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Ghost Body

9 Nov

“In ancient times, bears were considered equal with men…”

Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai  is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I stumbled across the clip on youtube. As I watched it I realized, “wow, I used to way more than a bear!”. No wonder they are my totem animal! I’ve had the phrase “Ghost Body” pop into my head frequently during practice for the last two weeks. At first I was like, “WTF?”. Then i realized that sometimes I still think I am carrying around my former 320 pound body. I will think that I can’t fold forward in certain positions when I actually can. It’s as if there is a “Ghost Body” surrounding me and I can still “feel” her, like people who can feel an amputated limb. Interestingly, I never stayed in my starved, thinner body long enough to develop a skinny “ghost body”.  She’s more like a whispering voice, a feeling, than a physical thing I lug around with me. When I am truly present in my current body and not divorced from it, I spend a lot of time trying to find the “edges”—how big am I, actually? Where do I stop and start? How far can I bend or reach? Where does my arm or leg go, really? Somewhat like moving to a new city and learning how to navigate the streets…you get lost a lot at first.

I also have begun to notice how much I “guard” certain areas of my body during practice. I clocked this after a conversation with my sponsor about how emotionally guarded I still am with certain people and at certain times. I find in Ashtanga that I seriously guard my left elbow (broken when I was skateboarding and drunk and 25), my right hip (could write a novel about this), my knees, my left ankle (surgery), my right hand (two surgeries). There’s a geographic area of my body that I feel like I need to protect, to keep it from further pain and trauma. But my guarding and vigilance is actually preventing the healing from happening! I realized this today during Ardha Baddha and burst into tears on my mat, which is happening again frequently. I felt a bizarre wash of warmth down my injured right side…so strange. And now my hip is feeling much better, go figure. Maybe my inner Samurai needs to find a new occupation instead of guarding my injuries. I have been throwing around the idea of learning Kendo lately…

I am trying notice my Ghost Body and just acknowledge her without fighting her. I carry her with me, and I don’t have to hate her. I am still a “fat” Ashtangi, and I will probably never be a skinny, bendy yoga chick–I  honestly don’t give a sh$t anymore. My weight is no longer my business, and I have no idea where this practice will take me physically.  I’ve spent so many years trying to artificially manipulate my body and my consciousness that I have no idea who I am or what the f*ck a “healthy me” looks or feels like physically. I have a sneaking suspicion that through dedication to this practice (practicing these principles in all my affairs for you 12 steppers out there), I will eventually regard my current body as yet another “Ghost Body”—with kindness and compassion. Everything changes. Bring it, Universe! I am f*cking stoked for transformation.

Heavy Metta Link Round Up: “I Am More Than Numbers On A Scale”

5 Oct

 

 

I just spent the weekend at a recovery event for people with food addiction issues. It was an absolutely amazing weekend that brought me to tears on more than several occasions. I have great appreciation for the process of recovery and for the days and sometimes even weeks where I don’t think about my size, appearance, weight, food or dieting.

I also have a new found, great appreciation for my plus-sized body and the things it can do. In spite of the many ways I have abused it over the years, I can now do these things: I can walk long distances (with a limp!), hold myself up in chaturanga, get my ass an inch off of the floor in tolasana, actually do navasana (!! this just happened recently) and finish an Ashtanga Primary Series workshop without dying. The strength, endurance and forgiveness of my body amazes me.

 

picture courtesy of yogapaws.com

 

I am grateful for the gift of being able to eat healthy, balanced, plant-based meals that are nourishing as well as tasty and aesthetically pleasing. I did not have this ability two years ago, and I spent my time lurching from fast food drive through to crazy workout regimen to insane diet plan and then always back to the binge followed by the starve.

Life is too short to eat ugly food. I spent the majority of my life bolting down ugly, greasy, brown and extremely unnaturally colored food from bags and boxes in secret; sometimes purging it, most times not.

Life is too short to restrict my food unreasonably, to be scared of carbs and fat grams and calories, to demonize some foods while forcing myself to choke down others that I can’t stand.

Life is too short to spend it living a lie; drinking and drugging myself into oblivion because I couldn’t tolerate the body I live in or the thoughts in my head, spending so much energy putting on a false front of “fuck it” and “I don’t care”.

Life is also too short to spend it chained to a treadmill, barbell or exercise bike; I spent endless hours, sometimes most of my waking hours, choking down “legal” speed and “energy” drinks and exercising like a maniac.

Life is ultimately too short to live it without purpose, appreciation, love and service. I don’t get to embody or enact those things when I am caught up in my addictions.

I came across this video on my Facebook feed this week and I found it to be really moving. The only bully worse than the ones I faced as a fat kid growing up in uber-weight-conscious 80′s South Florida is the voice of the Eating Disorder Bully that still rents space in my head. I need to evict that bitch, stat. Kudos to Jennifer Livingston for eloquently speaking about against bullying and fat-shaming:

A  link from Huffington Post on Yoga and an amazing recovery from anorexia by Chelsea Roff. Her plus-sized power yoga teacher was an integral part of her recovery story> I really want to buy this book just so I can finish her story!  Very, very moving stuff:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/intent/anorexia_b_1928891.html

An article I really related to by Erica Cheung: “Fat for an Asian, Flat for a Latina”. Ether cultural standard is oppressive; if you’re not svelte like Lucy Liu or “bootylicious” like J Lo, well then—you’re just fat:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erica-cheung/fat-for-an-asian-flat-for-a-latina-body-image_b_1910972.html?utm_hp_ref=eating-disorders

From the Curvy Yoga blog (gotta give them a shout out!)–what happens when more curvy peeps practice yoga? “Body diversity becomes the norm in yoga classes, not the exception.”:

http://www.curvyyoga.com/yoga/when-more-curvy-people-practice-yoga/

Off With Their Heads! Heavy Metta Link Round Up

8 Aug

Today I noticed on my wordpress blog stats analyzer thingie that apparently if you search for “yoga made me skinny”, my blog pops up. Not sure how I feel about that! I do not practice yoga to “get skinny”. I practice yoga as part of my spiritual, emotional and physical recovery from alcohol, drugs and a raging eating disorder.

Do I think that every single person who is overweight or morbidly obese has an eating disorder? No, just like I don’t think every single underweight person is anorexic. I don’t think that every person who “wants to get skinny” has an eating disorder, either. The difference, for me, was that I had an insane mental compulsion to binge eat and then “compensate”/punish myself through compulsive exercise, starvation, diuretics, laxatives, diet pills and sometimes even vomiting. It went way beyond “watching what you eat” or “trying to lose weight” into being The Mayor of Crazy Town. At some point, I crossed the line and things just got ugly. It resulted in surgery and me being in a wheelchair for six months because I pushed myself to such an extreme with my binging and compulsive exercising. It resulted in me being pre-diabetic, exhausted, injured, severely asthmatic and suicidal. I began having liver problems and PCOS/hormonal problems and existed in a general state of incredible unhealthiness. I also have a sneaking suspicion that my years of abusing diet pills that contained ephedra could have possibly contributed to the thyroid condition that I now have.

No yoga = no prana. No sanity. No serenity. I need a spiritual connection today or I cannot live a sane and serene life. Yoga gives me that. Yoga keeps me honest. I cannot engage in my compulsive exercise behavior within the scope of my Ashtanga practice. My body can only do what I can do at that particular moment, and pushing will result in injury pretty quickly. The bandhas, drishti and breath keep me spiritually connected as well.

I have been avoiding the news lately because it makes me feel like a crazy person. It seems like every time I turn around, there’s some special sound bite on The War On Obesity with headless pictures of fat folk. Trust me, I have fought my own War On My Obesity and I was a casualty. Waging war is a losing battle. Ironically, I wrote this before I found the Christina Sell video that I linked to above. If you haven’t read her books, do yourself a favor and get them.

The yoga world doesn’t exactly embrace plus sized brothers and sisters, either. “Core Strengthening Yoga”? I know what your shorthand means! And vegans? Fuggadabbout it! If you are a “fat vegan”, let the shame and blame begin. And often if you are overweight even by a little bit, no one thinks that you have an “eating disorder”. They feel free to say the most triggering and fucked up comments imaginable that quite frequently send me into a total tailspin. I have to guard my recovery and sobriety very carefully. I spend a lot of time on my yoga mat and a lot of time meditating. I go to 12 step meetings, surround myself with positive and loving people and read lots of spiritually uplifting books.

Yoga is so much more than a workout or a weight loss strategy.

Here’s some links that got me thinking recently:

Fat “papping”—how do they get those annoying Headless photos of us fat people anyway??

http://www.obesitytimebomb.blogspot.ca/2012/07/i-got-fat-papped-for-daily-mail.html

“Assana” my fat ass! Who makes a line of yoga pants called “Assana” and then sizes them only in SMALL and MEDIUM? Seriously? I call shenanigans! Things like this really grind my gears, thus proving I need to avoid most media lately.

http://assanas.com/firefly-yoga-pants/24-firefly-boot-cut-pants.html

Natala Constantine is one of my vegan heroines; this is another post from her. She now is an Engine 2 team member.  A post on being vegan, still being 100 pounds overweight and how she feels about that. As to whether you agree with the dietary suggestions part, take it with a grain of salt:

http://engine2diet.com/the-daily-beet/should-you-feel-bad-for-being-overweight-plus-12-tips-for-losing-weight/

Laura Dunn on what happens when yoga becomes 100% practice and 0% theory. It’s a fine line between “healthy” and “restricting”:

http://lauradunnyoga.com/2012/04/22/yoga-and-body-image/

Plus Sized Yoga: Heavy Musings, and a Middle Finger to Spanx

7 Jun

Dear Tender Readers: Um, *lots* of cursing is about to happen.

You know what comes up if you google “Plus Sized Yoga”? Either ads for clothes or people bashing the idea of there even being such a thing as “Plus Sized Yoga”. People be hatin’ on Plus Sized Yoga.  Like, what will the fat lazy people come up with next? Now they need their own yoga classes? So they can all be fat and lazy together and then go eat Cheetos after class? As a Plus Sized yoga chick  and someone in recovery from an eating disorder (actually, I am a size 14–which makes me too fat for the skinny people and too skinny for the fat people HAHAHA as usual, joke’s on me!), I know there is a need for Plus Sized yoga everything. You need to know how to do adjustments, you need clothes that fit, you need an understanding teacher, you need props, you need to be able to RELATE.  You need dialogue.

And I discovered via the miracle of Google search that people actually search for “Do Fat Vegans Exist?”. Why yes, they do, you ass clown. Oh wait, my SKINNY Italian Greyhound is actually typing this post. No wait, he’s sleeping and being lazy as usual and maintaining his size 0 figure.

I am realizing lately that the ongoing Putting The Ahimsa Oxygen Mask On Myself First Before Trying To Save Any Other Passengers Project is becoming more and more critical. As I continue with my healthy behaviors (eating plants, eating when I am hungry, not abusing food or myself, daily Ashtanga asana practice, walking, prayer, meditation, 12 step meetings, etc.), things progress at their own very slow and organic pace. I am moving toward a body size that is healthy for me and is, in all likelihood, definitely not a size 0. Or even 8. Hell, I’m not even sure if it’s a 12. My old eating disorder voices like to crop up and tell me I am disgusting and lazy and blah blah BLAH, I should be in the gym, I need to not eat carbs, I should be fasting, I need EPHEDRA. Stat.

Then there’s the other side of the coin—people looking at me funny and saying with this worried voice, “Boy, you sure have gotten skinny”. And it makes me feel guilty, like I should apologize for having lost 82 pounds!  No, I am not obese anymore, nor do I think FOR ME that being obese is healthy. Maybe for other people it is OK for their frame and particular body, but for me it was living hell because my body couldn’t take the constant abuse. My knees, back, hips and ankles were in pain 24-7, my arches were collapsing and I couldn’t breathe. Walking 3 city blocks in New York made me feel like the Little Mermaid walking on knives when she suddenly grew legs. I was constantly exhausted and I was fucking miserable. My every waking thought centered around bingeing or purging, and I was full of shame and I was totally batshit crazy.

I still have back fat, dude. I am still overweight for my height, even if I am no longer technically morbidly obese. I don’t ever want to go back to being morbidly obese or even garden-variety obese, but I don’t want to Spanx myself into submission, either. I got more rolls than a Cuban bakery. And what is up with fucking Spanx anyway? Oh you naughty, naughty fat girl—you need a Spanxing! Let’s beat that fat into submission! It’s some sort of perverse clothing BDSM. Fuck that shit. I am not skinny by any stretch of the imagination and it’s OK. Being healthy, accepting myself on a day-to-day basis and making peace with the skin I’m in is a top priority for me more than ever. When I am in downward dog and I look down and see my stomach and thighs in their yoga pants, I really see them today. I am no longer hiding from myself in baggy clothes. I don’t turn away my gaze. Drishti has a whole different meaning when you are a plus sized yogi. My gaze guides my practice of acceptance.

Here’s a round-up of some posts about yoga, body image, plus-sized yoga, veganism and eating disorders that I found to be intriguing and juicy. Some I agree with, some I don’t. It’s all about dialogue:

Danielle Olson on wanting to be a skinny Yoga teacher and the danger of the Beauty Myth within Yoga:

http://bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/im-no-skinny-minnie-yoga-teacher-but-oh-how-i-want-to-be/

Amber at Body Positive Yoga on why she quit dieting:

http://bodypositiveyoga.com/why-i-quit-dieting/

One more from Amber on modifications for Sun Salutations for plus sized bodies:

http://bodypositiveyoga.com/sun-salutation-modifications-for-plus-size-bodies/

Kasey, also a blogger for This Dish Is Veg (and a Floridian, represent!) on fat vegans and the shitty new shaming PCRM ads:

http://veggiemightee.blogspot.com/2012/03/fat-vegans-why-we-matter.html

Model Carre Otis on yoga, healing and body image:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4064/Q-A-with-Carr-Otis-On-Body-Image-Healing-Yoga-Meditation-Orgasms.html

Natala Constantine, Engine 2 Team Member and Inspirational Bad Ass, on being a still-fat vegan after losing 200 pounds:

http://veganhope.com/2010/01/11/yes-im-a-fat-vegan/

Joshilyn Jackson: My Big Fat Hot Vinyasa Flow–An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw at Hot Yoga in New York City:

http://www.joshilynjackson.com/ftk/?p=1675

Becky Shiles of Open Book Blog on being told You’re Too Fat For Yoga:

http://beckyshiles.blogspot.com/2007/07/too-fat-for-yoga.html

You’re never “too old” for an eating disorder–yoga helps a 70-year-old woman to recover from bulimia:

http://www2.tbo.com/lifestyles/health-4-you/2011/apr/28/yoga-helps-heal-70-year-old-womans-bulimia-ar-202998/

Embrace the Suck

26 May

WARNING: much very un-yogic cursing is about to ensue.  Halahala indeed, motherfucker.

Last night, I had the suckiest, most unpleasant on every level imaginable Ashtanga practice I’ve had since I started this, um, “experiment.” It’s so not an experiment—I am hooked. I’m an Ashtanga junkie now, let’s just lay my cards out on the table. If I could freebase Ashtanga, I would. Please, cross the blood-brain barrier faster!!! But nooooo, it goes how it goes. And it goes sloooow. Really slow. It’s taken me several months just to work my way through the standing asanas, which is just fine. I haven’t even technically “entered” the Primary Series! My body will only do so much, and sometimes I am OK with this. Other times I am not, and therein lies the rub. Last night, I felt like my pores were full of cement. Every pose was “awkward pose”, every movement took supreme effort;  a part of my mind was looking on in pure disgust, unfortunately. You call that an upward dog? Bitch, please. It’s more like an Upward Grizzly. All I could think of was this:

At one point, I just completely detached from my body and totally lost track of what I was doing. The breathing is where it all went south…it was like I couldn’t breathe properly. My ujaii sounded like a bag of angry, sticky crickets and I felt like I had a brick in my stomach, making mula bandha very uncomfortable. Every part of my body was strung tighter than tight and I was getting more and more pissed off.  The more I told myself to relax, go slowly, take extra breaths and send love to the various stuck parts of my body, the more I wanted to just say fuck it and walk off my my mat and go break some shit (no, I don’t have anger management problems AT ALL). At that moment, I had to make a conscious decision to just accept how much practice was NOT going well, and embrace the suck. I sat with the suckiness, gave it a big grizzly bear chokehold hug, finished practice and meditated.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Grizzly. I should have my own school of Yoga Fu. It’s just one day, I kept telling myself.

But then again, it’s not. I tend to underplay how hard this Ashtanga shit is for me most days. I don’t like to be a whiner. But here it is: being in a larger body and doing this practice is a serious pain in my fat ass most days. I get angry, I’m in pain from my injuries, and my mind is the biggest mess of all.My digestion has gotten all wonky since I started this practice. What I was eating before, which was overall pretty “healthy”, is not working with Ashtanga. I ate whole wheat, roasted vegetable pizza with sunflower seed “cheese” and arugula last night for dinner and I think that was part of the brick-like feeling in my gut during practice. Great, now my body hates wheat? Goddammit!! What seems to work is eating a light, liquid meal at night (like a smoothie or soup) after practice and not eating much of anything from lunch until after I get off of the mat. I went out and got some Triphala and digestive enzymes and I’m going to see if that helps. And let’s not even talk about the er, poisonous fumes that seem to be pouring out of me these days:

“But before Amrita could be recovered, Halāhala (“the most vicious and venomous poison of universe”) was produced, which started killing both sides. As no one could bear the poisonous fumes emitted by the poison, both Devas and Asuras began to collapse due to Asphyxiation. They ran for help to Brahma, who looked to Vishnu for advice. Vishnu said that only Shiva could digest the deadly poison. So both parties went to Mount Kailash and prayed to Lord Shiva for help. Shiva chose to consume the poison and thus drank it. His wife Parvati, alarmed, stopped it in his throat with her hands, thus earning him the name Viṣakaṇṭha (the one who held poison in his throat). The poison made his throat turn blue; hence, he is also known as Nīlakaṇṭha (the one with a blue throat).” from the frequently non-accurate Oracle, Wikipedia.

Shiva and Triphala, please help me before I gas my poor little dog to death in my yoga room!

Yesterday was one of those days when I wanted to go back to the allegedly easier, softer way of lifting weights and taking diet pills and running on the treadmill and eating the food I am used to eating (a vegan bodybuilding diet, basically). I don’t want to accept and love my body. I want it to be a different body, and I want it NOW, dammit.  I would just like to wake up and be a “normal” body weight  and not in pain and not 42. I don’t want to be involved in a difficult, transformative, painful and spiritually hinky process. But then a very large part of me is really hooked on this process. I want to see what happens! And some times, I feel really good after practice. I feel spiritually more open, and things are going on that I cannot describe. I suppose it’s those little glimpses of *something* that keep me coming back. Actually, I have no idea what keeps me coming back. But I cannot stop thinking about it either way.

Big Yoga: Not a Polygamist Yoga Retreat

7 Apr

I officially do not like “Moon Days”. I did NOT want to rest yesterday, or today for that matter. Last night I decided to give “Big Yoga: Flex-Ability” a spin in the interests of, er, science. Or this blog. Or the fact that I can’t freaking relax unless I do yoga.

I will have you know that it does NOT say “You don’t have to be thin to enjoy the benefits of Yoga!” on my DVD copy. It actually says “You don’t have to be flexible”, which is why I grabbed it frantically off of the shelf at the library. Although Beezus knows, I’m not thin or flexible. I’m like Han Solo entrapped in carbonite lately. I keep expecting to hear the evil chuckles of Jabba the Hutt coming from the corner of my yoga room.

Yes, this is an actual Han Solo in carbonite ice cube tray.

The Meera DVD was actually quite lovely. I wish I had found it when I first got back into practice two years ago. This is an excellent practice for people who are either very stiff, very out of shape or injured. Her voice is very pleasant and all of the instructions are very clear. It started out with lots of lovely stretches for my sorely neglected and oft abused feet and wrists. There’s a nice Sun Salutation sequence using a chair, a pranayama instruction sequence and an excellent guided meditation at the end. I was so relaxed that I just realized that I have no idea what happened in the rest of the video! I found myself wishing that she was my Yoga Fairy Godmother by the end of the guided meditation. So in the interests of science and this blog, guess I just will have to do it again tonight. Don’t worry, I’ll be back to the Sun Salutations/Standing Postures/Slayer Ashtanga grind by tomorrow! Monday starts week 4, which is kinda crazy. Time flies when you are sweating to heavy metal!

Gasoline Girl With A Vaseline Mind

3 Apr

The start of Week Three of The Ashtanga Experiment, which feels totally surreal to me…I keep thinking the Ashtangi Police are going to show up & bust me taking extra breaths like crazy and gracelessly shambling from down dog to the front of my mat. And no, I don’t know the Sanskrit for that. I’m just showing up at Slayer Shala and doing my best. I am baffled by my new found inability to do Triangle pose. I’ve never had problems with that asana, ever, and now it’s a total nightmare. I’m sure I will look back on this and laugh. Or not. Actually, there was quite a bit of chuckling going on today during my death metal playlist.

An aside: being a still-fat but vegan yoga practitioner kinda sucks sometimes, not gonna lie. Not for vanity reasons, but for functionality purposes–there’s just a lot more for me to have to throw around during practice. Floating is not exactly happening right now if you know what I mean. More like flopping and stomping. Kind of like a dancing grizzly bear in a pink tutu who could dangerously lunge for your twizzlers and popcorn at any time during this performance. Although I find myself not fussing about my body shape or size *while* I am practicing, I am feeling some generalized discontent after. Although I have been steadily losing weight for a year and 8 months now, sometimes I wish it would just be over already, dammit. My inner, fiery egoself wants it NOW.  The practice is definitely stirring up some interesting feelings…part of me just easy and peaceful, and part of me on fire.

YogaFit Plus, DVD review

30 Mar

This DVD is really what kept me practicing over the last year. I had such a hard time finding anything that I could do that would accommodate both my 250 pound+ body and my numerous crazy injuries. Surgery on my ankle, surgery on my right hand (total freak accident for once), hip and knee injuries from being hit by a car while on my bike, etc. I liked that this DVD did not mention ANYTHING about weight loss. It was all about accepting your body and thanking your body. The Sun Salutation half-series on your knees part was particularly helpful. There are modifications, and the music is not too distracting. You are reminded to use props if you need to, and to rest if you need to. Sometimes I really need to hear that shit—my craziness will tell me that I am being lazy and that I need to push harder, blah blah blah. Sometimes I need to take a break!

Interestingly, I always associate the YogaFit brand name with this image:

This is what I HATE about the way Yoga is “sold” these days. Arrrgh!! Images like this make me want to smite someone with a sword while “Raining Blood” plays in the background (naaah, I don’t have anger management issues at all). I never thought to look to YogaFit for a solution, but there you go—help usually comes for me in the last place I look. I still use this DVD as a way to rest and unwind and get ready for some meditation, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is afraid to try yoga due to their size or anyone who is injured. I’m even considering doing a teacher training with YogaFit since they actually have a program for teaching “Plus Sized” yoga. We need more of this in the world!

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