I walk into class with my water bottle in hand and my target brand yoga mat. It’s the one I’ve had since 2006 and despite it being old I can’t get rid of it. I am wearing my tight black yoga pants, the faded ones that make my ass look bigger than it is and the ones that hide my tummy the best. As I find a spot on the floor I walk past the pretty blondes and the men with their chiseled chins, their Lululemon outfits and high end $130.00 yoga mats. I make eye contact with the only other woman of color in the room and produce an internal sigh of relief because I am not alone. Through out the class we smile when we both can’t do the same pose and feel a sense of connection in knowing that there is another person sharing this feeling of slight embarrassment.
I started practicing yoga in 2006 in the quiet of my college apartment while my roommates were in class. I bought three yoga dvd’s that started with the basics of breathing and some yoga poses. I could not muster the courage to actually go to a class so instead I did it at home while everyone was away. I hid my yoga practice from the world because I was ashamed of my body. I hid because it was easier and safer to practice by myself than to be in a room full of strangers who were strong, thin and beautiful. The fact that I wasn’t emotionally ready to practice in front of people didn’t stop me and I practiced diligently 3-4 times per week by myself. I began going for walks and the occasional jog. I felt myself becoming braver and more confident in my own skin.
It’s been about 9 years or so since I first stepped on to a yoga mat. Last year I decided that it was time to get serious and commit to doing a yoga teacher training. In about two months I will have completed my 200 RYT training and the question of whether I want to teach or not has come up several times. At first, I thought that this training was just for me and get me out of my yoga comfort zone. But the more I think about my journey with yoga the more I am convinced that this training is not about me. This training is about the women who are hiding their practice because they can’t imagine walking into a room full of “perfect” looking people without feeling self conscious about their weight or their inability to do certain poses. My hope is that this practice becomes a way to help women discover their bodies and not see themselves as separate from those sitting in class with them. My hope is that I can create a safe space for women to come and practice in their no-label yoga pants and their target brand mats because it’s not about the label or how pretty the studio is; this is about women connecting with other women. This is about supporting one another through movement and what yoga is truly about- connecting the mind, body and spirit.