Author’s note: this post is a guest contribution by yoga teacher Michael Hayes.

Body acceptance is a road less traveled. The roadsigns are television, movies, people we emulate in magazines, advertisements that don’t say I am enough, but that I am too much. My goal is giving myself sustenance from the well I create with others. I think that’s the major difference between self-rule and being exploited. And this mixed message is a gift disguised as failure.

Just realize that smaller does not mean happier. That big, voluptuous, does not mean unhealthy. That the world needs many sizes, shapes, colors, languages, religions, perspectives. God likes variety. They all have their purpose, and that purpose is to make people happy.

Weight, wealth, and breeding puts people on a conveyor belt of success, creating this pecking order, this separation between the Haves and the Have Nots. The Haves use separation tactics to undermine the factions diversity of cultures. Black, white, men, women, fat, skinny, Jews, Palestinians, and everyone else. It is a mighty machine that captures our minds with those media roadsigns. The result is our collective unconsciousness. We, the hoi polloi, need to make a stand, even a small one.

My stand is Buddha Body Yoga because yoga and massage are my passions. I found my niche on my road less traveled. Some of us chose our road in defiance. Others are pushed to that road because of isms. We don’t fit into the cookie cutter of society’s mainstream illusions. We make it our own and find our community.

image of yoga students practicing a modified ardha chandrasana at a wall

As a black male living in the New Jim Crow world, in some ways I have been able to step sideways. I’ve been called a segregationist because my studio is only for large bodies. As I pimped my yoga wares and ideas to other studios, I found interesting subtleties like being offered timeslots that my demographics would never be able to make. I felt like my size, color, and the way that I approach my practice did not stand in the general norm of yoga practitioners. So I created my own studio. It was and is very hard to get to the people being told covertly and overtly that they are too big to do yoga.

The hardest thing for my students to do at the beginning is step through the door of the studio. They aren’t just opening a door, they are opening up and trusting me not to slam the door in their faces. Plus size people who are just coming to a space know that overtly it’s friendly but covertly unfriendly. Back in the day when I started doing yoga I would get a subtle expression from teachers that told me as a student that they had no idea how to work with me. When most people see those expressions and they go into to the room and they struggle and they really aren’t getting the help they need, they never come back. Yoga becomes an exercise, rather than an experience of self exploration.

It’s like finding the perfect pair of shoes only to find that they are too small and they don’t even make them in your size. What do you do? Some give up. Some get pissed off and put up a wall against the world. Some find a shoemaker to get the shoes made the way they want them. And those people start making shoes for people in the same situation. That is how community is created. That is how change happens.

I say thank you for being you. Welcome home.

Michael is streaming a free half hour class on Tuesday at 7:30 AM Eastern (New York) time. You can access the class at this link. Contact Michael with questions at mhayes212@gmail.com.

About the author

Image is of the author - Michael Hayes is a black man with a bald head, and he is grinning widely. He wears a black jacket, burgundy shirt, and a multicolored scarf.Michael Hayes, the proud owner of a “Buddha Body,” has yoga certifications in Sivananda, Allison West’s Yoga Union and Yoga Therapy by Dan Olansky. He has studied extensively in the following traditions: Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Thai Yoga, Om Vinyasa Yoga and Yoga Anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff. In addition, Michael has traveled regularly to Thailand to study with master teachers. His class will benefit anyone regardless of their individual anatomy, flexibility, age, or yoga background.

Michael has 16+ years of experience as a licensed massage therapist, 15 years studying and teaching martial arts, 14 years studying and teaching yoga, and a lifetime as a visual artist, using watercolor, charcoal pencil, and ink. As a performer of African and modern dance, Michael brought his love of dance together with his desire to facilitate healing as the staff massage therapist for the cast of Miss Saigon on Broadway and went on to treat many performers including professional dancers and Grammy winners. Michael became the staff massage therapist at the Bates Dance Festival 8 years ago, and currently holds this position. Learn more about Michael and his teaching at Buddha Body NYC.