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“Am I an athlete?” Dolly Singh mused when we asked her to tell us about how her social media presence has helped change the perception of curvy female athletes. “I know I’m strong. I have stamina, and I’m trying to build on it. Am I athletic?”
Singh might be the most famous curvy yogi in India. Her Instagram feed is full of pictures of herself doing yoga poses in her living room, and has connected her with followers from across the globe. But Singh wasn’t always doing downward-facing dog next to her couch. She took a few different paths before finding the activity that ultimately fit: online yoga classes.
When she injured her ankle 5 years ago, Singh began exploring different exercise programs, and yoga seemed at first like just another short-term thing. Three classes in, however, Singh realized this might be something more. Her “initial boost” came from her instructor, who praised her and encouraged her to push herself. “He used me as an example, and told me things like, ‘Hey, you’re doing really well’ and ‘you have good strength in your body.’" But what really appealed to Singh was how immersive yoga was. “You’re one with your mind, your body, your breathing, your heart.”
After a few months, however, Singh’s teacher had moved on. His replacement didn’t really understand her body or her desire to be challenged. “I’d request variations, but he was traditional and wanted everyone at the same level.” Singh, who jokingly suggests that impatience is her trademark, had gotten bored. “My body wanted a little more, to be pushed a little more,” she explains. Yoga classes weren’t doing it any longer. So, she quit and got back to running.
Soon she realized that she had been missing yoga--a lot. Instead of going back to classes, she tried a few personal instructors. But, Singh says, these instructors often told her she would need to lose weight in order to learn more. “They had no clue about my practice, and only assumed based on my appearance that I couldn’t do particular poses. It actually made me very angry,” she says. Her instructors’ reactions had nothing to do with actually assessing what Singh was capable of, but rather what they assumed larger bodies were capable of in general.
Finally, Singh got fed up.“I was like, I’m not going to listen to this!” She started exploring yoga videos online one day at work. Thinking she’d give one of the online instructors a shot, she went home and practiced with a video. It completely changed her life. “It was the most fabulous practice because I felt like my teacher was in the house with me.” Online yoga not only allows Singh to practice when and where is most convenient for her, but gives her access to many teachers and forms of practice, from Bikram to Vinyasa. Above all, it gives her the opportunity to explore. She can find the teachers she likes and choose from styles that work best for her.
Online yoga has given her the opportunity to learn about her own body every day. “It’s been a journey from fear to fearlessness about myself. I’ve discovered my own strength, I understand the symmetry of my body and the large effect of miniscule alignment changes.” There are pros and cons of the online route, though, says Singh. “If I want to understand the deeper principles of one form of practice, I’ll go to a class. But I’ll have more clarity going now than I did when I first started. I know myself and what I’m capable of now.”
Singh has reaped other benefits from daily yoga practice in addition to a deeper understanding of her own potential. “I’m doing yoga because it’s age reversal. I want to look like this when I’m 60!” she quips. And she’s only half joking. By practicing daily, Singh says, she’s become stronger: “My core, my back, my wrists have all increased in strength,” she notes, “my shoulders and hips are open, and I have a sense of balance and symmetry.” It’s also made her more attentive to how different actions affect her physically. For example, she has become more attentive to how food impacts her flexibility during yoga. “I’m careful about what goes into my body now. Spicy, oily, and sugary foods decrease my range of motion, so I’ve begun to eat differently.” Singh is less concerned with her weight than with her holistic well-being, opting for organic, locally grown food when she can and trying sugar substitutes. “I respect my practice, and I want to make it stronger and more beautiful.”
“My body, which was actually a taboo, has now become my strongest point, all thanks to yoga. But it’s taught me much more.” Yoga has also made her mentally stronger. “I try to grow stronger everyday by learning about my weaknesses and converting them into strengths.”
“I’m stubborn,” Singh tells us. She harnesses her natural mental strength--her stubborn streak--more positively as consistency. She swears by incorporating movement into her everyday routine. What kind of movement? “Anything that makes you sweat!” she laughs. But it’s not enough to do it once in a while. “Commitment is key,” she explains. “You have to do it everyday, or five days a week, and make it a habit. It’s just like brushing your teeth or eating breakfast. It only works if it’s a habit; there’s no shortcut.”
Yoga has also encouraged her to slow down and enjoy the smaller things. She began to change where she had been expending her mental energy. “It’s been one of the most liberating experiences. I stopped caring about all the things I really didn’t need to, all the shackles I had in my mind with respect to my body, the way I look, my size, or what I can or cannot achieve.” Instead, Singh does what she can and keeps reaching for her own goals. In general, she tells us, her life has become more peaceful thanks to yoga. “It’s made me more open, more receptive to people; I give more thought to everything.”
Singh emphasizes that her yoga career is not about losing weight. Instead, she views it as a way to challenge herself. “I stopped weighing myself,” she explains, “because when I’d step on the scale and realize I hadn’t lost any weight, it was so troubling.” She’d rather focus on her practice and measuring her progress by which new poses she can tackle or how many poses she has mastered. Noticing that she’s able to master a headstand, for instance, is much more rewarding than a number on the scale. At the end of the day, Singh says she chooses to focus on what makes her happy. “My weight does not define anything for me. My scale doesn’t make me happy. Playing on my mat everyday makes me happy, so that’s what I choose.”
Singh has channeled this mentality into a hashtag she uses often on her Instagram posts: #yourbodyisnotyourlimit. Instead of approaching a pose or activity from the perspective of what she can’t do, she focuses on what she’s capable of. And this has little to do with size. “I don’t look at myself as a bigger bodied person trying to do something,” Singh is clear to point out. “On my mat, I’m just a person trying to learn something new.” Through her social media posts and her outdoor yoga practice, Singh has come to be a beacon of body positivity in India and around the world. “We’re bombarded with tall, fair, slim bodies as the standard of beauty, and anyone who doesn’t fit feels alienated. But it’s more about body confidence.” Singh makes it her mission not to succumb to the insecurities we all face.
But Singh’s view is broader than merely shifting from thinner to curvier bodies as the new standard for beauty. Perhaps better described as “body confidence” or “body inclusivity,” she is adamant that we appreciate all different kinds of bodies as beautiful. For Singh, this is not merely an issue of weight. “It’s not just a function of bodies; it’s a function of gender equality; it’s a function of society,” she explains. And Singh is helping to change society, one Instagram photo at a time.
These were the words that greeted L. Shauntay Snell as she began the 23rd mile of her third New York City Marathon. This was the second mile she had mentally dedicated to the twins she had miscarried just months before. The nastiness caught her so off-guard, she says, that she asked the man in the crowd to repeat himself. He did. Snell had heard him correctly the first time.
Snell is no stranger to heckling and harassment. She has a robust web presence, including her blog and website, RunningFatChef.com, where she documents both her triumphs and challenges. She’s encountered all kinds of insults, from “fat ass” to the n-word, but she hasn’t let others’ negativity get in the way of sharing her health and fitness journey.
That journey began after Snell was “tricked” into signing up for a half marathon. After a friend she’d met online via MySpace said he was going to compete, Snell signed up for a half marathon, as well. “I didn’t believe him at first,” she said. “I didn’t really think he was going to go through with it.” As for herself? “It was going to be one-and-done. A beautiful monstrosity!”
In part, her one-and-done mentality came from always finding herself bored with fitness activities after a short period of time. She also felt that runners were, as she put it, “nuts.” “How can someone be happy running? But you don’t understand the insanity until you’re there,” she explained. “And running is the one activity that I haven’t gotten bored with.”
Snell began where many of us do when trying a new activity: Google. She read about running strategies, couch to 5 and 10k programs, and downloaded an app, Runkeeper, in hopes that these would help her train. But it wasn’t easy. “The couch to half marathon programs assume that you already have a three mile run base and go from there. I didn’t have that.”
This was how, early one morning, Snell found herself running at a local track, where she happened to meet members of a local chapter of Black Girls Run. The program, Snell says, was a “lifesaver.” “I was focusing on my stride, and they told me to focus on my breath instead. I needed to learn to walk and breathe first.” The advice was eye-opening, and the group support was indispensable. It wasn’t just the encouragement from others, but learning about others’ motivation for running that kept Snell motivated. “Asking people, ‘why do you run?’ and hearing their stories” was incredibly helpful. “The pavement becomes a form of therapy,” Snell told us, when you learn that everyone has their own challenges. One challenge that many of the women shared was finding time to run amidst busy work and personal lives. Snell, a mother with an active freelance career, struggled with work-life balance. The group runs, she maintains, “gave me permission to take time for running.” They “eliminated any excuses” she’d given herself about why she couldn’t fit running into her schedule. Training together also took away the stigmas Snell faced running as a curvy African-American woman.
Fast forward a few years, and Snell found herself preparing for her third NYC Marathon, just weeks after another marathon in Chicago. She had gotten a late start training that year, and began to notice her pace dropping all the way from 13 to 16 minute miles. What was going on? “I found out I was pregnant,” Snell told us. That wasn't about to keep her from running two marathons. But a few months before race day in New York City, Snell miscarried a set of twins.
Snell had leveraged personal challenges as motivation before. When her young son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes just after her first half-marathon, Snell found inspiration in her son’s perseverance: “If my son can go through this, I can push through these longer distances and train for a marathon.” In the fall of 2015, Snell completed her first New York City Marathon.
Snell continued to push herself as an athlete, taking encouragement from other areas of her life. Being a working mom, “there are no days off. My entire life is a marathon,” Snell reminds herself. Running a road race began to seem like just another version of things she was already doing--and doing well. It was also therapeutic for her. “It gave me an escape. I could mentally check out on the road.”
The marathons after her miscarriages were different. In light of them, running had begun to seem superfluous. “I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m over this entire thing.’” But her friends stood behind her and encouraged her. After all, she’d already paid for the races and trained. Why not just run them and finish strong? “So I said to myself that this would be my last hurrah.” The day of the marathon, she began to reconsider her decision to make this race her last. “Maybe I’ll stay with running,” she recalls herself thinking. That was before the heckler in her 23rd mile.
“I’d been there before, just online,” she says. Online, Snell regularly encounters those she’s nicknamed “keyboard warriors.” Rather than lashing back, she always tries to ask why someone would be compelled to harass her. The goal is not to hurl insults in retaliation, but to start a conversation. “There’s no lesson to be learned when there’s no conversation.” Conversation is precisely what Snell is after. But there was no opportunity for conversation or engagement with the men’s voice that accosted her anonymously from the crowd. So Snell took to the internet to begin a somewhat different conversation: rather than talking with the heckler, she would talk about him and begin conversations with others.
After she wrote about her experience at the NYC Marathon for The Root and Runner’s World, other runners began to step forward to detail their own harassment. This experience has been instructive for Snell, confirming the power of sharing not just her successes, but negative aspects of her journey, too. She uses social media, including her Twitter and Instagram accounts and her blog, “Running Fat Chef,” as platforms not only to rejoice in her victories but to be honest about her failures as well as the negative side of moving through the world as a curvy woman. “People assume that you’re supposed to take insults as constructive feedback and just be quiet,” Snell said. “But if nobody talks about these things, we’ll never be able to break the cycle, because silence lets people off the hook. So I don’t sugarcoat or hide my feelings.” But it’s more than just speaking her truth. “When we’re transparent and honest, it gives other people the opportunity to be transparent, too.” Change happens when everyone can be real about their own experiences.
That’s not to say Snell advocates bearing everything. She’s sometimes selective about what hits her blog or Instagram, remembering that self-care is not just about getting exercise or eating well. “You also have to take care of your mental health,” she points out. Snell follows what she has dubbed “airplane instructions”: put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
But telling her story is important because Snell uses it to work against toxic stereotypes about women’s bodies. Women are expected to “follow the rules of a ‘normal’ size,” Snell explains, “and I use that word ‘normal’ in quotations because what’s normal is different in different places and cultures.” At the same time, Snell admits, “You don’t get rid of stigmas overnight,” either in your own mind or the minds of others. It’s a process.
Telling her story is just one step in that process of changing minds. The other? Hitting the pavement to prove that athletes come in all sizes. Her next challenges include a 50K (yes, you read that right: 5-0!), another half marathon, and her first triathlon. Snell doesn’t let any obstacle stand in her way, including anyone’s idea of what runners and athletes should look like. Her take? “It would be a boring damn world if we all looked the same!”
Wellness doesn’t just happen in the gym. How we care for our bodies and our minds beyond the treadmill can make a huge difference in our overall well-being. Here are three ways to extend the benefits of your hard work beyond the gym:
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults get at least . But quality of sleep matters just as much, if not more, than quantity. And while most of us don’t get enough sleep, it causes more than just dark circles under our eyes. Getting less than seven hours of sleep a night can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, immune deficiency, and even weight gain.
It won't surprise any of us that when we haven’t gotten enough sleep, our energy output is lower. However, our bodies compensate by making us seek energy from food as we try to stay awake. And while some extra food intake is necessary, when we have easy access to food and are running low on energy, we’re far more likely to over-compensate and eat too much.
But how can you up the quality and quantity of your Z’s to improve overall wellness? Here’s a few suggestions:
Not sure if you’re getting enough sleep? Researchers at Harvard created this online game to test your reaction time.
Just as most of us could use more sleep, many of us would benefit from de-stressing. Stress can cause a range of physical and mental health problems and can compound over time, and even over generations.
One way to improve your psychological and physical wellness is through meditation or mindfulness practices. (They can also help you during your workout!) If you’re an iPhone or Apple Watch user, check out a free meditation app from Blue Cross Blue Shield called Centered. The app offers multiple guided meditation practices of varying lengths to help you on your mindfulness journey!
If you tremble at the thought of being a vegetarian, don't worry! You don’t have to completely cut meat out of your diet to gain serious health benefits. According to researchers at Harvard, eliminating meat one day a week has a measurable impact on your health. More importantly, the foods you eat instead of that steak, like legumes, nuts, and fish, are rich in nutrients like protein, fiber, iron, and potassium, and vitamin E.
Downward facing dog is a core yoga pose, and an easy one to learn if you're just beginning. This modified downward facing dog is perfect if you're practicing at home. All you'll need is a yoga mat and a wall.
Come into Child’s Pose by tucking your legs under your bum and extending your arms on the floor in front of you. Your toes should just be touching the baseboard. Lift your hips until your bum is in the air, but your shins are still on the ground. Use your thigh muscles to raise yourself up into an upside-down V, but instead of keeping your feet flat on the ground, rest your heels on the wall while the balls of your feet are on the floor. This little bit of elevation takes the stress off of your hamstrings.
Feeling wobbly during warrior? Find a folding chair and turn it upside-down with the seat toward you. Step “through” the chair and use the legs to help yourself balance. Be sure to toss a towel over any bars between the chair’s legs to keep things soft (you can also use this to rest your thigh for additional support).
Forward fold, along with downward facing dog, are two of the key poses in a sun salutation (another pose, Upward Salute, is pictured below). Instead of keeping your legs straight and folding over at your waist, try bending your knees just slightly. Only bend forward as much as you feel able. As with the modified downward dog, bending your knees will put less stress on your hamstrings.
The lunge can also pose some balance problems for beginners. To help keep your balance and be kind to your knees, get a towel and place it on the floor under your knee. Instead of holding your hands above your head, place them on your knees. You’ll still get a good stretch without feeling out of balance.
Do you have any go-to modifications for your yoga practice? Tell us in the comments!
Quality workout clothes should always help you perform your best. But how do you keep your activewear in tip-top shape? Here are eight easy ways to lengthen the life of your gear, keep colors bright, and fabric fresh.
To help your activewear retain its stretch longer, don’t throw it in a hot dryer. Excess heat not only weakens fabric over time, but it can also bake in gym stink. Try drying on low heat or, to make your leggings last even longer, hang them to dry on a drying rack. If the weather is warm and sunny, consider hanging them outside. Just be sure to turn them inside out. Sunshine kills bacteria, but it can also fade colors!
Detergent makes a difference! Look for detergents made especially for activewear. Our favorites are Tide Plus Febreze Odor Defense, HEX Advanced Laundry Detergent Free + Clear, and Persil ProClean Power Liquid 2-in-1. Also, be sure to use the recommended amount. More detergent isn’t always better. In fact, using too much can leave a residue that actually attracts grime.
Fabric softeners can also leave a residue on your gear. These products work by coating fibers with chemicals that make clothes feel soft, but also prevent fabrics from performing the way they’re supposed to. To maintain your gear’s stretchiness and sweat-wicking abilities (and to keep chemicals off your skin while you’re working out) skip the fabric softener.
If you want to keep your gear fresh, stretchy, and soft, head for your kitchen cabinet. Adding ½ cup of vinegar or baking soda to the wash helps eliminate stains and odors while boosting the power of your detergent. Vinegar cuts through invisible stains from sweat, dead skin cells, deodorant, sebum, and even excess detergent that can build up on activewear and prevent it from wicking sweat. Baking soda absorbs odors and softens your water, boosting your detergent’s cleaning power.
The dark, damp space of your gym bag is an ideal breeding ground for stinky bacteria. Yuck! Instead of leaving sweaty clothes in your bag, either wash them immediately or hang them on a hook by the washing machine to let them dry.
Washing your gear in cold water will help maintain the fabric’s stretch and keep colors vibrant. If you notice your workout wear is getting a bit smelly, try a 20-minute cool water pre-soak immediately after your workout or a warmer wash with cold rinse. Plus, washing in cold water is eco-friendly!
Sweat and other stains builds up on the inside of your activewear. Turning your gear inside out before washing targets the dirtiest spots.
Most of us hand wash or use laundry bags for our regular bras. Do the same for your sports bras! You can also remove cups from bras if possible to get them cleaner and help them retain their shape longer.
Following these easy care steps will help keep your activewear performing at its best so you can, too.
Whether you are just starting on your fitness journey or you want to try something new, we want to support you by bringing you more inspiring stories and experiences from our strong amazing Lola Girls!
Follow our Lola Girl, Natasha Nurse from Dressing Room 8 on her journey as she embarks on curvy yoga. Watch the video below!
Our episode of Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch airs TODAY! We are so proud to have been a part of this amazingly innovative series sponsored by Entrepreneur, Sprint and Indiegogo. Watch Episode 11 below and please back us on Indiegogo!
Don't forget, for a limited time, you can get our NEW Lola High Rise leggings for only $49 as a special thank you for supporting us and our mission.
Thank you for giving our brand a purpose!
Halloween has come and gone but the candy-in-bulk is still here to stay for the rest of the year. It's easy to say "out of sight, out of mind" when it comes to the temptation of eating candy but not so easy to practice when you're left staring at bags of Halloween treats because you bought too much, your co-workers' candy bowls are still at their desks or, if you're a parent, your kids' Halloween haul is flaunted in front of you. Nothing can sabotage your fit and wellness journey more than a post-Halloween candy-binge. We'd all like to go cold-turkey, but for those of us who can't here are a few tricks to help you avoid the temptation or at least keep it at bay.
It's finally here! The very first episode of Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch is airing today on and we couldn't be more excited. The streaming show will air on entrepreneur.com and is presented by Entrepreneur, Sprint Business & Indiegogo
For those who don't know what this show is about, Entrepreneurs have 60 seconds to explain their business concept in an elevator as it ascends to the executive floor. If the investors like their pitch, the entrepreneur is sent up to the boardroom, if not, they are sent back down.
But the best part is, the viewers can ALSO help fund the ideas and support the entrepreneurs through Indiegogo campaigns set up in tandem with their show appearance! You can follow the campaigns featured on the show by going here!
So mark your calendars and stay tuned!
It's an addictive, innovative and ground-breaking show and we are so fortunate to be a part of it! You can watch the streaming show by going here. Or you can watch the first episode below!