Plus size yoga teacher, Ria Tirazona, said that she still gets raised eyebrows when she walks into a new class – she doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a “fitness instructor.” Especially in the Philippines where petite, lithe, Asian bodies are seen as beautiful and fat is openly mocked and ridiculed. But her dedication to her practice, love for her body, and care for her students shine through any former confidence issues she used to have with her weight.
Discovering Yoga for Weight Loss and More
Ria began her yoga practice like many people who first step into a yoga studio – as a New year’s Resolution to lose weight. The year was 2011 and, according to Ria, yoga was not yet popular in the Philippines. Although it took time for her to muster up the courage to step foot in her first class, she said she fell in love with yoga almost immediately. In particular, she found the introspective practice of Yin Yoga helped her get more in touch with her body.
Through regular Yin practice and with the support of her teachers, she finally managed her chronic issues with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). She said it also helped her menstrual cycle finally become regular without the need for medication or artificial hormones.
In December of that same year, she took an anti-gravity yoga class during a retreat at The Farm in San Benito, a raw food resort and spa a few hours drive outside the capital of Manila. It was there, Ria said, that something shifted inside of her – she knew that it was her calling to share the healing power and magic of yoga.
Teaching for All Bodies
Now 37 years old, Ria is not only a full time yoga teacher, she is also a Senior Associate at a Psychological clinic in the Philippines and holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology. She said this background, as well as her extensive training in Yin Yoga, Vinyasa, Kids Yoga, and Yoga Therapy help to inspire her classes. Her own asana practice and learning to move through poses with her body type also allows her to employ, what she calls, “unconventional strategies” to help her students with with their own unique bodies and issues.
Body Positivity is a message that Ria completely embraces. She wants others to know that just because she may seem overweight to them, it does not mean she is unhealthy or should be dismissed as a yoga teacher.
“Being plus sized in the Philippines, albeit much better now, is quite uncomfortable at times. People often get taken aback by fat people, and make jokes about it. Admittedly, it still triggers a reaction in me when it happens, but because of yoga, I have learned to recognize the feeling and let it go. It is hard to celebrate your curves in this country, but I am grateful it has changed in the past few years. I think Filipino women deserve unconditional acceptance no matter what size they are,” she said.
Always in Gratitude
In addition to body confidence and acceptance, Ria said that yoga also helps her to practice gratitude, not only on the mat, but also in seeing blessings and miracles throughout her day. She writes down these observations in her daily gratitude journal which she shares online.
“One of my core values is that of gratitude, so I often share the power of gratitude to people around me… Yoga is the best gift I have received in my life. I am grateful I did not let my fear of my weight stop me from receiving it,” she shared.
We are cetainly grateful that Body Positive yoga teachers like Ria help show the diversity of yoga and teach acceptance and equality in their work.
Follow Ria’s continuing yoga journay on her blog, Archetypes and Asanas. You may also catch her Flow Basics, Vinyasa Flow, and Yin Yoga classes at Yoga+ Philippines where she is a regular teacher.
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