Six years ago, Dolly Singh, a media professional, went to Hampi in Karnataka for a trek. At the time, she weighed around 85 kg to 90 kg.
While on the trek, Dolly lost her balance and slipped, which sprained her ankle. When she showed it to a doctor, he was worried that her leg might not be able to handle her weight, and her bones might get weaker. The doctor suggested she lose some weight.
Before this, Dolly never had issues with her weight. However, she considered the doctor’s advice.
For Dolly, it wasn’t as much about losing weight, as it was about being physically active. “This was the first time I became active. I tried everything. Functional training, built up my stamina, aerobics, Zumba and other things around it. But I got bored.
Two years into it, I landed in a yoga class. I never entered the class thinking I want to lose weight. I never had constraints about how big I was. However, it was the people around me in the yoga class who were surprised because they wondered how a big-bodied person could do this,” Dolly tells The Better India.
The yoga teacher, however, motivated Dolly. She started enjoying yoga.
She liked how it wasn’t just about paying attention to your breath and posture, but also your mind.
“The first four months were amazing. But when my teacher got replaced with some other trainer, things changed. He wasn’t as good, so I went back to running. However, I missed practising yoga. I got a personal trainer, but it was too expensive. Six months later, I decided just to download videos and practice at home. And that’s all I do now. 80% of the yoga I’ve learnt is through videos,” she tells TBI.
Through her social media accounts, she wants to promote the idea that yoga is for everyone, and hence the name ‘Yoga For All’.
“I could do pole dancing tomorrow if I wanted. It’s all about strength, not how much you weigh. It’s only a physical activity. Through my brand of yoga, I want to promote inclusivity. You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. You have to do yoga to become flexible. And being plus-size has got nothing to do with it,” she says.
Being a plus-size woman and a yoga practitioner, who has been trying to promote body positivity, has had its share of negativity.
Once, a yoga teacher told Dolly that she should lose weight and only then would she be able to move on to advanced postures.
Dolly believes it is the abnormal beauty standards for women which is the problem. Trainers look in disbelief because they haven’t seen someone like her practice yoga.
Recently, Dolly walked the ramp at the Amazon India Fashion Week for Milind Soman’s clothing brand Deivee, as she feels the platform could use different kinds of people, especially women who don’t fit the set beauty standards.
On a good day, her social media posts receive several derogatory comments from not just men, but women as well. “A lot of comments come from men. There are so many out there. I don’t respond to them.
But what’s disheartening is when women comment saying this is wrong. They’d compliment me but ask me to wear more ‘yoga appropriate’ clothes. They ask me to not do a ‘skin show’. I wear clothes that are comfortable. I like clothes that let me practice yoga with ease.
Society has been telling us to look a certain way, and I’m here trying to tell women, ‘hey, it doesn’t matter’. So it’s quite disheartening when they oppose this. With men I really don’t care,” says Dolly.
She adds that the men and women in her life have always encouraged her, and have even started respecting her more.
“I practice yoga in office, and they’ve provided a space for me where I can do that. Random people come to me in office and shower compliments. One of our top bosses once came up to me and asked me how my yoga practice was going, which was great,” she says.
Yoga is a top priority for Dolly. She practices six days a week for minimum an hour every day. She prioritises yoga over most things. Also, she doesn’t eat processed food or fast food.
To the internet trolls, Dolly says she doesn’t mind if it makes them uncomfortable. Because it’s meant to. It’s the only way big-bodied women will be able to fight for inclusivity and be represented better in society.