How Her Curves Didn't Stop Her From Becoming a Yoga Teacher
This is a guest post by Angela Dawn, a licensed Yoga instructor from FinerStudio in the Bronx. The true essence of yoga is what you do from your heart, not what you do with your body, which is why we love Yoga so much. Angela represents with all her heart, that Yoga is a transformational art designed to bring our mind, body and spirit back into balance and that curves have nothing to do with that.
Angela has the Love Squad mentality in and out because she has proved in her yoga classes that really good practitioners don't have to have what you'd call a "yoga body". Her story is truly inspiring and a motivation for everybody who feels a little insecure about our extra bodies sometimes.
I can’t remember exactly when I decided I would train to become a yoga teacher. I can’t recall if it was while holding natarajasana in a class or seeing a post on Instagram that empowered or inspired me. It may have been a conversation I had with one of my yoga teacher friends. I am just not sure. But after almost eleven years of practice, exploring all kinds of yoga styles and lineages, taking classes all over New York City, many of my family and friends were not surprised that I was taking the next step in my yoga journey, becoming a yoga teacher.
But I was surprised. I was downright shocked by my desire to enter the health and fitness industry. I loved yoga for so many reasons; its moving meditation, its grace, and the profound opening and strengthening it afforded my body and mind. But I rarely saw anyone in class that looked like me. My weight had fluctuated my entire life, and never brought me below a size 6. In fact, I spent more time somewhere between a 12 and a 16. I was often the largest woman in my class. Was I really ready to become a yoga instructor? What would my students think? Would studios want to hire me?
Growing up, I was always overweight. Exercise was not emphasized in my house, rather I was encouraged to read and develop my brain and to excel at school. Balance wasn’t really a thing in my family. I discovered exercise on my own in college, hoping to lose some of the weight I’d never been able to shed. I biked to and from the gym, where I spent hours on the elliptical.
I saw small changes, but not the kind I expected. About a decade later, after moving to New York for graduate school, I learned that I had two autoimmune disorders: Hashimoto’s, which affected my thyroid, and Lupus, which can affect the entire body. I learned that living with undiagnosed thyroid disease for most of my life had created a situation where weight loss was very difficult. Although many people with Lupus have no problems with weight, this was not the case with me, and the weight issue compounded the fatigue I lived with every day.
Now that I’ve been teaching for a few months, I don’t think that I’m much different from most other yoga teachers. I love my students and think they’re amazing. I enjoy showing them what their bodies can accomplish; usually it is way more than they think! I remind my students that although they are the best teacher in the room when it comes to their own bodies, they should never allow their ego to dictate what they can and can’t do. Most of my students are not curvy. That’s okay - we all need the healing that yoga can give us.
As for studios, I’ve been so happy to teach in several beautiful studios in Harlem, the Upper East Side, and the Bronx. FinerStudio, located in the Bronx (my beautiful home borough, yay!) brought me on most recently, specifically because of my curves. How cool is that? The owner and founder, Geydi Moreno has built a special place for , where diversity is valued and we both want the same thing – to encourage every body to give yoga a try!
Over the next few years I made drastic changes, including leaving my stressful job. With yoga, mindfulness, nutrition and exercise that suited my body, I healed years of pain, fatigue and digestive problems. And yes, I lost a little bit of weight. I wanted nothing more than to share my success with others who might be struggling. But, as a curvy woman, I felt completely left out of the larger conversation about health, fitness and mindfulness.
I now credit social media (where there has been an explosion of body positivity within the yoga community during the last few years) with showing me that it was up to me to carve out my own place in the conversation. Not only could I help steer that conversation towards myself, but I could steer it to wherever anyone, anywhere was not experiencing the benefits of yoga, whether due to size, shape, health status, income level, race, mental illness or even incarceration.
We love your story Angela. Keep up the hard work!