THE BLOG
02/12/2014 10:36 am ET | Updated Apr 14, 2014

It Happened to Me: There Are No Fat People in My Yoga Class, and I'm Suddenly Uncomfortable With It

I needed to catch up on my current events, so I went to my go-to source for all things relevant -- xoJane.com, which is how I stumbled upon this gut-wrenching confessional about the day a black woman ruined Jen Caron's yoga practice. Being a yogi myself, compassion is my default. But in this case, I found myself feeling enraged. How dare Jen Caron single out some random black woman when everyone knows that the problem isn't black women; the problem is all people who aren't as skinny as me.

Look, I'm not judgmental. Believe me when I say that I am sensitive to the plight of the fatties who seem to appear out of nowhere in January, only to disappear from the yoga studio soon after. It's just that I'm sensitive and deep. And so, their memories linger. Even after they've taken their chafed thighs and lack of discipline and gone back to the sofa to play Candy Crush Saga.

The truth is, I too have a gut-wrenching tale to tell. It is not unlike Jen Caron's. It's just that it's much more important because, well, because it happened to me.

It was a typical midday class in February. I had just settled onto my Manduka to warm up with some handstands and backbends. It was while I was upside down that a woman whom I had never seen before came into the studio and put her mat down near mine. My inner soul smiled when I realized that this woman must be skipping lunch. Skipping lunch is always a hopeful sign of commitment to spirituality. In that instant, I had high hopes for this woman. Perhaps she would not leave us as quickly as those who had come and gone in January.

Unfortunately, my hopes were soon dashed as I became painfully aware that this woman was not as skinny as me. And suddenly, I was uncomfortable.

And sure enough, I could sense that this woman was watching me as I placed one of my slender ankles behind my slender neck and then balanced on one slender butt-cheek as I reached around and clasped my slender wrists behind my slender back. Even as she pretended to be completely unaware of me, I could tell that she was keenly focused on me -- on my flexibility and on my skinniness -- although mostly on my skinniness.

"Please don't hate," I implored her silently while she tried to make it appear as if she hadn't noticed me at all.

It made me uncomfortable.

My discomfort only worsened when my teacher, Parashakti Saraswati Namashivaya (you might know her as the corpse on the second to last episode on the eighth season of Law and Order: SVU) clapped her hands and called the class to stand at the front of our mats in "Thigh Gap Pose." If you're a yogi, then you'll know: This position refers to standing with toes aligned, thigh-gap on display.

Parashakti was walking around the room checking thigh gaps and smiling approvingly, but this woman clearly had no idea what was being asked of her. Or perhaps she was just pretending not to know.

You see, this woman's thighs were touching. I was kind of repulsed. But I was mostly embarrassed for her.

And it made me uncomfortable.

After Thigh Gap Pose, Parashakti cranked up the Daft Punk and instructed us to move into Rib-Counting Karma. Karma means "action." And Rib-Counting Karma is the sacred action of pulling in the abs and then counting the ribs one by one. That was when I saw the woman roll her eyes. It was unmistakable. And it was obvious why: She was feeling humiliated because her ribs were not prominent. How terribly vulnerable she must have felt in that instant. I actually yearned to help her. Tragically, there was nothing I could do. I had no choice but to stare straight ahead as my slender fingers danced along until they found my protruding hip bones. That's when I knew it was time for "Bikini Bridge," my favorite pose.

Sure enough, Parashakti called out: "Bikini bridge," and I executed a perfect vinyasa to end up lying on my back. Just like everyone else in the class - except the woman, who clearly had no idea what a bikini bridge was. Even as my inner soul smiled that my yoga pants were suspended like a bridge between my protruding hipbones, I was dismayed by the woman's hostility. I couldn't see her face because I was lying down, but I just knew that she was hating me. Hating me because of my skinniness.

It made me uncomfortable.

And so the woman's pain became mine. Instead of feeling spiritually uplifted, I felt conscious of the woman's hostility. I didn't need to see the woman's eyes to know that they were seething with rage and accusation. "Tits on a stick!" they were screaming at me. Sometimes at night I can still hear the screams. "Tits on a stick!" -- as if she knew for sure that my boobs were fake. How dare she think she knew me?

It made me uncomfortable.

And with that discomfort, a terrifying question began to assert itself within my inner soul. What must it feel like to not be as skinny as me? The question echoed like a haunting refrain every single time Parashakti called out for us to do a Downward Dog, which was approximately once a minute. With every single Downward Dig, that woman's ass was right there in front of my face. And it was simply not as skinny as mine. That made it impossible for me to ignore. And it made uncomfortable.

When I got home from the studio that day, I ate a gluten-free cracker and cried bitter tears. Yoga had always been a safe space for me to revel in having a body. To have a body is a gift -- even more so when you are as skinny as me. But this woman had violated my safe space. She hadn't even bothered to hide her envy or her anger. It was as plain as the muffin-top that spilled over her waistband. And it ate at me -- the way a fatty eats at a Twinkie.

It made me uncomfortable.

In the interest of disclosure, this entire article was a lie. Lauren Cahn would never refer to herself as "skinny," she prefers her crackers with extra gluten, and if anyone is ruining her yoga practice, it is herself.