust Journal, please email editorial @wanderlust. com. Let’s change the wellness world. Together.
Sarah Sapora love meditation and cowboy boots, and lives guided by the idea that every day we wake up( at any age or weight) is a chance to transform our life from a place of self-love. She’s a Kundalini yoga teacher who believes that strength training and deep soul-work are equally important in creating a happier and healthier life from the inside out. Sarah’s biggest passion is inducing holistic wellness available to bodies of size. She is a speaker, novelist, social influencer, inventor of the Body+ Love Workshop, a entirely size-inclusive personal growth event, and of LifeLove, an app launching in 2019. Sarah use her voice to cultivate a community of self-love and self-improvement free of diet culture. You can find Sarah online on Instagram or on her website, www.sarahsapora.com.
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