Big Gal Yoga- Valerie Sagun
My name is Valerie Sagun, and I am a yoga practitioner, yoga teacher, body positive encourager, self-love enthusiast, author, and artist from San Jose in the SF Bay Area. I was at San Jose State University for about 10 years, graduating with a BFA in Spatial Art. Along the way I took yoga a handful of years before I graduated, and have followed school by getting yoga teacher trained at the 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona, Arizona, and have been teaching yoga and writing my new yoga book.
Why don’t you take a minute to tell us a little bit about your story and how your practice of Yoga Started and has evolved?
I started yoga as a semester long class at my university. It was a great and positive experience that kept me to keep practicing yoga afterwards. Eventually I shared my practice online through Tumblr where I found motivation from other yogis and practicing yoga challenges. I had gotten a lot of love from on Tumblr, and expanded over to Instagram where there was more yoga community there. All of my yoga practice and online visibility have been organic and just happened by chance. This just happened to be the time of body positivity and fat activism, and I fit right into the movement giving representation of bodies like myself. My personal practice is always evolving, and changes and rotates through different stages of benefiting me physically, mentally, and now more spiritually.
When did you begin to embrace your own curves and can you share with me about your own personal journey to self-love and body acceptance?
I feel like I’ve slowly evolved seeing and understanding more of my body probably since halfway through high school. A lot of the women I’ve gotten to know growing up, including my mother, have always made me feel comfortable about my body. I’ve always been the tomboy though, and especially growing up, finding feminine things that fit me were always hard till Torrid was available. So I just embraced the tomboy outfits like baggy jeans and tops that were not tight, and not being able to see my body. When I started to embrace my shape was when I felt I could embrace more of my feminine side through clothes. I think that I started to fully embrace all of my body when I started yoga because I chose to wear lots of yoga leggings and tight fitting clothes, and it got me to see and explore my body positively more than I thought I would. Everything is still always a journey though because I can have bad days and tear myself down about my personality or parts of myself that have always bugged me since I was a kid, but I keep pushing myself to move past the negative thoughts of body/mental insecurities. I want to be accountable to myself by giving myself the self-love and care that I need to keep me positive.
With the online popularity that you have been receiving, I am sure there also comes with it a little bit of negative attention. How do you manage to stay so positive when there are quite a few critics out there commenting on the images that you post of your body?
I know my body better than anyone. Just because people can assume things about my body or the way I feel, doesn’t make them an expert on me. They’ve spent a whole couple minutes and have judged me based on looking at a few images, and have added on their pre-conceived notions about others with similar bodies. I think my 30 years of living makes me an expert on all things surrounding me and how I feel. Depending on the comment I rarely engage in conversation. If someone wants to give a long winded comment that kind of sounds “interesting” or “educational” I’ll dig deeper and provoke them to find an understanding instead of them just giving unwanted advice. If it’s just a simple stupid irrational comment I read it and then delete and block. Negative comments don’t benefit anyone. I’m not ignoring that they are not out there, but I personally want to create a positive space for myself and others. Yes we do still need to have conversations with people who have issues with our bodies because conversation creates change, and sometimes we need to get up and defend our body and rights for just living.
What is your favourite part about yoga?
Everything is my favorite part of yoga. It is coming to my own space on my mat, giving myself life, being kind to myself, and exploring new things that I didn’t know physically or mentally. There never is just one thing I like most in my practice. I think what I have enjoyed is the expanding yoga community. We still are a small amount of represented bodies in yoga, but I appreciate all the teachers and students out there helping each other through yoga.
What are some tips you can give to women with curves who are interested in adding yoga to their everyday life?
Your body can do so many things that you think it can’t do. If you want to try out yoga, try it out! You never know if you will like something until you try it. You may love it, you may hate it, or you can be indifferent to it. Try it out a couple times, different teachers, different class. What do you have to lose just giving it a shot? There are way more communities of bigger yoga bodies online and in real life here for your support then there was before. Yoga is not about being fit, it’s about opening up your mind to new possibilities through the physical, mental, and spiritual that can help you with everyday life. You don’t have to be on a mat to practice yoga.
You recently released your first book, why don’t you tell our readers about it and where they can get their own copy.
Yes I did! Becoming a yoga teacher was something I never knew I would be, but it landed in my lap and I felt like this was my way of doing better for others. Many people want to start yoga but don’t know where to begin because the idea of yoga has changed so much and it could mean so many different things. In my book, I give tips on how to start your own yoga practice, using my own way of how I started and my journey through yoga as an example, and exploring more of yoga in other ways besides just the physical side. As well I have a yoga pose challenge to help others understand the poses they are practicing, but having it accessible to them as a daily pose. My book is about exploring your boundaries with your body to help understand it and know that you can and are able to push it farther than you think you can.
What are your plans for the future, what else do you hope to take on?
Plans every day are up in the air of what I will be doing next. I will or have planned dates to travel to promote my book and teach around the country. Hopefully I will have dates planned to travel overseas to other countries. I like to move, learn new things, meet new people, and do what I can to help better this world.
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