This is an excerpt from Big & Bold: Yoga for the Plus-Size Woman by Laura Burns.
As you deepen your yoga practice, you will learn what feels safe, what works for you, and how proper alignment feels in your body in a range of poses. Once you know these things, it’s only a matter of claiming your power and advocating for yourself. If a class, teacher, pose, or an instruction isn’t right for you and you’re not feeling safe or respected, you can leave, stop, or do something else! You don’t have to stay for a whole class if you don’t feel safe or respected. You are the only one who gets to decide if you receive hands-on adjustment, if an alignment cue is correct for your body, and whether you want to go deeper or push harder with a particular pose. You can decide that a conversation about weight loss or dieting isn’t for you. As the boss of your body, you decide what your boundaries are regarding every aspect of class, social interactions with teachers and students, and the yoga communities you become part of. Never be afraid to put yourself and your safety first! Setting boundaries is a tool in your self-care toolbox that can keep you safe in any circumstance.
The importance of body autonomy should never be underestimated! Body autonomy is the right of each person to decide what happens with her body at all times. Often discussed in terms of consent, there are many situations in which body autonomy comes into play in yoga spaces. Teachers wanting to correct my alignment have touched me or given me hugs and diet advice—all without my consent. I have had teachers and studio owners discuss my body’s perceived flaws in front of me but while speaking to each other as if I weren’t there. I have been offered diet tips, weight loss advice, clothing style advice, and every type of unsolicited human interaction. These behaviors frequently happen to plus-size people because our culture generally does not value our bodily autonomy. This is where you have to step up and be an advocate for yourself. Creating and maintaining boundaries is one of the best ways to create a culture of consent and respect around your body. When you show people that you know your body and will make your own choices, it teaches them how to treat you. This has been a long-term practice for me, with many ups and downs. I have experienced the power of showing others how I want to be treated! It really does make a difference for you and for the rest of our community.