Tag Archives: Plus Sized Yoga

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.

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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/

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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