What Does a Yogi Look Like?
Meet Baely Talley, Wedding Coordinator
Welcome to our new series, “What Does a Yogi Look Like?” where we feature yogis in our community who defy society’s idea of what a yogi looks like.
502PY: Tell us about your first yoga class experience.
Baely: My first yoga class experience was a sunrise class taught by Mimi Hahn. My friend Hannah invited me to come with her and I had no idea what to expect. At the time I was trying to lose weight before my wedding and I had been doing weight training and cardio with a personal trainer for about a year. I was unhappy with my body, even though I’d been losing weight. I felt I wasn’t strong enough, small enough, or worthy enough. I had never done yoga before so I went into the class with no expectations, except I knew I wouldn’t be able to twist myself into a pretzel or stand on my head. I walked out 60 minutes later a changed human. In the year of committed workouts leading up to that morning, I had never felt more in my body than I did in that one class. It was the most I’d ever sweat in my entire life. I wasn’t able to do half the poses, and I had no idea what was going on. But I felt empowered, strong, and capable, and I immediately knew that I was going to come back to yoga.
502PY: Why did you decide to stick with it?
Baely: Yoga never felt like a traditional exercise to me. For me, the word “exercise” has certain (negative) connotations. I always defined it as something one does to lose weight. But yoga was always different. It was no longer about my weight. No longer about what I looked like. It was about connecting my breath to movement, and therefore fully connecting mind to body. Yoga helped me to realize that it wasn’t about weight, and, therefore, it held a more positive space for me.
502PY: What benefits do you get from the physical practice?
Baely: The physical practice has, of course, made me physically healthier. I’m more flexible, I don’t get winded as easily, and I’m stronger. Since I started practicing yoga, the need to focus on my weight is no longer there for me. Perhaps I’ve lost weight, I’m honestly not sure, and that’s not really the point for me. Weight is no longer a unit by which I measure my health. Being able to connect my mind to my body has given me the ability to better understand what my body needs. My body has always been telling me exactly what it needs, but I wasn’t able to hear it clearly until yoga. My resting heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol are all improved since I started yoga. Yes, I’m still plus-sized, AND I know that I am healthy.
502PY: What non-physical benefits do you get from the practice?
Baely: I remember the exact practice I was doing when I realized what internal tapes were playing in my head. I was able to clearly label the negative things I had been saying to myself, and separate it from what was actually happening in my body. I realized how much I actually didn’t like myself during that yoga practice. It was the closest thing I’ve ever felt to an epiphany, like turning a light on to see how a machine works. From there, I quickly saw how much of my life I’d spent wasted on disliking and judging myself. Being able to step outside of the tapes and look in to see them play has changed everything. Every action in my life, on and off my mat, is a result of how I react to those tapes. I can choose to follow them, or choose to see around them to what is actually real, what is true. And what is true is that those tapes are lies. I AM strong enough to stay when things are hard. It is OK to give myself grace when I can’t stay. Now that I’ve turned the light on, I can’t make a decision without considering how the tapes are affecting that decision. Yoga has given me clarity, and the ability to analyze a situation in a completely different way. From my relationship with my husband, to how I deal with traffic—every bit of my life is impacted by this clarity. I am now able to love and appreciate myself in a way I never could before. That’s not to say that it’s easy every day because it definitely isn’t. But now I know that I am on a better path than I was on before.
502PY: Why 502 Power Yoga?
Baely: It is not easy as a plus-sized woman to walk into a space that is, on the surface, a “fitness” community. Walking into that first class with Mimi was terrifying. I didn’t want to be the fat girl in class that drew everyone’s gaze. What I found instead was a community who saw beyond the surface. A community where I am able to exist in my body, judgment-free, and work on the physical and mental practice of yoga. I found a diverse group of people who all had their own mental blocks they were working through, same as me. I wasn’t and am still not viewed as “less than” just because I can’t get into birds of paradise or headstand. The palpable energy in this community is that your practice is exactly where it needs to be, and it is incomparable to anyone else’s practice. This methodology is meant to be able to reach every body, regardless of its condition. 502 Power Yoga has created a home for this methodology in Louisville, and for that, I will be forever grateful.
Baely is a graduate of 502 Power Yoga’s Teacher Training program and is a new addition to our substitute teaching team. You will find her sporadically on our schedule filling in for other teachers–sign up for one of her classes if you can; she’s powerful!
Photography credit: Kaitlin Keane Photography