Body Shaming in Yoga Class
Back in college (like I’m 40 and that was so long ago, lol) I took a yoga class offered by my college.
The woman who taught it was a 60 something, skinny, high-energy, definitely ADHD, white woman.
We’ll call her Linda.
Linda could be so sweet, but also incredibly rude. Some days I loved her (she was nice to me, she liked me for whatever reason) and other days I wanted to throat punch her!
You see, Linda didn’t seem to understand that not everyone had her body or metabolism. Some people have slow metabolisms, some people are on meds messing with their body, some people have an eating disorder, some people have health problems, some people just like food and want to eat what they want to eat. It's their body, not yours.
You get the point.
Back to the class.
At this point in my life I was newly engaged and young. I was 21. I am now 27. So, I wasn’t as socially aware and was not near as vocal as I am now.
Linda was a pretty vocal person. She didn’t hold anything back, which can be a great thing when an opinion is asked of you. But it super sucks when no one has asked to hear your opinion.
Well, Linda liked to voice her opinions (incorrect ones at that) when no one was asking for them.
And they almost always had to do with weight.
There was this girl in class, she was a poc unlike Linda, she was in her 20s like all of us, she was obviously Linda’s student, and she was overweight by a good bit. I don’t care to guess her weight, but she was the biggest girl in the class and she struggled to do the poses. We will call her Elaine.
I swear, every.single.day Linda made some sort of comment in front of the entire class!!!
“Elaine, if you lost some weight you might be able to do tree with ease.”
“Elaine, you should be eating healthier foods and then you wouldn’t fall.”
“Elaine, you need to try harder to do this or you will look like that forever.”
“Elaine, you aren’t even trying anymore. Do you want to look like that forever?”
*walks over to Elaine to help her with a pose* “Elaine, I just don’t know if you can do this pose because you’re too big.”
And so on.
It made me sick to my stomach and hot with rage.
Why the HELL would you EVER say such a thing to another human being??
How do you know what she eats? She might eat a perfectly balanced diet but have a thyroid problem, hormonal issue, or be taking meds that cause her to gain weight (hello, I gained 30ish pounds because of birth control, which I no longer take, eff that.)
Why would you ever shame her with “Do you want to look like that forever?” as if she is a lesser human than you???
Maybe she is happy with how she looks? Maybe she doesn’t need you making her feel like shit. Maybe it doesn’t affect your life AT ALL so be quiet. There are plenty of people I know who eat bad-for-you food, take in toxins daily, by choice, and look fantastic. But that isn’t healthy. And I don’t feel the need to trash them or tell them they are less than for their choices. That is their business and as long as they are making informed decisions, WHO CARES???
Plus, trashing someone is the number 1 way to ensure they continue self-loathing. Kicking someone when their down is just mean and unhelpful. It is not tough love. Tough love in encouraging while being hard on someone.
Oh my gosh. The rage was real!
But I never said anything.
I sat there nearly every day and just watched this woman be cruel to a student (a student!! A grandma shaming a 20 something woman.).
I sat there, with rage and sadness, and just let it happen.
I left class every day and never once said to Elaine “Hey, Linda is mean and you are amazing! I am proud of you for what you are doing. You are taking a yoga class and it isn’t easy for anyone here! GO GIRL!! Ignore Linda’s cruel words. She’s mean and you do not deserve that!”
I never stood up to her.
I never questioned her.
I never comforted Elaine.
I never told the dean or anyone at the school.
I was completely silent.
And literally to this day I think of Elaine with remorse and sadness. Remembering very vividly the moments Linda would turn around and spew hate, or walk over to her to ‘help’ and say cruel and unhelpful things while I just stood there, never speaking to either of them.
The guilt and sadness I feel is intense. Sometimes I cry.
But what I feel doesn’t matter at all.
I wasn’t the one being shamed, ridiculed, and bullied regularly.
I was simply the girl in the corner of the class not saying anything.
Elaine was the one living the reality of being shamed, ridiculed, and bullied probably by more than just Linda all the time.
Don't be like 21 year old Kimberly.
Now I spend my life, literally, advocating for women and telling them that it's okay to be who you are. You can and should love your body just the way it is. Even if you want to lose weight or change the way your body looks, loving yourself is the first step! Loving yourself the way you are, in every stage, is the key to being happy with your body when you reach your goals. Also, it’s pretty hard to love others if you don’t love yourself. God didn’t create all of the unique people in the world with the expectation that we would hate ourselves. He loves his creation, that includes us.
Love others like Jesus did, that is my goal in life. He fills me with love so I can pour it out onto others!
Jesus vertainly didn't hold anything back when faced with hate. He was never silent.