At yoga last week, as we were being told how to stand in mountain pose, to stand strong and let our legs and feet connect us to the ground, to not try and hold ourselves apart from the floor using our shoulders, my yoga instructor said, “take up all the room you need”.
Take Up All The Room You Need.
Far too often women, especially fat women, are made to feel very conscious of the amount of space that they take up. Let me quote from people who say it much better than me:
I got to thinking about just how conscious I am of the space my body takes up, and how I have to negotiate my body in a world that marks me as “abnormal”. The more I paid attention to it, the more I noticed that almost every aspect of my life is framed around this process of moving my body around in the world. (Fatheffalump)
One thing that fat people often tell me makes them uncomfortable is the idea that they take up too much space. Here’s what I think about that. I think that our bodies take up just the right amount of space, whatever size they are. If they get bigger or smaller they still take up just the right amount of space. Because they are our BODIES.
It is ridiculous for people to think that they, and anyone smaller than them, take up “the right” amount of space, but those bigger than them take up too much. Spare me.
Nobody takes up too much space just by virtue of existing. Tall people don’t take up too much space. People in wheelchairs don’t take up too much space. Fat people don’t take up too much space. If you are on a crowded train and you sit with your legs completely splayed out sprawling across as much space as you can, then an argument can be made that you are taking up too much space, but it is impossible that your body takes up too much space just being your body. (Dances with Fat)
Fat phobia is a largely invisible form of oppression in our society. Frequently masked as concern for health (and the link between fat and health is widely exaggerated), it is nonetheless a highly damaging form of body policing, usually targeting women. In an extension of institutional sexism, women who dare to take up space are punished and ostracized, whether it be their conversational space, their body language, or the literal volume their bodies occupy. (Fire Sea Studios)
I never considered my yoga instructor to be overly radical, but by telling each of us in that class to take up the space we needed, she showed that she understood the pressure to take up less space, the need for everyone in the class, and everywhere else, to take up the space that they need, and to be comfortable with that.