This month we caught up with Anna, the proprietess of the newly opened Fat Yoga Studio in FoPo (Foster neighborhood of Portland), and asked her some questions about Fat Positivity and how she came up with the idea for Fat Yoga!
What is your personal philosophy regarding size and health?
My own personal philosophy regarding size and health, hmm. First and foremost about Size and Health; neither is obviously an indication, symptom or result of the other. We have these one bodies to carry us through this one life we know about for sure. That’s it. We owe it to ourselves to take the best care we can. The fuel and stimulus we take in, of course, effects the quality our work and the effort required to meet our goals. Bearing that in mind right now. Stop negative self talk, get your body moving, laugh and have fun. BOOM! Our health and feelings of well being improve. It’s almost like magic, except not. And another thing, I think the rampant anxiety in our culture is a direct result of not getting our bodies moving enough. Ever met a cooped up terrier? The ancients gurus from the Subcontinent know this too. The yoga asanas (poses) were designed & meant to wear the human body out leaving the mind free to connect on a calmer deeper level. Now, that’s the magic!
Is your studio based on a model you’ve found anywhere else or is yours the first fat specific studio you’ve encountered?
It wasn’t until after I started yoga teacher training that i discovered other studios that have body-positive or large-body specific classes here in town. During this time I also heard about a few fat specific studios in other places, (which has turned out to be a good handful between the US & Canada). Some more established than others. There’s tons of amazing people bringing yoga to all sorts of marginalized folks who may not have felt they had access to yoga otherwise. Ironically, yoga itself is ultimately inclusive and so are most-all of the people who practice. Sadly, I hadn’t found these other resources earlier, despite lots of googling and research while I was still wearing my I-wanna-be-yoga-student leggings. This fact, more than anything else helped me realized that Fat Yoga was being called into existence. Turns I just hadn’t been able to figure out what euphemism to search for, which would mean it was for big people. Plain and simple. “Yoga for fat people, duh!”
That isn’t to say Fat Yoga is for everybody. We are pretty radical and unapologetic. It takes a certain amount of raw guts to just walk in the door of any yoga studio, let alone which which might or might not be calling you fat. Plus we don’t stand for much (if any) weight loss goals/dieting talk. Once you’re here though, it’s a whole different story. We give credit where credit is due. Aside from the founding principles I set down originally, the community has driven the culture of inclusiveness and light-hearted noticing (not judging) of each other. It’s magic all right, what each person is contributing to the community just by being here. Like Cheers, but with less beer, the same amount of farts and lots more sweating!
That is to say, there are a good few options for big folks and their yoga fitness goals. As well there should be. Fat Yoga is different in that we’re striving to be a part of the cultural revolution that includes fat fitness and unapologetic, radical self love. It’s the blatancy that seems to make the biggest difference.
You just recently opened your own yoga studio. Where were your classes taking place up until now?
Oh my goodness! Anywhere I could find a little space and some folks to practice with. Then as things evolved and word spread, most of all my last classes were hosted by Be Nourished in NE. As word really got out towards the end of last year, we stared out-growing their space. Fat-Nation made it’s next demand known, to have our very own place to practice. Luckily we found this great spot in the heart of the up and coming Foster Powell (FoPo) neighborhood.
What has been the reception so far? Have you received a lot of support from the community about this great new resource you are providing?
We’ve been welcomed with open arms by both the area businesses and local residents. The greater community support has been fantastic too. Turns out there’s literally tons of us that want these same things in our lives. Dozens of folks come through every week, sometimes dozens in a single day. It’s all been very exciting and thrilling. So looking forward to seeing how things continue to evolve and grow.
Can you recommend any other size positive exercise/health/wellness resources available here in Portland or Oregon?
Be Nourished is great. They have nutrition, counseling, massage therapy and even a HAES homeopathic doctor. They are the premier size-positive wellness center here in town. I can’t recommend them enough. Dana there also offers Body Trust Yoga classes that I enjoy immensely. They also host tons of retreats and workshops that I hear life-changing stories about.
I do hear about lots of dance classes and troupes that are size positive too. I don’t dance myself, but I hear they’re around.
Do you have any events you’d like to share?
Fat Yoga hosts it’s first official Community Event on April 20th. The Portlandia Violet Club meets every 3rd Saturday from 10am-1pm with a potluck lunch. They meet share/trade various varieties of African Violets with members & also to plan the semi annual public sales. This is an group of women who have lived much, tell great stories and have myriad varieties of African violets. They’ve been using the term “Portlandia” since way before it was ironic (since late 90’s). Each of the folks I’ve met are veritable treasure troves of information about violets & other Gesneriads (moist terrarium-perfect plants). As this group is made up of mostly hip & funky retirees, it’s ripe for some an infusion of some new radical members. At with annual membership fees at $10/yr (yes that’s for a whole year!) and getting to have an outlet (public sales at Portland Nursery) for own extras, is a bargain at twice the price!
The next Fat Intro Series starts April 8th. More details at the website, on the Classes page.
Lastly, we’ll be starting a book reading club on Fridays April 29th. The first book we’ll be reading and discussing is Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size; The Surprising truth about your weight. We’ll be meeting to discuss from 7:30-9ish, potluck tasty-bites encouraged. During the first meeting we’ll finalize our reading goals and time-line. We’re super stoked about this, there will be more details on the website soon.