Ahead of our next 300 Hour Advanced Teacher Training, we’re catching up with some of our previous graduates to hear how completing the training has advanced their careers, deepened their practices, and led their lives in new directions. As part of their training, each student completes a research project on a subject of interest relating to yoga. Here, 300 Hour Graduate Kady Lafferty talks with writer Alaina Isbouts about her yoga practice and her focus on body positivity.

Tell me how yoga came to be such an important part of your life.

My first ever yoga class was at The River. I was a social worker who was burnt out, struggling with anxiety and depression. I stepped into the studio, not knowing it was heated, and thought, Oh boy, what did I get myself in to? I spent the next hour having no idea what was going on. I watched everyone and mimicked the shapes they made with their bodies, focused on breathing (because I thought I was going to pass out!), and worked harder than I could remember. At the time, I was stepping away from my role as a social worker, one of the biggest transitions of my life, and the teachers dharma happened to be about transitions. It felt like fate. I laid in savasana at the end of class covered in sweat, just crying. It felt like such a release. As I rolled up my mat I realized it was the first time I could remember in my adult life that I was completely
present and my mind was still. From then on I had a regular yoga practice and became a daily visitor to The River. Little did I know that was only the beginning.

How did the idea of focusing on body positivity in the yoga industry come to you?

As a plus size yogi, I always felt a bit out of place in the yoga world by the way it had been popularized in media and our culture. I didn’t think I (quite literally) fit the mold. It’s what kept me away from trying yoga for many years. After practicing yoga for a while I realized I had completely shifted the relationship I had with my body from one of hate and dislike to one of love and acceptance. It was a natural decision for me to examine the intersection of body positivity and yoga.

How do you feel yoga can help people be more accepting and loving of their bodies?

Yoga often tends to lean into self study, and noticing the patterns of our mind. In yoga, you start to dissect the way you talk to yourself. It’s a self-inquisitive practice that naturally helps us become aware of the way we talk to ourselves, and often times that self talk comes from a place of criticism, like what our worth is based on what we look like in warrior two. Often times when people start yoga, they start taking care of themselves in other ways as well. In yoga, you learn that if something doesn’t serve you, see if you can shift it. I noticed the way I talked to myself wasn’t the way I talked to people I cared about or loved, and it often times came from a place of hate. If we choose to shift the way we talk to ourselves, it can allow us to become more self accepting and loving.

What words of encouragement would you have for people who want to start yoga but may feel out of place?

Allow yourself to just try. Try to take the way you will be seen out of the equation. Just take the leap, go to your first class. Each time you do it, it gets easier.

Do you feel that body positivity in the yoga community has become more common?

There are so many body positivity activists in the yoga world. It’s becoming more and more common, which is really cool. I’ve been personally inspired by Jessamyn Stanley and Dana Falsetti. There’s hashtags like #plussizeyoga, or #yogaforeverybody, and is becoming more common. It’s no longer unusual to have plus size people in class — there’s at least one in every class now, when 6 years ago I used to be the only one in a class.

What made you specifically pick The River?

The River is my hOMe. The teachers have impacted my life in so many amazing ways; all of my self-work was done there and the community has made me feel so incredibly accepted. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

What do you think it means to be a yoga teacher in your community?

Being a yoga teacher in my community means sharing all of the lessons of the practice passed along for thousands of years. It means creating space for yogis to grow and feel accepted. More than anything, it means sharing the gift of yoga.

For more information on The River’s upcoming Advanced 300 Hour Training beginning February 28th, visit us here.