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My experience with movement has been tenuous throughout my life. Memories of bouncing along to Richard Simmons videos that were imposed on me as a young fat child steered me away from movement. A few years later, sports pulled me back in. I loved basketball, softball, and martial arts as a preteen. But anxiety about my fat body moving differently than the other kids shamed me out of it.
So I quit sports altogether. I became acutely aware of how other people felt about my fat body in motion. Fat people moving their bodies to the point of sweating, heavy breathing, and a disheveled appearance is a joke in our culture. It felt too vulnerable to risk that kind of attention. People didn’t want to see my fat body moving, and if they did see it in movement, it needed to be with the intention of shrinking.
The lesson I learned here was that my fat body was better off unseen. I’m supposed to obsess over attempting to shrink it. At the same time, I learned that I’m not allowed to move my fat body. What a terrible and confusing lesson to learn as a young person.
In moments of bravery I’ve tried attending classes, utilizing personal trainers, joining gyms. What I’ve found as a super-fat person (someone on the high end of the fat spectrum), is that even in my most confident strides at finding my way back to movement, there have been obstacles. The movement style isn’t made with my fat body in mind. Yoga poses are often way out of the scope of my ability. Modifications and accessible movements are created for thin bodies. Lack of representation of fat bodies in teaching movement, inaccessible modifications, these perpetuate shame. I’m reminded that our culture refuses to include me and my fat body in these spaces. And I’m left feeling discouraged from movement again.
But then I found joyn. Or rather, it found me.
joyn wants to take away shame and create a space for safe and enjoyable movement for large bodies
When joyn approached me to see if I’d like to try out a membership to their accessible yoga class online, I was understandably cautious. They boasted their mission was to “inspire joyful movement experiences for all people, but especially people living in larger bodies and who don’t have accessible movement options to create a practice that feels good.”
This sounded great. But I’d been sold the idea of accessible movement before. Even at home yoga videos were not accessible for me. In a world full of yoga videos to follow along with in the comfort of my own home, the occasional video would include an option for folks in a chair. Still, a thin person sits in the chair and does each motion with ease and I sit waiting to find a portion that I can do. My body simply does not move in the same way as the thin instructors. I’ve got limited mobility, a big belly, thick legs, and rolls galore. This impacts how I move. And lack of representation and accurate modifications have impacted my ability to trust even trying yoga.
But the language the folks at joyn used when reaching out to me intrigued me. They were upfront about their goals to create movement for large bodies. So I decided to give it a try.
When I first signed up with joyn, I got a newsletter welcome email. I was greeted with a simple and inviting video clearly stating joyn’s values. Shame free, accessible, movement.
This is it. I searched through the available videos. I saw fat bodies. Fat bodies teaching yoga. There were also people with different gender expressions, different races, and sizes. Their site features new classes added monthly, and a commitment from teachers for the classes to have a strong foundation in Health At Every Size. They even call themselves “Fat-Positive Movement Leaders.” How cool is that? This site immediately made me feel safe, welcome, and seen.
What joyn means for fat bodies
For the first time, I was able to sit down, listen to a yoga instructor who looked like me, and feel safe moving my fat body. All I can think about now is, what if I had access to this kind of platform as a 10 year old kid? I could have learned early on that my body was not to be ashamed of, nor ignored or dissociated from. I could have learned to be present in my fat body, move with compassion, and feel joy from movement instead of agony and contempt. Perhaps I could have avoided all of the punishment I’ve put my body through.
I finally feel like I have permission to experience movement joyfully in my body. joyn allows me to learn from a fat person with a body that actually looks similar to mine. I move my belly around. It means so much to me to be able to feel empowered by being able to adjust and feel a stretch in a way that is comfortable and appropriately challenging. Finally, a voice that tells me I don’t have to be afraid of my fat body and the way that I need to touch, adjust, and move with it.
joyn is helping us find our way back to movement. Movement free of toxic diet culture and weight loss talk. Movement that is kind and compassionate. joyn means movement that is accessible and understanding of our needs. joyn means finding joy in movement again.
Yoga not necessarily your thing? joyn even has dance, cardio, meditation, mindfulness, and guided walking videos available. And there are new accessible movement classes added every month! Click here to start your free week trial of joyn and after that, its just $10 a month. Now you can experience a movement platform truly created with your body in mind.
What is your experience with movement? How would having access to something like joyn change your experience with movement?