The “O” Word…and an Ana Forrest book review

2 Apr

There’s an “O” word that I can’t stand, and it’s not overstock.com or Oprah…it’s obesity. Gaaaahhhhh!!! Every time I hear that word, I  want to crawl out of my skin. Honestly, I’d rather be called a fat ass, a fat chick or a fucking whale and I reaaalllllly hate being called any of those things. *Shudder*! And these days, the O word is everywhere. It’s an epidemic, ha ha! Fuck, it’s a pandemic. People, please: stop throwing the O word around so casually. The only thing I hate more than the O word is its sidekick, Morbid. I think I’m going to have a Metal band called “Morbid Obesity”. Morbid Bloody Obesity.

OK, but all ranting aside, Ana Forrest sure does love that word. I should have kept a running total of how many times she used it in her new book, Fierce Medicine (Harper One: 2011).

Which is an excellent book, by the way–I couldn’t put it down! However, it was very difficult for me to read her descriptions of and thoughts and feelings about fat women in particular. I’m not sure if she thinks using the word “obese” is somehow scientifically accurate or politically correct, but I found myself cringing every time she used it. Some of the passages were just plain painful and upsetting for me to read; I kept thinking that I would rather walk down the street naked than take a class with Ana Forrest if this is how she really feels about fat people! From the chapter entitled “Choosing Life”:

“Our Yoga teachers had us teach a class on the last day. The teacher training program was sharing Rancho Rio Caliente with a weight loss program, a retreat with structured meals and exercise. I decided to teach them a course I created myself, even though I was terrified because my mother and brother were also grossly overweight. It was another cliff jump for me–could I face my terror of these women and con them into letting me give them a free yoga class?…I learned more from working with those women for four hours than in my entire teacher training. But first I had to get over my revulsion so I could put my hands on them and try not to throw up in their hair. The obese women had the same fear of failure and body inhibitions that I did…I wanted to get these women out of self-loathing, so I taught them to look at the poses in a new way and ask themselves, What part of this can I do?…they could do a whole lot more than any of us thought they could; we just had to get creative. As I worked to accomodate their limitations, the voice inside me droning they’re fat/they smell/you’re gonna get it began to quiet, and I began to get in touch with this struggling, suffering being I found inside each of them. We were the same! I gained so much respect for these women and their courage.” (p. 116-117)

She has a truly inspiring and amazing personal story, and she focuses on yoga as a profound system for healing from traumas of all kinds. From the chapter entitled “Stalking Fear”:

“When we struggle, we become our most stupid self. We lost contact with our deepest breath, we forget all of our resources, we move in a desperate, injuring way, and then we quit–none of which is helpful for progression. If your backside is burning, that’s okay, that’s not an injury–that’s energy getting ready to release. Sometimes it’s rage. When our power has been stopped or shut down, we can feel rage at having our boundaries crossed and our creativity thwarted. This anger can get stopped up in the thighs and pelvis. For the love of the people you care about, ride those waves of intensity until they crest and break—breathe and release it before you leave the mat…keep tracking the emotional backlog through the pose. This will eventually lead you to the story of your own life, in which you made a crucial series of decisions that affect you forever because of the backlog still sitting in your cell tissue. With each tracked emotion, you clean a little layer out, but you also explore your own fear edge. You’re tracking something that’s exciting because it changed your life–you just don’t know how until you’ve tracked it all the way. You begin to question the decisions you made back then. You can choose to live differently now.” (p. 27-28)

I can’t even begin to say how helpful that passage was to me personally. Fierce Medicine was loaded with these types of gems; insights from a lifetime spent on the mat, teaching others and healing others. I suppose what I *should*do is face my own fear and seek this woman out as a yoga teacher immediately. OK, only kidding. Or maybe not.

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