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Where is the humanity?

There is a Facebook group specifically for yoga studio owners.

Usually it is a place of helpful information, owners supporting owners. I tend to be relatively quiet on this group as I am still such a new business owner…until this happened (see photo).

I was on my way home from Calgary when I saw this post and it wasn’t so much the post that had me shocked it was the replies and comments.

Let me start this by saying that I know that Enrich is not the yoga studio for everyone. We don’t teach fancy inversions, we don’t have hot yoga and we don’t teach Ashtanga. We have had clients come to the studio that have decided that our classes are not what they are looking for. Does that bother me? To be honest, yes a little, BUT I also know that we aren’t for everyone. I’m reference to my favourite movie, we are a horse of a different colour.

What I do know for sure is that nobody that has decided our studio isn’t for them, did so because we failed to see their humanity.

The replies to the post below were full of exactly that, people refusing to consider the humanity of the group of people they were talking about. Many of the studio owners made comments around the lines of ‘what a pain in the ass’, others said that perhaps that person should look for yoga elsewhere. But overall there was a larger misunderstanding of seeing “plus-size” people as humans with human feelings.

I have to tell you that one of the more frustrating replies was from an owner who is also a nurse who says that she hires based on the BMI and that one “obese category” teacher was enough.

Another responded by saying that if she hired a plus size teacher and they lose weight because “when doing yoga that always happens” she would have to fire her because she is no longer plus size.

Wait. What? 😳

Where is the humanity?

I didn’t hire Megan because I needed someone to fit the “typical” yoga teacher body. I hired Megan because she is a damn good yoga teacher and because of her passion to make yoga a safe place for everyone.

I didn’t hire Amanda to check off the queer teacher box to say that we are more inclusive. I hired Amanda because she is a damn good yoga teacher and has a gift of making everyone that takes her class feel like a friend.

I didn’t hire Cheryl to be our token older teacher. I hired Cheryl because she is a damn good yoga teacher and because she teaches an amazing style of yoga that people love, and she truly cares about being a good teacher.

I didn’t hire based on anything other than my teachers humanness. I have ‘thin’ teachers that teach to plus size bodies and I have ‘plus size’ teachers that teach to thin bodies. My teachers are able to teach to the humans they have in front of them because they are open-minded, conscious, and empathetic.

I need to say something important…you don’t know what you don’t know. I don’t know how it feels to live in a hyper-mobile body, I don’t know how it feels to live in a short body, transgender body, skinny body, or coloured body. I only know how it feels to live in a large size (fat), tall, white passing, cis-gendered body. So when I hired my teachers I knew that the “normal” sized teachers did not understand living in a fat body…how could they? That isn’t a fault of theirs, it is just the truth. I don’t know what it is like to be male, that isn’t a fault. However, it was and is my responsibility as a yoga studio owner to teach my teachers how to work with different bodies; and I did that. All of my teachers went through a training on how to work with large bodies.

Let’s go back to the message above, firstly I have to say that the woman who wrote the original email was brave and should be celebrated for advocating for her own needs. The yoga studio owner should have felt honoured that her student felt safe enough to talk to her about it , not annoyed or anything else. What is shocking is that the owner had “feelings” about a plus size person advocating for herself. I have to wonder if it would be the same as a “skinny” person asking for a harder flow. Or someone asking to have so strength training incorporated into class. Where are the owners feelings coming from? Is it weight bias? Well she was asked that directly and didn’t respond.

The saddest thing of all was just how many teachers said that they don’t know how to teachers to large bodies and that when they have a plus size student in their class it makes them anxious.

My reply was simple. I said that if we work in a body focused industry that we should be able to teach to any body that walks through the door, and that it is our responsibility to learn. Just as it is our human responsibility to lean about BIOPIC lives and the lives of those in the LGBTQ+ community. It is not the responsibility of the individual to educate others, it is our responsibility to do the work, it is our responsibility to be an ally to the fat community.

So how do we do that? We read books, watch documentaries, follow the appropriate accounts, start safe conversations, ask safe questions. We listen more than we talk. (Right now being pride month, this is so very true of the queer community).

Being in a fitness class with a plus size person should not be like seeing a unicorn. They should not be made to feel any less important than anyone else. And they should feel confident that their instructor can keep them safe, challenged and having fun.

I love nothing more than teaching a class of humans. Not a class of bodies. Humans. Students of all sizes, genders, ages, religions, races and anything else. It is true 100% of the time that their weight is the least fascinating thing about them.

If you are a yoga teacher, I have a training upcoming especially for you, to supplement your training, to learn about teaching students in larger bodies. If you are a studio owner with a teacher training program, I can bring my workshop to your studio to adjunct your classes. Like I said before, it is our responsibility to see the humanity of all bodies in our classes.

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