Yoga Teacher Gained 40 Pounds to Make a Point About Fat Yoga Teachers

Remember last summer when that personal trainer gained (then lost) 70 pounds on purpose in order to better identify with his overweight clients? Well, I’ve got another for you. It’s kinda the same deal, except in this case we’re talking about a yoga teacher and her decision to pack on 40 pounds to prove a point.

In a recent post on Yoganonymous called “The Fat Yoga Teacher,” yoga instructor Trina Hall details how—and why—she gained 40 pounds in four months, on purpose. “I wanted to use my own body as my art piece to start a conversation about identity, self-image and beauty, so I made my canvas heavy and gained weight,” she writes. “I want to slay the notion that people who do yoga need to look like the beauties on the cover of magazines.”

In the process, of course, she uncovers some of her own insecurities about weight and body image. In her own words:

The stories I made up about what people thought of me were changing and I was emotionally affected. Suddenly, my self-worth was proving to be connected to how good I looked wearing spandex—something I completely denied giving a shit about before this experiment—and that pissed me off. Guilt from eating foods I typically considered bad for me were constant companions in my thoughts. Shame did cameo appearances in my mind’s movie reel daily.

You can read the full post for yourself here, but I want to hear your thoughts on the premise of the experiment, namely: Do you think there’s a stigma against overweight instructors (and, maybe, students) in the yoga community? Would you have an issue taking a yoga class from someone who’s not stick thin? Is it something you’d even notice? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Jen

    I think there was some good intention behind article but the length and depth of writing barely skimmed the surface of what I hope the author experienced.

    Insecurity runs rampant through the minds of yoga students no matter how fit and trim they may be.

    As the only fat student in my yoga training course my mind traversed between thoughts like- my presence here will help others like me, perhaps these thin yoga instructors to be will be will have the opportunity to hear and understand how to help those with body image issues without shaming or derogatory remarks and actions.
    Along with the negative thoughts: when a partnered practice was involved- I’m the last one standing because people fear my weight. Self doubt: How can I successfully teach this pose to students when my body gets in the way of attaining the posture?

    There are shallow people who care about your shape size and BMI and people who will never notice the FAT you think is staring them in the face. while you demonstrate. I do think that students are drawn toward instructors they can connect to and have something to offer their students.

    I know from first hand experience that there is a stigma about fat people in yoga practice. Lululemon brings the stigma to the production line, but often it is assumed that a fatty in class is a beginner. If you are a larger sized instructor you had better bring your A game to your interview teaching session along with some bangin specialty class ideas- especially if you are in a fitness emporium like a resort spa or gym.

    Yoga is a journey back to who you really are so invariably your mind, body and spirit will change and grow over time with your practice. Some folks may discriminate against me due to my weight, gender or even fashion sense and that is the students loss not mine. You will attract the right teacher and client base if you are dedicated.

    Ultimately I would like to hear more about the authors experience in her practice as her shape changed, How her interactions with students of substantial size may have been altered by being in a bigger skin. Perhaps most importantly was she able to accept love and be gentle to herself during practice as a larger woman?

  • Kim

    Yes, I have run into negative attitudes as an overweight yoga student, both from instructors and from other students. Getting back in shape, especially at over 45, is a process. Every fitness article out there says that incremental goals & small changes are more effective, that overnight results don’t last & aren’t realistic, etc. – the facts haven’t reached the attitudes, especially of fitness participants that have never had to lose significant weight.

    The fact that I’m there & working should count more then whether or not I can touch my toes yet or not. I’ve got enough of my own judgements about the way my body looks; I don’t need other people’s giggles or comments to add to it. Some of the worst judgmental attitudes I’ve run into are from people who work in the fitness industry.

  • Danita

    Well, being someone who isn’t “stick thin” I would relish the opportunity to take this instructor’s class. I don’t know if there’s a stigma against an overweight instructor, but that’s mainly because I haven’t seen one (in person at least). Still, as a yogi currently in a larger body, I appreciate the alternate perspective such an experiment yields. To a certain degree everyone gravitates towards the commonalities we can see in other people–this is obvs not news–so, yes, I would notice if someone outside of the lululemon sizing spectrum was leading my class and I would appreciate that. If anything I think it proves that yoga really can be for anyone, but like you, I do wonder who else would notice and why …

  • Heather

    I would prefer not to take a class from a walking stick. I doubt I’d take it from someone obviously overweight, but I also don’t want the other extreme. Someone more average would be great. I’m sick of staring at sticks. At the height of my fitness ever in life I still had “soccer thighs” or the chub rub. Now as a working mom with little to no time for exercise I need to combine my R&R and exercise time. I’m looking for a yoga instructor who isn’t a size 0 because I never will be. I’ll be lucky to be an 8.