Representations of yoga on social media have created a myth of perfection. This yogi wants you to look beyond the 'gram.
I never felt discouraged by yoga. I'm always up for a good physical challenge and I've always liked to push myself to try new things. I remember arriving for my first class, all excited with my yoga mat in tow, and right away I loved it.
But my story is somewhat of an exception, especially for someone my size. People who are bigger are usually more reluctant to try yoga because there aren't a lot of bigger women in yoga classes, and it's easy to feel like you don't belong. (Related: Why the "Yoga Body" Stereotype Is BS)
Social media representations of yoga haven't helped. The yoga community has a facade of perfection that can scare people away. Yoga photos on Instagram are gorgeous, with their beautiful beach settings and handstands. And while there is now more representation of people with different body types doing yoga, that's also very staged at times. And hey, I'm guilty of it, too. I take a lot of photos before I get the one that I want for the 'gram. None of those pretty photos show the struggle. (Related: 5 Yoga Myths That Just Aren't True)
So here's what I'd tell anyone who's intimidated by yoga: It's going to be hard, even if it doesn't look like it on social media. And every single body type. is capable of doing yoga. You just need to push past that initial fear and go for it. Usually, when you're stopping yourself from trying something, it's deeply rooted in someone telling you "this can't happen" or "you can't do this because you're fat." You need to silence that part of your mind.
It's all about finding that teacher who won't push you into a pose that you're not ready for, and who's aware that not everyone's body is exactly the same. After all, whether someone's thin or big, you can't just look at them and know their ability to do a pose.
I promise the discomfort is so worth it. Starting yoga and becoming a teacher has changed me in a huge way. I want you to know that yoga is more than just the poses. It's been my only way of coping with depression and anxiety, and I'm not sure how I would be able to handle things if I had never started. Thankfully, I wasn't scared away from stepping into that first class—and you shouldn't be either.
Valerie's book, Big Gal Yoga, is now available.