One of Tiffany Crociani’s most popular TikTok videos depicts her reenacting a conversation she had with a yoga studio receptionist. The video, which has over 5 million views, shows how the employee — eyeing Crociani up and down — immediately assumes the yoga class she signed up for is going to be too hard for her.
Crociani — who goes by Tiffany Croww on her social accounts — is a trained yoga instructor with certifications in yoga accessibility and chair yoga. Her TikTok account is all about comfort, with at-home yoga tutorials, affirmations, relationship check-ins and reminders to eat. She describes herself as a “fat yoga teacher” and a “gentle parent” in her bio.
So it’s understandably beyond frustrating and belittling to Crociani to find herself having this conversation — again. Crociani captioned the video, “Not sure why this is still happening.”
“I’m just checking in, it’s my first time to this studio,” Crociani says, acting as herself.
“You do realize this is a more advanced class,” Crociani, as the employee, responds. “We just don’t see many people with a larger body like yours, so just keep in mind that if it gets too hard, you can always rest in child’s pose.”
Crociani told In The Know that despite the fact that she’s been practicing yoga for almost two decades, she still deals with interactions like this at certain studios.
“If you can breathe, you can do yoga,” Crociani told In The Know. “My personal relationship with yoga began over 17 years ago and led to me getting certified as a yoga teacher.”
Becoming a certified yoga instructor can depend on what studio you’re working with. But the Yoga Alliance, which is the largest U.S. nonprofit association in the yoga community, says it’s standard for registered teachers to have over 200 hours of training, as well as be well-versed in the historical context of the movements and the effects the poses have on the body.
Regardless of Crociani’s qualifications, there is a lot of anti-fat bias within the fitness space. For example, most treadmills have only a 300-pound weight capacity, and most activewear brands don’t carry plus sizes. (Nike only started selling 1X to 3X in 2017; Lululemon extended styles to size 20 in 2020 — but only in its most popular styles.)
Unfortunately, this is not a conversation limited to just Crociani’s experience.
“There are two reactions I’m getting the most,” Crociani said about her video. “First is people saying they have experienced this or have seen this happen. Second is people who think I made the scenario up and that I’m looking for attention.”
“Plus-size yoga instructor here,” one commenter wrote on Crociani’s video. “Yep, this is one of the reasons that I vett Studios for inclusiveness.”
“If YOU get this response, I can’t imagine how people feel when they are just starting out and don’t have 17 years of yoga experience,” another pointed out.
As mainstream yoga became more and more popular throughout the 2000s, its trendiness started to influence how people saw the practice. The public’s perception of yoga seemed to morph into a Westernized vision of white, thin, nondisabled women wearing expensive leggings and tight crop tops.
Yogis like Crociani are attempting to change the narrative of who is “allowed” to practice yoga. Jessamyn Stanley, an award-winning yoga instructor, states in her biweekly Self advice column that “there’s no such thing as being ‘too fat for yoga.'”
“Our culture has programmed us to hate fatness, but changing our bodies isn’t always the answer for everyone,” she writes. “Contrary to what you might see in mainstream wellness publications, advertising, et cetera, yoga’s got nothing to do with body size.”
Stanley also noted that a lot of forms of yoga can feel physically difficult for everyone — and that’s the point.
“Vigorous postural yoga, like the type I teach on The Underbelly, is hard, but not because you’re fat. It’s hard for everyone,” she says. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s kicking the s*** out of you so you can let go of your emotional baggage.”
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