Fat Yoga: Yoga for All Bodies is written by Sarah Harry, founder and director of Body Positive Australia and one of Australia’s leading specialists in body image and disordered eating. This girl knows her stuff! And you absolutely see that shine through in this book. It has a lovely balance of personal input with clinically informed yoga practice, giving it a warm and kind-hearted feeling to read and work through.
My favourite thing about the book is that it is so relatable. She really hits the nail on the head early on when she talks about the fear that stops people from starting or continuing a yoga practice, especially the fear of sticking out. Fear of being the biggest body, the least experienced, the oldest, or the most uncoordinated. I feel like almost everyone resonates with this at least a little, even people who seem to ‘fit the mould’ from the outside. But she also talks about cultivating self-compassion, body peace, and finding joyful movement and embodiment.
The book starts with a brief introduction to yoga, and why fat yoga is important to talk about. She goes on to talk about her own personal experiences and the story of how she became a clinician and a yoga teacher. Then we dive into the meaty part of the book, explaining the basics of yoga in an easy to understand way, and going through a stack of yoga poses and practices step-by-step, including pictures, tips and tricks, prop options, and variations to suit all kinds of bodies.
And I do have to acknowledge that while I’ve struggled with my own body issues for years, I do have a smaller body, and I know that there is some privilege that comes with that. But my top priority when I teach is always creating classes that are inclusive for all body types and abilities. I’ve felt out of place and shamed in yoga classes before, and when I became a teacher I promised myself that I’d do everything I can to make sure no one ever felt like that in one of my classes. That’s why I talk a lot about fat yoga, inclusive spaces, and body positivity, and why I’ll continue to learn from amazing teachers like Sarah Harry.
So without further ado, here are a couple of my favourite ideas from the book:
Body Peace and Fat Activism
As the name suggests, these are some central ideas in the book. Two quotes really sum this up for me:
“Stigmatising one type of body as ‘bad’ or less healthy is a very narrow view of health, serves no-one and harms a lot of people”
“You can’t tell how healthy someone is just by looking at them”
Sarah talks about a movement called “Health at Every Size”, which is a non-diet approach to health. Did you know that less than 5% of people permanently lose weight through dieting? Then WHY are we still doing it?
Studies show that children as young as 8 years old express fears of being fat, which just hurts my heart. People who are fat experience discrimination, bias, and straight out bullying. And people who aren’t fat are so scared of becoming fat that it still steals their ability to enjoy things fully. There is this pervasive underlying collective anxiety, that is so incredibly normalised that we don’t even notice it.
I think fat activism and body positivity is everyone’s responsibility. As long as ‘fat’ is synonymous with ‘bad’, we can’t have a world where people are valued for just being a person deserving of love and respect, regardless of what they look like.
Body peace is a unique journey for everyone, and it includes people of all body sizes. It’s about being gentle with ourselves, and having a relaxed, respectful, and peaceful relationship with your body. And to do that, we need our practice to reflect those values.
Flexible and Sustainable Practice
This! This is what I harp on about all the time, and Sarah really reinforces it in this book.
We are all real people, with real homes, families, and day-to-day demands. It just isn’t practical to set aside hours of uninterrupted time every day!
One of my all-time favourite quotes is by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau:
“Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything”
A few deep breaths or stretching your arms up is still yoga! If we let our practice be guided by our own expectations and perceptions from social media or pop culture, we end up missing out altogether. One great way we can cultivate this flexible practice is through developing self-compassion skills to understand your own needs, boundaries, and energy.
The whole vibe of the book is super non-judgemental, and I love that it opens up this permission to build your practice in a way that suits you.
Building Your Home Practice
Along with all of this wisdom, the bulk of the book is actually dedicated to helping you develop your own home practice. It has over 100 pages filled with beautiful photos that guide you through accessible poses and practices. She gives you some example sequences to work through, and also goes over how to put together your own sequence. There are great tips for making yoga work for your body, including variations that take boobs and bellies into account. The key message is to make room for yourself and allow your body to take up space in whatever way it needs to.
Creating and sticking to a home practice can actually be quite difficult. Finding the time, motivation, and discipline to commit to it is a barrier for a lot of people. But there is also a freedom that comes with it. Being able to wear whatever you like, holding poses for more or less time, and tailoring the practice to exactly how you want it. This book is a great asset for exploring this, you could just flick to a random page and see where it takes you!
Sarah reminds us of one really important thing, both in home and studio practice: there is no good pain in yoga. Creating a safe practice means respecting your body and its range of movement. It isn’t about reaching the finish line or looking like anyone else, it’s just about yoga meeting your body where it is physically comfortable.
So in conclusion, in case you hadn’t gathered, I ADORE this book and highly recommend it to anyone who identifies as fat or has a larger body, especially if you’re new to yoga practice. I know I certainly got a lot from reading it, and I’m going to be working really hard to weave these learnings into my body positive classes at Bumblebee Yoga.
If you’re interested in coming along to one of our classes based in southern Adelaide, head over to our bookings page to see what’s on.
You can purchase a signed copy of Fat Yoga here or check out your local library for a copy.
For more about Sarah Harry and Body Positive Australia, I really encourage you to explore her website and social media pages: https://www.bodypositiveaustralia.com.au/ .