Jen Caron, a self-described “skinny white girl,” enjoys yoga. Or at least she did—until a large black woman joined her yoga class.
A few weeks ago, as I settled into an exceptionally crowded midday class, a young, fairly heavy black woman put her mat down directly behind mine. It appeared she had never set foot in a yoga studio—she was glancing around anxiously, adjusting her clothes, looking wide-eyed and nervous. Within the first few minutes of gentle warm-up stretches, I saw the fear in her eyes snowball, turning into panic and then despair. Before we made it into our first downward dog, she had crouched down on her elbows and knees, head lowered close to the ground, trapped and vulnerable. She stayed there, staring, for the rest of the class.
Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body.
Imagine: there you are, in yoga class, when all of a sudden, directly behind you, you sense a fairly heavy black woman who you can feel directing resentment directly at your body. Reality—or nightmare?
I say if you were focusing on your yoga class and not the large black woman behind you, it wouldn’t have mattered.