Yoga classes. Is there anywhere else you can feel more inadequate?
So you’re not wearing the latest Lorna Jane crop top. So you’ve face-planted trying to do a headstand again. So you’re surrounded by a class of glorious yoga hippies effortlessly crow-ing their abs off while you’ve sunk into a sullen child’s pose.
Well, think about how yoga teacher and founder of Fat Yoga Australia, Sarah Harry who embraces her size 18 - 20 shape, feels when she goes to studios.
“I’ve had a lot of different reactions. There has certainly been a lot of supportive people, but there has also been a lot of people who’ve been rude or condescending or mean,” Sarah told Yahoo7 Lifestyle.
After finally having the courage to undertake teacher training at the age of 40, almost 20 years into her practice, Sarah, 44, knows how it feels to be singled out.
“One time I went to an advanced class in a very fancy studio and the teacher said to me: ‘Oh, darling, the beginners class is tomorrow’. I hadn’t even opened my mouth,” she laughs. “Sometimes people will say, ‘Don’t do that’ or ‘This is a special move for you’ and that’s not necessary either.”
For Sarah, who is also Co-Director of Body Positive Australia, naming her Melbourne classes Fat Yoga, and identifying herself with “fat yoginis” is her way of changing how people perceive the word fat, and turning a negative into a positive.
"There were never any people with curvy bodies or fat bodies in the classes that I went to so I didn’t have any confidence," says Sarah. "Fat Yoga has really resonated with people. It's been fantastic."
She’s only the latest hitting back against body shaming, with Instagram blossoming with curvy yoga warriors such as Jessamyn Stanley whose bio reads: “I’m Jessamyn. I'm a fat femme. I f**king love yoga.”
If Jessamyn's 172,000 followers are anything to go by, it seems they certainly love her too.
Sarah, whose Fat Yoga classes are aimed at women who “identify as having a fat body” and regularly sell out, tells aspiring yogis to forget their shape and what they think their limitations might be, and just give it a go.
“All different kinds of varieties of ages and sizes can practice yoga,” she says. “I think [women are] so nervous that it’s going to be a hard experience or they won’t be flexible or they’ll be too big, there’s lots barriers.”
But these barriers are slowly but surely breaking down, with plans for a Fat Yoga community.
“I want to have a hub where we can support each other,” says Sarah. “I’ve found people in Perth and Brisbane. I’ve contacted quite a few people who are still studying their teacher training so there’s even more coming through which is just wonderful.”