I smiled, maybe a little too widely, at the woman who walked up to the barre to take the spot next to me. She had a poochy belly, like me. Her face, lovely as it was, showed a softness, contrasting with the cheekbones and lack of a double-chin in the other women around the studio. I felt a kinship with this person who was also wearing a loose top without a lululemon logo. It didn’t take long for me to realize that she was actually five months pregnant. With her third child.
I’m mostly comfortable being the chubby girl in the room. As a sturdy child, I grew up with a sister whose wispy frame sometimes prompted calls home from teachers concerned about her health. I am also very realistic about my half-hearted struggles with my weight. Don’t blame the hypothyroidism, folks; it’s the extra slice of chocolate chip banana bread. All that to explain that I’m mostly comfortable. Mostly.
A friend in town owns a barre studio, and I’ve been attending classes since it opened. At first it was often just me, one other friend, and the teacher. Nowhere to hide, but surrounded by people who knew me, I enjoyed the classes. Now that the studio is up and running, the classes are busier and filled with people who are working on their already-toned physiques. And thanks to the mirrors that help us check out our spinal alignment, I know I’m the only one who chooses to wear baggy t-shirts over her yoga pants.
In between quivering thighs and core strength shudders during class, it dawned on me that for years I had avoided classes like this because of my discomfort with my body. Looking around at the 11 other women in the class, it was clear that this self-fulfilling prophecy is not mine alone. Most women don’t look like these lithe and sleek creatures surrounding me. And when I go to classes at the YMCA, there are people of all shapes and sizes and widths. I’m comfortable there because I blend in; it’s like an invisibility cloak for the gym.
In my stubborn way, once I admitted to myself that I was feeling out-of-sorts amongst the sleek yoga half-shirts, I resolved to make it to class at least once a week. I faced that often, when I wasn’t up to going to the class, it wasn’t actually my body holding me back — it was my self-defeating mind. Because it’s about strength, both inside and out.
Looking for an appropriate image for this post (because I am NOT comfortable enough to post a photo of me in barre class!), I came across a wonderful blog post: Fat Girl, Hot Yoga. And Jessamyn Stanley has this great video: An Open Letter to the Fat Girl I Saw in Hot Yoga. Check them out!