Fat yoga studio welcomes all sizes

Lylah M. Alphonse

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Anna Ipox (center) teaches a class at her Fat Yoga studio in Portland, Oregon. (Photo: Fat Yoga via Flickr)

American Anna Ipox named her studio Fat Yoga, and she's not shy about why.

“I say I’m fat cause, guess what, I know I’m fat,” Ipox told KPTV. “Our American script says, ‘No, you’re not fat, just some other euphemism, thick, fluffy, big-boned, portly, whatever.’”

"Fat is simply a descriptive word," she explained on her company's website. "We believe that a person should not be judged by the amount of fat they have, and that there is no “right” amount of fat. A person’s physical health cannot be determined from simply looking at their shape or weight."

Ipox, who has practiced yoga since 2011, said that some traditional poses are too difficult for fat people to manage.

“Child’s pose is impossible of you have belly fat or thick thighs,” she said. But most yoga instructors "just have no idea what it is to have a big body."

"I remember teachers pushing on my hips to make it happen," she continued. "It’s not a flexibility thing and I couldn’t articulate any of that.”

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise every week (think brisk walking) and try to do "muscle-strengthening activities" for all major muscle groups twice or more each week. The activity can be spread throughout the week, as long as you're being moderately to vigorously active for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Still, the people who most need to exercise are often the ones who are most likely to avoid it, simply because working out in public is too intimidating.

“You just have to do a little Google searching to see all the fat hate," Ipox explained to KPTV. "Fat girls shouldn’t wear stretch pants, they shouldn’t wear white, they shouldn’t wear yoga pants and you’re not allowed to let your fat jiggle.”

Struck by society's resistance to people who want to be fit but aren't afraid to be fat, she decided it was time to open her own studio.

"I just realised I’m gonna make the place I want to go,” she said.

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Fat Yoga opened in Portland in January, and drew a devoted following right away.

“We come here to have that space and hold that space and be healthy and get our sweat on and laugh and have a good time,” class member Melissa Brown told the TV station. “I really think she nailed it right on the head. Yoga for fat people. Fat Yoga.”

"I love the laid back and friendly atmosphere," another student, Jennifer W, raved on Yelp. "I love the encouragement. I love that I can laugh while I do yoga and that I can already feel myself becoming stronger and more confident."

Ipox says classes at Fat Yoga are open to everyone, no matter how much (or how little) they weigh - and, in fact, weight loss is not the point. "Fat Yoga has no objective or claim towards weight loss," she says on her company's website. "Frankly, we are not interested in it. We focus on strength building, flexibility, balance, self-acceptance and peace of mind."