I am a very smart woman. I am very, very good at coming up with excuses. I have spent many years coming up with excuses of why I shouldn’t do yoga. I’m not the only one who has come up with reasons. There’s a whole host of people out there who have reasons why I shouldn’t do yoga and they happily tell me. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t do yoga because I’m too fat, because I’ve had a hip replacement, because I’m not flexible enough, because I don’t have good balance, because I’m too old. There have also been subtle messages that I shouldn’t do yoga such as the fact that it’s nearly impossible to buy cute, comfortable yoga clothes above an xl or the fact that most yoga advertisements feature petite women and never any plus size women. Also, walking into a yoga studio can be really intimidating. It’s intimidating for anyone who hasn’t tried yoga before it is especially terrifying for those of us who carry extra weight. There are definitely things that studios can do to make the atmosphere more welcoming for those of us who are fat.
I was lucky that when I posted on Facebook that I wanted to try yoga someone contacted me and invited me to an open day. Once I agreed online I couldn’t really back out. For me this was helpful as I was terrified of going but once something is on Facebook it has to happen. It’s sort of the law. When I arrived at the studio I was met by a large group of people. An open day can be helpful in creating a more comfortable environment, especially if you can ensure there are people of different sizes and shapes there. Walking into Hot Yoga Sheffield was fantastic as the building was filled with people with quite diverse body shapes. I didn’t feel like I was sticking out in any way and as a fat person I tend to want to fade in to the background in new and uncomfortable situations.
I took a few minutes to adjust and then asked to see the woman who’d invited me on Facebook. I’ll be forever grateful that she was so warm and welcoming. Sally seemed truly happy to be able to show me around the studio and was a big part of the reason I joined. The studio suited my requirements. There were changing rooms that had the privacy I sometimes like when getting my kit off around thinner women. There were couches in a quiet room, which made getting shoes on and off easier. There were also several different levels of classes from a warm 60 minute beginner to a hot 90 minute intense session. They’ve also got a brilliant little vegan cafe in the back with snacks and a fridge stocked with locally made juices. It may seem silly to a super fit person but the idea that they didn’t want fat me to just scoot off after class was a big deal. They didn’t seem embarrassed by me, which meant I felt able to let my guard down a little.
After a tour of the studio and a chat with Sally a terrifying thing happened — they had a spot in a beginners class and they encouraged me to give it a go. This scared the bejesus out of me. I walked into the warm room of around 40 people and saw they were all different sizes, shapes, and levels of sweaty. A lot of them looked nervous too! I found a mat in the corner and said a quick Hail Mary. We were encouraged to sit or lie on our mats before we started. The room felt wonderful! I love to sweat and I love the heat so I was really hoping hot yoga would work for me. I was still terrified about the yoga bit but sat down to give it a go.
The teacher, Rosie, greeted us and started by taking us though Sun Salutation A. (That’s right, I can now talk fancy yoga phrases.) We went through it quite quickly and then broke the steps down through the rest of the class. At one point I was struggling with a move and out of nowhere (and right before I nearly burst into tears feeling like I was too fat to do yoga) Rosie appeared with a brick and changed everything. That brick made me feel like I was accomplishing the pose, like I wasn’t a failure. She also said things like “if you’re struggling with this move you can try an alternative.” She truly made me feel like I deserved to be there as much as anyone else. We finished the class by putting all the poses together again to do another sun salutation and I nearly cried again as I was able to do the whole thing, but this time with happiness (luckily I was sweating a hell of a lot and was able to hide it). When we lay down at the end of class to breathe and relax, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
When I came out of the class I was on a high. I was so proud of myself. I also hadn’t considered how great the endorphins would feel. I happily signed up for the one month introduction special (this is still available if anyone wants to give it a go, it’s £32 for an unlimited month at both studios). It’s now been a month since my very first class at Hot Yoga Sheffield and I’ve been going twice a week. I wish I could go more as the studio is such a welcoming place to be. I’ve even done a private family class with Mr Westwood and the kids as the physical and mental health benefits are brilliant for anyone. I have definitely noticed my balance is getting better, as well as my strength, but the biggest change has been my mental health. The combination of the heat and yoga has been brilliant for my body and brain.
There is a growing body positive movement with in the yoga community. There are some inspirational women out there like Jessamyn Stanley and some great websites like curvyyoga.com, which helped reassure me I wasn’t the only one struggling with downward dog. There also a long way to go to making plus size women feel comfortable walking into a yoga studio. If you’d like to try a class at Hot Yoga Sheffield but you’re nervous to go alone please get in touch. I’m happy to join you in your first class as I know how terrifying it can be. If you’re not in Sheffield and would like to try hot yoga I would take some time to look online and see if you can find out the vibe of the studio before going. Having welcoming ambassadors like Sally, and understanding teachers like Rosie, are the reason I’m still at it. I’m well aware how a bad experience can put you totally off a type of exercise. If you’re not sure send me a message and I’ll see if I can find recommendations for somewhere in your area.
I HAVE NOT RECEIVED ANY COMPENSATION FROM HOT YOGA SHEFFIELD AND ALL THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.