As told to Shambhavi Saxena:
A few years ago, after a leg injury, I was advised to lose weight. But the thought of joining a gym wasn’t really comforting, so I tried out aerobics, Zumba, and pilates. But instead, it was yoga that came to my aid.
It happened by accident. One day, I just stumbled upon a yoga class, and the people there made me realise I was good at something I never knew I could do. That’s where I also learnt the basic premise of yoga – patience and pushing yourself a little more than yesterday. Now I feel that my body is like an elastic or clay and I can really mould it. The physical bit of yoga that excites me, but there is so much more to it.
It’s a general notion to put things on a pedestal and kind of make it inaccessible. Yoga is not something that’s limited to a retreat or a particular state of mind. And many of us make it out to be this profound experience, as if I’m going to do yoga and the next thing will be me sitting next to God! Yoga is nothing of that sort! I feel these notions are actually alienating, and limit its reach. Yes, the physical aspect of it does have a very strong meditative side that makes you focused. But it is more about how I deal with people, family, situations, work and my regular everyday life.
The decision to start doing yoga in public spots just kind of happened on its own too. In Mumbai, houses are really small and summer months especially tend to get really stuffy. I didn’t have the luxury of a terrace or a balcony, and that’s when I thought of just going to a park. So I took my mat, laptop and speaker and started. Initially, seeing me do yoga was like an amusement for people at the park. But after sometime, people began talking to me. Someone would come up and say I was doing the aasanas really well. Someone else would come and ask me for advice about how to use yoga to deal with a certain physical pain. And it was just a great way to bring it to people, and show them that anyone can do it.
Then one day while I was practicing in the park, a yoga teacher came up and said she could never do what I do in a public space. And the reason was because she was conscious of her body. That’s when my yoga took on a tiny little agenda of its own.
Though my body is different from the ‘yoga type’ bodies we’re used to seeing, I can do or attempt advanced postures. Because of this, I realised there is no one body type for doing a certain activity. It’s time to rise above negative body image, and to get over social constructs that hold us back. And I say this especially for women. There’s this whole burden of ‘looking good’. But I don’t want to ‘look good’ to please anybody. My work should speak, my actions should speak, my thoughts should speak. Why should my face or body speak?
Even people who think they have ‘good’ bodies don’t have the kind of confidence they should. It’s the visibility that is acceptance. We are not used to seeing big-bodied people doing these things. If you see more and more bodied people doing things, then it will be normal to be big-bodied. That’s the idea behind continuing what I do outside.
A person’s BMI, weight and all – these have become points of insecurity. And the beauty industry survives on all of this. What we need is to change the definition of beauty. We’ve started celebrating dark skin, and curly hair. If we didn’t before, it’s because the media told us. So why not celebrate big-bodied people? What could be so wrong about occupying a little more circumference?
Since I started started yoga, my practice has evolved and I can feel my strength growing. And because it happened with me, I know it can happen with anybody. There are still many naysayers, but I really don’t care.
There are different kinds of bodies so why should all yoga teachers look the same? Teachers should look different, and I want to be that different teacher! I can tell you how to get into a posture when you have a big belly, or if you’re big busted, because I know what that’s like! You need that perspective.
What I do believe about fitness is that everyday you should do something that makes you sweat, because it does wonders. Everyday when I go to my mat after work, I sweat myself out. I know that I have used my body, my strength, each muscle. And it doesn’t matter if someone says “Oh, you have a big body.” Am I going to listen to that, and lose out on all that I’ve really worked hard for?
To see more of Dolly’s yoga journey, follow her on Instagram!